Is Irish Bouzouki Hard to LearnDo you want to learn how to play the bouzouki? It’s a wonderful instrument, with an incredible sound due to its double strings design. But is it hard to learn?

Is the Bouzouki Hard to Learn?

In short: I would say that the bouzouki is for the most part easier to learn compared to the acoustic guitar, but it does come with some unique challenges.

Now, if you are new to fretted string instruments, all of them will feel challenging to you. One of the main reasons for frustration will be getting used to the angling and shape of fretting the notes, plus the finger and wrist strength you need to develop.

This is why I always recommend starting on the ukulele as your first fretted string instrument, since those challenges will be far easier to overcome. And then you can move on to the bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, or any other fretted string instrument.

Easy to Play Chords on the Bouzouki

The main reason I love the bouzouki, especially with the open tuning of “G, D, A, D”, is that it is easier to play chords on it compared to the acoustic guitar.

First, it only has 4 sets of strings compared to the 6 of the guitar. Then, the tuning itself GDAD, is already a playable chord by itself, a suspended chord to be specific. Then you can easily do small adjustments to make other chords from it.

Open Tuning is Amazing for Drone Playing

With the common GDAD tuning (open tuning) you will be able to play with open “droning” strings and go up and down the neck on 1 or two of the other strings, as long as the key is compatible. Especially if the song is in the key of G or D, or if you use a capo on your bouzouki.

The Main Challenge is the Tuning in 5ths

A guitar is tuned in 4ths, which reduces the hand movement when playing melodies, riffs and scales. Where the GDAE standard tuning of the bouzouki is in 5ths. And the GDAD tuning is in 5ths except for the top string.

This poses a challenge for playing fast melodies, because you need to jump around more over the neck. I found this by far the most difficult part of learning to play the bouzouki.

However, the upside of this layout (tuning in 5ths) is the incredible expressive playing you get automatically for slides from jumping around on the neck.

8 Strings in Doubles (4×2)

The bouzouki has 4 strings, but they are each doubled which adds extra power and loudness. But it does mean you need a bit more strength pressure in my experience in order to play bar chords.

I learned the bouzouki before the acoustic guitar, and when I switched I was amazed at how easy the bar chords felt on my guitar compared to my bouzouki.

Now, there are 2 sides of this, because the bouzouki have a way more narrow neck, so it easier to fret all strings in that regard. But for me, bar chords was much easier on my acoustic steel string guitar.