Isidoros Papadamou makes music instruments since 1983. He is also a musician and plays the six-stringed mpouzouki. He turned to the art of instrument-making to fulfill his inner musical interests. Following the course of self-teaching, he discovered the art from scratch. That’s why the course, the technique, the sound and the criteria differ from those that prevail in the modern instrument-making.
He dedicated a lot of time in research. At the same time he practiced to the distinction of slightly perceptible differentiations of sound by listening to many different kinds of wood and using them to his constructions, conquest that consists the basis of the conscious instrument-making that the result provokes, he doesn’t leave anything to fate.
Having covered all the stages of a serious instrument-maker:
a) ignorance b) presentiment c) half-learning d) knowledge is in a mature phase to produce all the possible combinations, instruments of high quality for musicians that quest deeper the sound in reasonable prices.
Andreas Papadamou is an amateur self-taught musician playing 6 strings bouzouki, lute and all the similar instruments that belong to the greek bouzouki family. Initiated to the art of musical instruments making by his father Isidoros he started designing bouzouki speaker molds using a personal computer and complicated 2d and 3d design applications. After a long and intensive professional experience into the world of advanced electronics he desided to follow his father's profession of an instrument maker.
We make all the instruments that use staves:
bouzouki, tzoura, baglama, taboura, lute, oud, mandolin, but also acoustic, electroacoustic and classic guitars.
Our shapes can follow almost every angle a curve can produce. We design our speaker molds on a pc and we cut them using digital 3D technique, thus ensuring total symmetry and a harmonic relationship between the facade and the speaker.
We are part of that “school” that feels a music instrument maker should manufacture himself all the necessary items concerning his craft thus avoiding purchasing any ready parts at all.
Such kind of buys degrade the craft and diminish the craftsman because the user of such a method cannot estimate the sound quality of the timber wood he uses and as a consequence to that his construction of the instrument advances randomly as he is indifferent of the result.
For this reason we always start from scratch, cutting the tree or buying large planks of wood that come from the same tree. That way we are able to repeat a successful built time after time.
We don’t follow the usual criteria in the selection of our materials.
To characterize a wood appropriate for instrument-making, simple optical controls are not enough for us, we use severe acoustic methods and test it in different times until we are sure about its suitability.
We don’t copy but design our moulds that differ from the ones in the market.
We don’t use the procedure of boiling to paint our wood because we have found that too much boiling corrodes the wood and reduces the resistance in time, reaching to the state of dust.
We avoid fake staves. We avoid engraving afterwards in two, in three or in four parts the staves of the construction that are normally 15, so as to look like they are 30, 45 or 60. It’s not peculiar that this kind of deceit is being used as a quality criterion by the majority in the making of instruments (makers and instrument-players). In reality this method results to the degradation of the quality of the speaker, by subtracting the valuable loud wood and replacing it with slices of questionable quality. But if we are asked to divide the staves so as to look more, we do it with pleasure.
Perhaps we belong to that small group of people that feel that some characteristics (dark panted speaker wood, fake staves, narrow grain tops) have played their role in the decay of the quality of the folk instruments especially the bouzouki. We also are forced to comply to those specifications for commercial reasons only but it saddens us because we know that the result could have been different.
We mainly use maple (pseudoplatanus), walnut, mullberry, cherry, chestnut, rosewood (palissander) and somemahogany types. For the folk instruments the most appropriate wood for us is: maple , walnut and mullberry. This doesn’t mean that all the maples or the walnuts are suitable for instrument-making. Here is where the experienced and well-turned ear of a sound estimator is necessary.
We have at our disposal a large variety of old naturally dried wood, appropriate for the built of musical instruments.
The following types of wood are only a segment of the vast variety of wood that we use and are named here only to give to the potential customer a general picture so he can rest assure of the quality of the wood we use. Spruce, mulberry, oak, maple, linden, paduk, ebony, chestnut tree, mahogany etc.
The top (harmonic flat) is very important to us. We use spruce of various origin. For the quality evaluation of the spruce we use our own techniques based exclusively on audio criteria. We don’t care so much about the appearance of the wood although the majority of musical instrument builders is based on it.
And that is a circumstance that has severally damaged the folk musical instrument building at least. All of our suppliers categorize the spruce quality based on grain thickness and color as they seem to lack any other means of evaluation.
It so happens that sometimes wood with narrow grains has a fine result, both visual and audible. But on other occasions the wood is weak and dull. And in case that wood lacks the energy as well then the whole endeavor is doomed to fail. Many musicians have been misled by this superficial manner of evaluation, as they order their instruments demanding the false criteria being held (because they consider them as more professional). But when the appearance of the instrument becomes so important, it sometimes takes its toll on sound.
HOW DO WE SEPARATE THE QUALITIES
Inquality Αwe classify the wood that produces sound with the following characteristics:
2.Fires the sound directly to the ear of the player
3.Is clear and elucidate
4.Is full, abundant but also pleasant in feeling
5.Follows quickly the hit of the plectrum and doesn’t allow the note to get un-tuned.
6.Endures the strong hit and can produce the most difficult forte
7.Is balanced from the point offrequencies
8.It doesn’t reduces, but on the contrary exposes the dynamics of the player when he is going to record with it
9.Is ample and imposing
In quality Βwe classify the wood that is related with quality Α but differs in correspondence. Here the note is being diffused and becomes spread, but keeps a part of the strength, so as not to restrict the strength of the playing. This sound appears many times sweeter than the one of quality Α but is inferior in dynamic and lucidity. Most times the notes are being combined warmer facilitating the legato playing, like there is a kind of aura between them.
The sound of qualityC has no presence. It is unclear, complicated and weak. It is often considered satisfying by some musicians. It is preferred by those who play soft avoiding the intense elevations in their playing. This mix of notes that leads to a gloomy sound is considered by some as an advantage.This lack of leading note which gives the sense of depth and spreading is the main characteristic of sound C.
In our opinion when soundCis prevailing in the speaker and in the tonewood then the instrument is a product of unskilled construction and evidence that the instrument-maker cannot control the wood but creates by chance.
Through our long research we have separated these characteristics of the wood and we can now declare that we “manipulate”(cook) our instruments. As we have already said we give priority to the sound Α+Α, tonewood and speaker with the same characteristics. According to our taste this kind of sound is the best. When it succeeds in combining strength and sweetness in the combination of the notes, as well as balanced high and low frequencies, then it can be classified in the top category. Because some times it is considered difficult to handle (need more experimented players) , we proceed in other kind of combinations:
likeΑtonewood + Βspeaker
or Βtonewood + Α speaker
·For players that don’t have specific demands of intensity we suggest the following combination:
Βtonewood + Βspeaker Cheaper instruments that emphasize to the sweetness but have less dynamic and endurance to the hit.
·The combinationC + Cis the cheapest group of instruments. It is not the sound of our choice. But because there are different playing schools with other kind of aesthetic, we can attain it, if you are interest in something like this.
We prefer the wooden ornamentation with veneers (wooden). We also use plastic paste (plastics that imitate the original mother of pearl)which have been established in the folk instruments. For more expensive demands we can enrich the ornamentation with shells (mother of pearl, abalone). We usually work our own designs, but if you prefer something more intense and rich in decoration or something more complicated, we can happily satisfy your desire.
We handle the decoration ourselves and we avoid buying ready parts as do the majority of the luthiers. This way we can create unique patterns and parry the standard figures that swamp the market and make the instruments look like they have been industrially built.
We have a preference in simple lines of decoration but we can also produce complex and more extravagant motives. Beside our own patterns we are open to any suggestions or recommendations, orders of your own, no matter how complex or demanding they may be. As materials for the decoration we use solid wood, veneer, plastic imitations and various parts of actual shells even ivory or plain bone.
Isidoros and Andreas Papadamou produce themselves all their instruments and all the stages of production pass through their hands. This is of course what gives extra quality but also stability to their products. This is why our production is quite limited. So if you are going to make an order, you should wait approximately from 2 to 6 months.