Musicians' Diary

No, I’m not a bass player !

A recurring problem for me in Istanbul is when I need to buy new strings for my folk guitar. In Brittany, most guitar players that play Breton music commonly use hard strings (usually Martin medium) whereas in Istanbul you can almost only find Light strings, despite of the large amount of music shops available. Therefore, I usually have to buy my strings from Brittany or from the web.

Playing hard strings has various consequences :

  • First of all, such hard strings can make guitar playing be very painful for your fingers.
  • The guitar itself has to be strong enough to stand resulting strains.

But look, this is what I have found last week in a Breton music shop :

My new guitar strings !

Yes this is even stronger than Medium strings (gauges are between 0.13 and 0.56), these are HEAVY strings, yes (gauges range from 0.14 up to 0.59) !

You may say, “this starts to sound like bass guitar strings !”. Indeed, I used to play with a combination of guitar and bass strings (using a bass string as lowest D, but this is now over !

The blue thing is a piece of pen cap that I cut in order to enable my guitar to stand the bass string that you can see on the picture !

Let’s go and try my new HEAVY strings, my fingers and my guitar have to get used to 🙂 !

§ Yann

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Musicians' Diary

Using oriental instruments ?

Music instruments that were (and are still) most commonly used in Breton music were bombard, biniou (breton bagpipe), treujenn gaol, (actually a clarinet), accordion.

Bombard (left) and biniou (right), mostly played together

More recently (i.e. in the 70’s and after World War II), new instruments like guitars, Irish wooden flute, bass, violin, Scottish bagpipes were introduced.

Treujenn Gaol (Breton clarinet)

In Astrakan Project, I mostly play stringed instruments. You may have noticed that I use guitar, but also Turkish ‘ud and bağlama (commonly called saz in western Europe). One may think this is to give an oriental flavour to our music. This might be partly true, but I don’t think this is the main reason.


One good reason is of course the fact that we currently live in Turkey, where ‘ud and bağlama are commonly used, so why shouldn’t I use them, temptation is so huge ?

But another good reason is that these instruments enables to play “more notes”, including the so called “commas“. In Breton music, we do have “commas” (see here for further explanations, for musicologists only !), yes, but they tend to disappear with the introduction of guitar, accordion and Scottish bagpipes for instance. You can play any note you want on a ‘ud, and almost any on a bağlama (even if there are frets).


When I play a breton tune, I feel closer to the truth (?) when I use the ‘ud than when I use the guitar, I think that’s a good reason for using oriental instruments !

§ Yann