Hurdy Gurdy
The hurdy gurdy was the instrument of choice for many troubadors and
minstrels from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution. It was
superseded in the 1800's and almost driven to extinction by the
accordian, and has been enjoying a growing renaissance since the 1960's.

The player turns a crank, which turns a wooden wheel that has rosin on
it (like a violin bow). The wheel is turned by the player's right hand,
and rubs on the under side of the strings, creating a drone sound,
similar to bagpipes. With the left hand the player makes the tune on the
keys in the keybox. The chanters or melody strings, run though the
keybox and the key pressing against the string changes its tone. The
keys fall back to their original positions by the force of gravity.
Several drone strings are outside the keybox, and so sound the same note all the time. Underneath the drones are sympathetic strings that simply add resonance and "shimmer" to the overall sound. A small movable bridge called the "chien" (or dog) on one of the drones can be made to vibrate rhythmically by cranking the wheel harder, and this buzzing is used for a rhythmic accompanyment to the tune.

The above electric-acoustic hurdy gurdy has a lute back and sympathetic strings. It was made by Helmut Gotschy in Germany. Visit his site at

Contact Info:
Don V. Lax
PMB 503, PO Box 959
Kihei, HI, 96753


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