Hurdy gurdy

Hurdy gurdy

Overview
The hurdy gurdy or hurdy-gurdy is a stringed
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

 musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 that produces sound by a crank-turned rosin
Rosin
.Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch , is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components. It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black...

ed wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard
Musical keyboard
A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

 that presses tangents (small wedges, typically made of wood) against one or more of the strings to change their pitch.
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Encyclopedia
The hurdy gurdy or hurdy-gurdy is a stringed
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

 musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 that produces sound by a crank-turned rosin
Rosin
.Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch , is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components. It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black...

ed wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard
Musical keyboard
A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

 that presses tangents (small wedges, typically made of wood) against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board to make the vibration of the strings audible.

Most hurdy gurdies have several drone
Drone (music)
In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also used to refer to any part of a musical instrument that is just used to produce such an effect.-A musical effect:A drone...

 strings, which give a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody, resulting in a sound similar to that of bagpipes
Bagpipes
Bagpipes are a class of musical instrument, aerophones, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. Though the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe and Irish uilleann pipes have the greatest international visibility, bagpipes of many different types come from...

. For this reason, the hurdy gurdy is often used interchangeably with or along with bagpipes, particularly in French
French folk music
As Europe experienced a wave of roots revivals in the 1950s and 60s, France found its regional culture reviving traditional music. Brittany, Limousin, Gascony, Corsica and Auvergne were among the regions that experienced a notable resurgence in the popularity of folk music...

 and contemporary Hungarian
Hungarian music
The term Hungarian music may refer to:*The music of Hungary, which includes many kinds of music associated with Serbian, Roma and ethnically Hungarian people...

 folk music.

Many folk music festivals in Europe feature music groups with hurdy gurdy players, but the most famous annual festival is at Saint-Chartier
Saint-Chartier
Saint-Chartier is a commune in the Indre department in central France.-References:*...

, in the Indre département, in central France, during the week nearest July 14 (Bastille Day
Bastille Day
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July of each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale and commonly le quatorze juillet...

).

Origins and history




The hurdy gurdy is generally thought to have originated from fiddle
Fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...

s in either Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 or the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 (e.g. rebab
Rebab
The rebab , also rebap, rabab, rebeb, rababah, or al-rababa) is a type of string instrument so named no later than the 8th century and spread via Islamic trading routes over much of North Africa, the Middle East, parts of Europe, and the Far East...

) some time prior to the eleventh century A.D. The first recorded reference to fiddles in Europe was in the 9th century by the Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih
Ibn Khordadbeh
Abu'l Qasim Ubaid'Allah ibn Khordadbeh , author of the earliest surviving Arabic book of administrative geography, was a Persian geographer and bureaucrat of the 9th century...

 (d. 911) describing the lira (lūrā) as a typical instrument within the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. One of the earliest forms of the hurdy gurdy was the organistrum
Organistrum
The organistrum is an early form of hurdy gurdy that originated in northern Spain as an instrument used for singing instruction in monastic settings...

, a large instrument with a guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

-shaped body and a long neck in which the keys were set (covering one diatonic octave). The organistrum had a single melody string and two drone strings, which ran over a common bridge and a relatively small wheel. Due to its size, the organistrum was played by two people, one of whom turned the crank while the other pulled the keys upward. Pulling keys upward is a cumbersome playing technique, and as a result only slow tunes could be played on the organistrum. The pitches on the organistrum were set according to Pythagorean temperament
Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. This interval is chosen because it is one of the most consonant...

 and the instrument was primarily used in monastic and church settings to accompany choral music. The abbot Odo of Cluny
Odo of Cluny
Saint Odo of Cluny , a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, was the second abbot of Cluny. He enacted various reforms in the Cluniac monastery system of France and Italy....

 (died 942) is supposed to have written a short description of the construction of the organistrum entitled Quomodo organistrum construatur (How the Organistrum Is Made), known through a much-later copy, but its authenticity is very doubtful. Another 10th century treatise thought to have mentioned an instrument similar to the hurdy gurdy is an Arabic musical compendium written by Al Zirikli. One of the earliest visual depictions of the organistrum is from the twelfth-century ´Pórtico de la Gloria (Portal of Glory) on the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James...

, Galicia, Spain, which includes a carving of two musicians playing an organistrum.

Later on the organistrum was reduced in size to allow a single player to both turn the crank and manipulate the keys. The solo organistrum was known from Spain and France, but was largely replaced by the symphonia, a small box-shaped version of the hurdy gurdy with three strings and a diatonic keyboard. At about the same time as the symphonia
Symphonia
Symphonia is a much-discussed word, applied at different times to the bagpipe, the drum, the hurdy-gurdy, and finally a kind of clavichord...

was developed, a new form of key pressed from beneath were developed. These keys were much more practical in faster music and easier to handle and eventually completely replaced keys pulled up from above. Medieval depictions of the symphonia show both types of keys.

During the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, the hurdy gurdy was a very popular instrument, along with the bagpipe, and a characteristic form with a short neck and a boxy body with a curved tail end developed. It was around this time that buzzing bridges first appeared in depictions of the instrument. The buzzing bridge (commonly called the dog) is an asymmetrical bridge that rests under a drone string on the sound board. When the wheel is accelerated, one foot of the bridge lifts from the soundboard and vibrates, creating a buzzing sound. The buzzing bridge is thought to have been borrowed from the tromba marina
Tromba marina
A tromba marina, or marine trumpet is a triangular bowed string instrument used in medieval and Renaissance Europe that was highly popular in the 15th century in England and survived into the 18th century...

(monochord
Monochord
A monochord is an ancient musical and scientific laboratory instrument. The word "monochord" comes from the Greek and means literally "one string." A misconception of the term lies within its name. Often a monochord has more than one string, most of the time two, one open string and a second string...

), a bowed string instrument.

During the late Renaissance, two characteristic shapes of hurdy gurdies developed. The first was guitar-shaped and the second had a rounded lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

-type body made of staves. The lute body is especially characteristic of French instruments.

By the end of the 17th century changing musical tastes that demanded greater polyphonic capabilities than the hurdy gurdy could offer had pushed the instrument to the lowest social classes; as a result it acquired names like the German Bauernleier ‘peasant’s lyre’ and Bettlerleier ‘beggar’s lyre.’ During the 18th century, however, French Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 tastes for rustic diversions brought the hurdy gurdy back to the attention of the upper classes, where it acquired tremendous popularity among the nobility, with famous composers writing works for the hurdy gurdy (the most famous of which is Nicolas Chédeville
Nicolas Chédeville
Nicolas Chédeville was a French composer, musette player and musette maker.-Biography:He was born in Serez, Eure; musicians Pierre Chédeville and Esprit Philippe Chédeville were his brothers. Louis Hotteterre was his great uncle and godfather, and may have given him instruction in music and...

’s Il pastor Fido, attributed to Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

). At this time the most common style of hurdy gurdy developed, the six-string vielle à roue. This instrument has two melody strings and four drones tuned such that by turning drones on or off, the instrument can be played in multiple keys (e.g., C and G or G and D).

During this time the hurdy gurdy also spread further east, where further variations developed in western Slavic countries, German-speaking areas and Hungary (see the list of types below for more information on these). Most types of hurdy gurdy were essentially extinct by the early twentieth century, but a few have survived—the best-known of which are the French vielle à roue, the Hungarian tekerőlant, and the Spanish zanfona. In Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, a variety called the lira was widely used by blind street musicians, most of whom were purged by Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in the 1930s. Today the tradition has resurfaced. Revivals have been underway for many years as well in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

. The revival of hurdy gurdies has resulted in the instrument’s use in a variety of styles of music (see the list of recordings that use hurdy gurdy
Recordings featuring the hurdy gurdy
The following recordings use the hurdy gurdy.* The album In Elven Lands by The Fellowship features a hurdy gurdy played by Ethan James.* The group Blowzabella feature hurdy-gurdies together with bagpipes and an array of acoustic instruments "to produce an inimitable, driving drone-based sound...

), including contemporary forms not typically associated with the hurdy gurdy.

The hurdy-gurdy appears to be the instrument played by Der Leiermann, the melancholy last song of Schubert's Winterreise
Winterreise
Winterreise is a song cycle for voice and piano by Franz Schubert , a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller. It is the second of Schubert's two great song cycles on Müller's poems, the earlier being Die schöne Müllerin...

http://publish.bsu.edu/mgdoublestei/MusEd355/artifacts/Der%20Leiermann.htm.

The hurdy gurdy is featured and played prominently in the film Captains Courageous (1937) as the instrument belonging to the character Manuel, acted by Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American theatrical and film actor, who appeared in 75 films from 1930 to 1967. Tracy was one of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, ranking among the top ten box office draws for almost every year from 1938 to 1951...

.

The instrument came into a new public consciousness when Donovan
Donovan
Donovan Donovan Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch (born 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist. Emerging from the British folk scene, he developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music...

 released his hit rock song, Hurdy Gurdy Man, in 1968. Although the song didn't feature an actual hurdy gurdy in the mix (but did feature three members of the later rock group Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

), the repeated reference to the Hurdy Gurdy in the song's lyrics sparked a new curiosity and interest about the instrument by the youth at the time, eventually resulting in an annual hurdy gurdy music festival in the Olympic Peninsula area of the state of Washington each September.

Other instruments called hurdy gurdies


In the eighteenth century the term hurdy gurdy was also applied to a small, portable "barrel organ
Barrel organ
A barrel organ is a mechanical musical instrument consisting of bellows and one or more ranks of pipes housed in a case, usually of wood, and often highly decorated...

" (a cranked box instrument with a number of organ pipes, a bellows and a barrel with pins that rotated and programmed the tunes) that was frequently played by poor buskers
Busking
Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities, which are generally in the form of money and edibles...

 (street musicians). Barrel organs require only the turning of the crank, and the music is played automatically by pinned barrels, perforated paper rolls, and more recently by electronic modules.

This confusion over what the name hurdy gurdy means is particular to English, although similar confusion over other terms for the instrument occurs in German and Hungarian due to unfamiliarity with the hurdy gurdy. The French call the barrel organ the Orgue de Barbarie ("Barbary organ"), and the Germans Drehorgel ("turned organ"), instead of Drehleier ("turning lyre").

The hurdy gurdy in Eastern Europe


The hurdy-gurdy has a well-developed tradition in Eastern Europe, in particular in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. In Ukraine it is known as the lira
Lira (instrument)
The lira, or relia, is a variant of the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument which can trace its history back to the 10th century. Regarding the origins of the lira in the region there are two schools of thought:...

 or relia. It was and still is played by professional, often blind, itinerant musicians known as lirnyky. Their repertoire is primarily para-religious in theme, most of which can trace its origins to works composed in the Baroque period. In Eastern Ukraine the repertoire includes unique historic epics known as dumy
Duma (epic)
A Duma is a sung epic poem which originated in Ukraine during the Hetmanate Era in the sixteenth century...

and folk dances.

Lirnyky were categorised as beggars by the Russian authorities and fell under harsh repressive measures if they were caught performing in the streets of major cities until 1902, when the authorities were asked by ethnographers attending the 12th All-Russian Archaeological conference to stop persecuting them.

In the 1930s this tradition was almost totally eradicated by the Soviet authorities when some 250-300 lirnyky were rounded up for an ethnographic conference and executed as a socially undesirable element in the new progressive contemporary Soviet society.

Today, the instrument is undergoing a revival and is also being used in various ethnographic ensembles.

Terminology



A person who plays the hurdy gurdy is called a hurdy gurdyist, hurdy gurdy player, or (particularly for players of French instruments) viellist.

Since the prominence of the French tradition, many instrument and performance terms used in English are commonly taken from the French, and players generally need to know these terms to read relevant literature. Such common terms include the following:
  • trompette: the highest-pitched drone string that features the buzzing bridge
  • mouche: the drone string pitched a fourth or fifth below the trompette
  • petit bourdon: the drone string pitched an octave below the trompette
  • gros bourdon: the drone string pitched an octave below the mouche
  • chanterelle(s): melody string(s), also called chanters or chanter strings in English
  • chien: (literally "dog"), the buzzing bridge
  • tirant: a small peg set in the instrument’s tailpiece that is used to control the sensitivity of the buzzing bridge

Names of the instrument


According to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, the origin of the term hurdy gurdy is onomatopoeic in origin, after the repetitive warble in pitch that characterizes instruments with solid wooden wheels that have warped due to changes in humidity or after the sound of the buzzing-bridge. The term is thought to come from the Scottish and northern English term for uproar or disorder, hirdy-girdy or from hurly-burly, an old English term for noise or commotion.
The instrument is sometimes more descriptively called a wheel fiddle in English, but this term is rarely used among players of the instrument. The Hungarian name tekerőlant and the alternate forgólant both mean "turning lute." An alternate German name, Bauernleier, means "peasant's lyre"; in Russian and Ukrainian the instrument is called "wheel lyre" (колёсная лира, колісна ліра). (Leier, lant, and related terms today are generally used to refer to members of the lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 or lyre
Lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

 family, but historically had a broader range of meaning and were used for many types of stringed instruments.)

Another Hungarian name for the instrument is nyenyere, which is thought to be an onomatopoeic reference to the repetitive warble produced by a wheel that is not even. Note this term was considered derogatory in the Hungarian lowlands, but was the normal term for the instrument on Csepel island directly south of Budapest.

Design


There is no standardized design for the hurdy gurdy today. The six-stringed French vielle à roue is the best known and most common sort. A number of regional forms developed, but outside of France the instrument was considered a folk instrument
Folk instrument
A folk instrument is an instrument that developed among common people and usually doesn't have a known inventor. It can be made from wood, metal or other material. It is a part of folk music...

 and there were no schools of construction that could have determined a standard form.

There are two primary body styles for contemporary instruments: guitar-bodied and lute-backed. Both forms are found in French-speaking areas, while guitar-bodied instruments are the general form elsewhere. The box form of the simphonia is also commonly found among players of early music and historical re-enactors.

Strings


Historically, strings were made of gut
Catgut
Catgut is a type of cord that is prepared from the natural fibre found in the walls of animal intestines. Usually sheep or goat intestines are used, but it is occasionally made from the intestines of cattle, hogs, horses, mules, or donkeys.-Etymology:...

, which is still a preferred material today; however, metal strings have become common in the twentieth century, especially for the heavier drone strings or for lower melody strings if octave tuning is used. Nylon is also sometimes used, but is disliked by many players.

The drone strings produce steady sounds at fixed pitches. The melody string(s) (French chanterelle(s), Hungarian dallamhúr(ok)) are stopped with tangents attached to keys that change the vibration length of the string, much as a guitarist uses his or her fingers on the fretboard of a guitar. In the earliest hurdy gurdies these keys were arranged to provide a Pythagorean temperament
Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. This interval is chosen because it is one of the most consonant...

, but in later instruments the tunings have varied widely, with equal temperament
Equal temperament
An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. As pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency, this means that the perceived "distance" from every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for...

 most common because it allows easier blending with other instruments. However, because the tangents can be adjusted to tune individual notes, it is possible to tune hurdy gurdies to almost any temperament as needed. Most contemporary hurdy gurdies have 24 keys that cover a range of two chromatic octaves.

To achieve proper intonation and sound quality, each string of a hurdy gurdy must be wrapped with cotton or similar fibers. The cotton on melody strings tends to be quite light, while drone strings have heavier cotton. Improper cottoning results in a raspy tone, especially at higher pitches. In addition, individual strings (in particular the melody strings) often have to have their height above the wheel surface adjusted by having small pieces of paper placed between the strings and the bridge, a process called shimming. Shimming and cottoning are connected processes since either one can affect the geometry of the instrument’s strings.

Buzzing bridge


In some types of hurdy gurdy, notably the French vielle à roue ('fiddle with a wheel') and the Hungarian tekerőlant (tekerő for short) have added a buzzing bridge, chien (French for dog) or recsegő (Hungarian for buzzer) on one drone string; modern makers have increased the number of buzzing bridges on French-style instruments to as many as four. This mechanism consists of a loose bridge under a drone string. The tail of this buzzing bridge is inserted into a narrow vertical slot (or held by a peg in Hungarian instruments) that holds the buzzing bridge in place (and also serves as a bridge for additional drone strings on some instruments). The free end of the dog (called the hammer) rests on the soundboard of the hurdy gurdy and is more or less free to vibrate. When the wheel is turned slowly the pressure on the string (called the trompette on French instruments) holds the bridge in place, sounding a drone. When the crank is accelerated, the hammer lifts up and vibrates against the soundboard, producing a characteristic rhythmic buzz that is used as an articulation or to provide percussive effect, especially in dance pieces.

On French-style instruments, the sensitivity of the buzzing bridge can be altered by turning a peg called a tirant in the tailpiece of the instrument that is connected by a wire or thread to the trompette. The tirant adjusts the lateral pressure on the trompette and thereby sets the sensitivity of the buzzing bridge to changes in wheel velocity.
There are various stylistic techniques that are used as the player turns the crank, briefly accelerating the wheel at various points in its revolution. This technique is often known by its French term, the coup, with the acceleration being applied by striking the handle with the thumb, fingers or base of the thumb at one or more of four points in the revolution of the wheel (often described in terms of the clock face, 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock) to achieve the desired rhythm. A long buzz can also be achieved by pulling the handle rapidly through the rotation, known as the coup gras.

On the Hungarian tekerő the same control is achieved by using a wedge called the recsegőék (control wedge (literally "buzzer wedge") that pushes the drone string downward. In traditional tekerő playing, the buzzing bridge is controlled entirely by the wrist of the player and has a very different sound and rhythmic possibilities from those available on French instruments.

Comparison of French and Hungarian buzzing bridges



File:FrenchBuzzingBridge.jpg|French type buzzing bridge
File:TekeroBassBuzzing.jpg|Hungarian type buzzing bridge (on a bass tekerő)

Regional types


Regional types of hurdy gurdies since the Renaissance can also be classified based on wheel size and the presence or absence (and type) of a buzzing bridge. The following description of various types uses this framework:

Small wheel


Small-wheeled (wheel diameter less than 14 cm, or about 5.5 inches) instruments are traditionally found in Central and Eastern Europe. They feature a broad keybox and the drone strings run within the keybox. Because of the small size of the wheel these instruments most commonly have three strings: one melody string, one tenor drone and one bass drone. They sometimes have up to five strings.
  • String-adjusted buzzing bridge
    • German pear-shaped Drehleier. Two to three drone strings and one or two chromatic melody strings. Characteristic V-shaped pegbox. Often extensively decorated. The type of buzzing bridge found on this instrument usually has the adjustment peg set in a block next to the string, rather than in the tailpiece (as is typical of French instruments).
  • Wedge-adjusted buzzing bridge
    • tekerőlant (Hungarian). Usually two drones (sometimes three) + one or two chromatic melody strings. The broad keybox is often carved or decorated extensively.
    • Tyrolian Drehleier (Austria). Very similar to the tekerőlant, but usually has a diatonic keyboard. May be the historical source for the tekerő.
  • No buzzing bridge

    • lira korbowa (Poland). Guitar-shaped. Two drones + one diatonic melody string.
    • lira/лира (Russia). Guitar-shaped. Two drones + one diatonic melody string. Evenly-spaced keyboard.
    • lira/ліра (Ukraine). Guitar-shaped. Two drones + one diatonic melody string. Two body types: carved from a single piece of wood and guitar-shaped with transverse pegs and mult-piece construction with vertical pegs. Evenly spaced keyboard.
    • ninera
      Ninera
      Ninera is the unique Slovak version of the hurdy-gurdy. One well-known ninera player in Slovakia is Tibor Koblicek, born in a small village of Turicky, near Cinobaňa in southern Slovakia.-External links:* *...

      /kolovratec
      (Slovakia). Guitar-shaped. Two drones + one diatonic melody string. Broad keybox. Superficially similar to the tekerő, but lacks the buzzing bridge.
    • lira/vevlira (Sweden). Revived in the twentieth century based on historical examples. Two body forms: an elongated boxy shape and a long pear shape. Usually diatonic, but has been extended with a chromatic range with the additional keys placed below the normal diatonic range (the opposite of most chromatic hurdy gurdy keyboards)
    • German tulip-shaped Drehleier. Three drones + one diatonic melody string

Large wheel


Large-wheeled instruments (wheel diameters between 14 and 17 cm, or about 5.5 - 6.6 inches) traditionally are found in Western Europe. These instruments generally have a narrow keybox with drone strings that run outside of the keybox. They also generally have more strings and doubling or tripling of the melody string is common. Some modern instruments have as many as fifteen strings played by the wheel, although the most common number is six.
  • String-adjusted buzzing bridge
    • vielle à roue (French). Usually four drones + two melody strings, but often extended to have more strings. Two body forms: guitar-bodied and lute-backed (vielle en luth). French instruments generally have a narrow key box with drone strings that run on the outside of the key box. Traditional French instruments have two melody strings and four drone strings with one buzzing bridge. Contemporary instruments often have more: the instrument of well-known player Gilles Chabenat has four melody strings fixed to a viola tailpiece, and four drone strings on a cello tailpiece. This instrument also has 3 trompette strings.
    • Niněra (Czech). Guitar-shaped. Two forms: one has a standard drone-melody arrangement, while the other runs the drone strings between the melody strings in the keybox. Both diatonic and chromatic forms are found. Other mechanisms for adjusting the amount of "buzz" on the trompette string.

  • No buzzing bridge
    • Zanfona (Spain). Typically guitar-shaped body, with three melody strings, and two drone strings. Some older examples had a diatonic keyboard, and most modern models have a chromatic keyboard. Zanfonas are tuned to the key of C major, the melody strings are in a unison on the middle-C on the piano. The drones are a baritone C (1 octave lower) and a bass drone C (2 octaves lower). The drones can be wound up to a higher tension to tune to D, while the melody strings remain the same. This allows for both minor and major lead tones (C and C sharp) to be played below the D keynote on the melody strings.
    • niněra (Czech). Guitar-shaped. Two forms: one has a standard drone-melody arrangement, while the other runs the drone strings between the melody strings in the keybox. Both diatonic and chromatic forms are found.

See also


  • Dulcigurdy
    Dulcigurdy
    The dulcigurdy was an early music instrument, of unknown original name, of the hurdy-gurdy family, but distinct in that the notes were changed by fingering the neck rather than pressing tangent keys...

    , a type of hurdy gurdy that is fingered instead of having a keybox
  • Kaisatsuko
    Kaisatsuko
    The kaisatsuko is an electric experimental musical instrument invented by Yuichi Onoue of Tokyo, Japan....

    , a two-string experimental keyless hurdy-gurdy by a Japanese artist
  • Nyckelharpa
    Nyckelharpa
    A nyckelharpa , sometimes called a keyed fiddle, is a traditional Swedish musical instrument. It is a string instrument or chordophone. Its keys are attached to tangents which, when a key is depressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string.The nyckelharpa is similar in appearance to a...

    , a Swedish instrument structurely related to the hurdy gurdy, but played with a bow
  • Recordings featuring the hurdy gurdy
    Recordings featuring the hurdy gurdy
    The following recordings use the hurdy gurdy.* The album In Elven Lands by The Fellowship features a hurdy gurdy played by Ethan James.* The group Blowzabella feature hurdy-gurdies together with bagpipes and an array of acoustic instruments "to produce an inimitable, driving drone-based sound...


External links