The hurdy-gurdy – a fascinating musical instrument that has captured the curiosity of many yet remains shrouded in mystery for most. If its timeless sound has ever entranced you and you wish to embark on the quest to own one, this guide is your compass.
From understanding the hurdy-gurdy to finding the perfect one for you, we’ll cover all the key considerations and recommendations to make your journey harmonious.
What is a Hurdy-gurdy?
The hurdy-gurdy, a historical mechanical fiddle, produces an enchanting and ‘eternal’ sound. A rosined wheel attached to a handle rotates along strings with the help of a crank. It creates captivating music accompanied by a humming drone reminiscent of bagpipes.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
Here are some points you should consider while buying hurdy-gurdy.
Hurdy gurdies are not cheap instruments. Prices for new ones can exceed $2000, with premium models going up to $4495. The intricate work and craftsmanship justify their cost, and finding one new for under $1000 is rare.
2. Fit and Finish
Just like guitars, a hurdy-gurdy’s build quality and finish are crucial. Beware of cheap imitations produced in the Far East with little attention to quality control. Even so-called ‘cheap’ hurdy gurdies may cost around $500 to $750 but are often subpar and best avoided.
3. Type of Hurdy Gurdy
Various types of hurdy-gurdies are available, with differences often based on regional styles. The most common styles are French and Hungarian.
- French style
6 strings (2 melodies, 4 drones), more challenging to play.
- Hungarian style
3 strings (1 melody, 2 drones) are best for beginners. Some 4-string Hungarian models are available but are rare.
For contemporary music, consider the midigurdy, a midi hurdy gurdy, though it’s no longer in production. Electric hurdy-gurdies are available for those seeking traditional sound with amplification options.
4. New Vs. Used
Opting for a new hurdy-gurdy ensures professional craftsmanship and setup. However, if budget is a concern, second-hand options exist. Be cautious, as inferior instruments are prevalent online, especially on eBay. Seek expert advice before purchasing to avoid disappointment.
5. Build Quality
Beware of cheap imitations produced in Eastern Europe and Asia when buying a hurdy-gurdy; they need more craftsmanship. Invest in a reputable luthier-made instrument, costing $800-$1,200, for a better playing experience and long-term value. Watch out for eBay sellers claiming mass-produced stock, as authenticity and quality may be low.
6. Number of Strings
Choose the Hungarian model with three or four strings for easier learning, ideal for beginners. The French model with six strings is more challenging to play and may not be suitable for newcomers. Opting for the Hungarian-style hurdy-gurdy offers a smoother musical journey.
7. Other Factors
- Check for a buzzing bridge with string bridle-type adjustment.
- Prefer a chromatic keyboard over a diatonic one for easier learning.
- Consider a model with a pickup if you plan on playing publicly.
How to Play the Hurdy Gurdy
Playing the hurdy-gurdy involves mastering the following steps –
- Position your hands with the left on the keyboard and the right on the wheel.
- The keyboard resembles a piano’s layout, with lower keys as white keys and upper keys as black keys.
- To play a note, press a key with your left hand while turning the wheel with your right hand.
- Adjust the wheel’s speed to control volume.
- Experiment with different notes and chords to create various sounds.
- Regular practice will enhance your skills.
Where to Buy a Hurdy Gurdy – Exploring Your Options
If you’ve been captivated by the unique sound of the hurdy-gurdy and want to get your hands on one, you might find it’s not as simple as walking into your local music store. Hurdy gurdies are fascinating instruments crafted by specialized luthiers, making them rare and relatively expensive. However, fear not; we’ve gathered some insights to help you navigate the world of hurdy-gurdy buying.
If you’re in North America, your choices for buying a new hurdy-gurdy might be limited, but there are reputable options. One standout name is Altarwind, based in Oregon’s Pacific Northwest, known for creating exquisite hurdy gurdies.
Their instruments range from around $1100 for basic models to about $4500 for their top-tier “Full Monty” version. They also offer custom orders, allowing you to personalize your dream hurdy-gurdy.
In Europe, you’ll find a host of master luthiers who continue to produce high-quality hurdy-gurdies. For example, Allen and Kormylo, based in Wales, specialize in medieval stringed instruments, including hurdy-gurdies. While they don’t list prices, their reputation as premier builders indicates prices starting over $2000 for a basic model.
Another notable option is Balázs Nagy, based in Budapest, Hungary. He is renowned for his exceptional Hungarian-style hurdy gurdies that feature meticulous attention to detail. Additionally, Stanisław Nogaj, a Polish luthier, creates modern hurdy-gurdies with stunning aesthetics, some with electronics for amplified play.
Used Hurdy Gurdies – Where to Find Them
For those seeking to begin their hurdy-gurdy journey with a used instrument, there are reliable places to explore:
1. The “Hurdy Gurdy Marketplace” on Facebook
This active community of almost 3,000 hurdy-gurdy enthusiasts often buys, sells, and trades their instruments. It’s a great place to discover used hurdy-gurdies and connect with fellow enthusiasts.
This website is another platform where you can find used hurdy-gurdies for sale. Though the selection might not be extensive, it’s a reputable platform with solid buyer protection, providing peace of mind for your purchase.
As a global platform, eBay often features used hurdy-gurdies for sale. However, exercise caution here, as eBay also tends to have a higher concentration of poorly made imitation hurdy-gurdies. It’s crucial to be well-informed and have an expert’s guidance before purchasing this platform.
4. Lazar’s Early Music (USA)
While Lazar’s Early Music website might not win design awards, keep that from deterring you. It’s a go-to destination, especially if you’re in the US and looking for a used hurdy-gurdy. The site is run by luthiers, individuals skilled in crafting musical instruments, ensuring that the instruments they offer are of good quality and in playable condition.
The world of the hurdy-gurdy awaits those who dare to embrace its magical melodies. Whether you opt for a new masterpiece or venture into the realm of used hurdy-gurdies, the enchantment of this ancient instrument will captivate your soul.
As you embark on your hurdy-gurdy journey, remember to seek expert guidance and stay true to your musical passion. Happy hunting, and may the hurdy-gurdy’s eternal sound become a cherished part of your musical story!