Harry Wass Hurdy Gurdys

Pelverata, Tasmania, Australia.  medieval.instruments@gmail.com  

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Bosch Hurdy Gurdy (c1500)       Colson Hurdy Gurdy (19th C)        Symphony (13th C)

The Hurdy Gurdy is basically a wheel fiddle:  The sound of the instrument is produced by hand cranking a wooden wheel that acts as an endless violin bow, sounding drone strings and melody (chanterelle) strings.  Wooden tangents are pushed against the melody strings, stopping them at different points to produce the different notes. For a (very) brief history of the instrument see further below.

I make all types of Hurdy Gurdys to order ranging from fully functional student models to more elaborate creations.  For Further details, please visit my Symphony, Colson and Bosch Hurdy Gurdy Pages. All my Hurdy Gurdy models feature stainless steel shafts on delrin bearings and are available with four-way adjustable tangents, geared tunning pegs and fully adjustable drone and chanterelle bridges. 








Above: Bosch Gurdys and a carved head on one of my Colsons Hurdy Gurdys.

Brief History of  the hurdy gurdy:

Hurdy Gurdys have been in use since around the 10th C, the earliest type being the Organistrum (a very large instrument that required two players, one to turn the crank, and the other to operate the keychest!).  At around the same time (c. 1100s onward) a box-shaped Hurdy Gurdy called a Symphony came into use. 

The Hurdy Gurdy in various forms was popular throughout the medieval era, but toward the end of the period it declined on the social ladder to be used primarly by beggars, carnival performers and the like. It was revived in the 18th century, by which time it had acquired more strings, a chromatic keyboard and a percussive buzzing tompette or 'dog-bridge'.  The Hurdy Gurdy therefore allows the simultaneous performance of melody, harmony and rhythmic accompaniment, what an amazing instrument! 

Today , the Hurdy Gurdy has a strong following many areas of Europe, particularily in France and Hungary (where the are known as Vielles, and Tekerős respectively).  Worldwide, the instrument is gaining an increasing following, and is used in all sorts of music from historical, folk and world music to punk and rock!   The 19th C 'Colson model' hurdy gurdy and one of the Bosch Hurdys on this page were made for Roberto Massaglia, from The Tenth Stage who's music can be defined as "Steampunk: theatrical pop with an enigmatic blend of synthetic and acoustic instruments".

19th C "Colson" Hurdy Gurdy Harry Wass 2009

c1500 Bosch Hurdy Gurdys, Harry Wass 2009 

Symphony (early form of Hurdy Gurdy), Harry Wass 2008


c.12th C Organistrum carving, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, Spain.

c.1500  hurdy gurdy in the Triptych of  'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by Hieronymus Bosch

Bosch hurdy gurdys by Harry Wass