What Is A Hurdy Gurdy?

Are you curious to know what is a hurdy gurdy? You have come to the right place as I am going to tell you everything about a hurdy gurdy in a very simple explanation. Without further discussion let’s begin to know what is a hurdy gurdy?

In the realm of musical instruments, there are those that immediately come to mind – the piano, violin, guitar – and then there are those that evoke curiosity and intrigue due to their unique design and distinctive sound. One such instrument that captures the imagination with its whimsical name and charming melody is the “hurdy gurdy.” Let’s embark on a journey to explore the captivating history, mechanics, and melodies of the hurdy gurdy.

What Is A Hurdy Gurdy?

The hurdy gurdy, also known as the wheel fiddle or vielle à roue, is a string instrument that produces sound by means of a hand-cranked wheel that rubs against strings. The wheel functions like a bow, and as it turns, it sets the strings into vibration, creating a melodic sound. The instrument is played by pressing keys or buttons to change the pitch of the strings while the wheel is turned, producing a continuous and enchanting melody.

An Instrument With Ancient Roots

The origins of the hurdy gurdy can be traced back to medieval times, making it one of the oldest known string instruments in Europe. Its predecessors include the organistrum and symphonia, which were played using a similar wheel mechanism. Over the centuries, the hurdy gurdy evolved and gained popularity across various cultures and regions.

Mechanics And Components

  1. Wheel and Strings: The heart of the hurdy gurdy is the rotating wheel that makes contact with the strings. As the wheel turns, friction creates vibrations in the strings, producing sound.
  2. Keys or Buttons: The player uses keys or buttons to press against the strings, changing their pitch. The keys are attached to tangents, which press the strings against the wheel at various points.
  3. Melody Strings and Drone Strings: The hurdy gurdy typically has melody strings, which are played by the keys or buttons, and drone strings, which produce a continuous drone sound that accompanies the melody.
  4. Resonating Body: The vibrations from the strings are amplified by a resonating body, which often features a soundboard to enhance the sound quality.

Music And Melodies

The hurdy gurdy’s distinctive sound is often described as both haunting and whimsical. It has been featured in various musical genres, from folk and traditional music to experimental and contemporary compositions. The instrument’s versatility allows players to create intricate melodies, harmonies, and even rhythm patterns by controlling the wheel’s speed and manipulating the keys or buttons.

Resurgence And Revival

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional and folk instruments, leading to a revival of the hurdy gurdy. Modern players are embracing the instrument’s unique character and incorporating it into diverse musical styles, breathing new life into its centuries-old melodies.


The hurdy gurdy stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of ancient instruments and the magic they bring to the world of music. With its intricate mechanics, haunting melodies, and historical significance, the hurdy gurdy invites us to journey through time and experience the captivating soundscapes of the past. As it continues to inspire musicians and listeners alike, the hurdy gurdy reminds us that melodies created by the turning of a wheel can weave a tapestry of enchantment that transcends eras and cultures.

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What Is The Hurdy-Gurdy Today?

Today’s hurdy gurdy is roughly the same as those built in the middle ages. It has three to six strings which are caused to vibrate by a resined wheel turned by a crank. Melody notes are produced on one string, or two tuned in unison, by pressing keys which stop the string at the proper intervals for the scale.

Why Do People Say Hurdy-Gurdy?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the mid 18th century 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.

What Is The Real Name Of The Hurdy-Gurdy?

Where does the name Hurdy Gurdy come from? The French name for the instrument is ‘vielle a roue’ (wheel fiddle), or sometimes ‘vielle. When the instruement first made it’s way to the British Isles, the English used the term ‘hurley burley’ as a derogatory reference to the instrument’s music.

Are Hurdy-Gurdy Hard To Play?

The Ugears Hurdy-Gurdy is a full-fledged musical instrument. It’s easy to play dancing melodies, from folk to modern. To start the music flowing, the player just need to crank the handle with one hand to kick off a drone sound from the bourdon and melody strings.

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