Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What to Look for in a Hurdy-Gurdy | Arle Lommel | Hurdy Gurdy Community

– for a nicely formatted version of this, please visit the note on Hurdy Gurdy Community Facebook group!



What to Look for in a Hurdy-Gurdy

ARLE LOMMEL · MARCH, 2017

Hurdy-gurdies are complex and expensive instruments. As with most instruments, you can find the range from masterwork to wall hanging. Unfortunately, bad instruments can still set you back hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros.

My best advice is to have an experienced player look at any instrument you are interested in. However, I recognize this is not always possible, so this document lists features and characteristics you should look for in evaluating a hurdy-gurdy.

It starts with basic features for beginner instruments, and is followed by a list of specific issues that quality instruments should exhibit. It closes with some features you might consider for a “step up” instrument.

If you are looking at an instrument online and cannot determine how well it meets these criteria and the seller cannot or will not provide you with enough information to tell, pass up on the instrument, no matter how attractive it may seem, unless you are prepared to make repairs yourself.

If you are not in a position to try out the instrument yourself, or you do not yet play, ask other players for their opinion of a maker’s work. Unfortunately, there are a few well-intentioned and prolific makers who nevertheless produce marginal instruments, and asking others about their experience will help you steer clear of these makers.

This list should help you see why you should avoid a certain maker of bargain-basement instruments with very low prices seen on eBay. Even a quick glance at the photos this maker provides tells you that they fail to meet even basic requirements for a usable instrument.

Beginner features



When you first look for an instrument, ask yourself the following questions:

What sort of music do you want to play? Unless you want to play music from a specific hurdy-gurdy tradition, you should probably look for a contemporary French-style instrument. Most makers produce this type. The primary modern alternatives are Hungarian-style (called tekerő or tekerőlant) and Galician (zanfona) instruments. If you are interested in historical music, you might consider older styles, like the box-shaped symphony. You may encounter other types, but unless you are looking at diving into those traditions, you will probably find the French-style instruments to be a more versatile option. This document assumes you are looking at either a French or Hungarian instrument, but most of the advice applies to other types as well.

What is your budget? Hurdy-gurdies are expensive instruments. Any instrument you find under $1000 is likely to be an inferior instrument that will only frustrate and limit you in the long run. You are generally better off saving up for a quality instrument or putting a deposit on an instrument and paying it off before delivery. As a rough guideline, basic French-style instruments with six strings from makers in the U.S. and Western Europe are likely to cost around US$3,000. Hungarian-style instruments will be anywhere from US$1,500 to $2,000. Some simpler instruments cost less than these amounts, but if you find a deal that seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

Are you looking for a new or used instrument? Sometimes you can save money by buying a used hurdy-gurdy, but this approach can be risky. You may be getting a great instrument that someone is moving on from, or you may be paying to take someone else’s problem off their hands. If you buy directly from the maker, you have some assurance that the instrument is set up properly and does not suffer from major problems. In most circumstances (there are exceptions, of course), you should not buy used instruments from eBay or other sources: A lot of would-be players have been burnt taking this approach. Instead, buy directly from the owner and find a way to get some first-hand experience with the instrument before you commit to buying it.

For a beginner instrument, look for the following as the basic features your instrument should have or exceed. If it falls short of these requirements, look for a different instrument.

Three or four strings. One or two chanters and two drones (bass and tenor). More strings are fine, but you should not use them until you are comfortable with the basic strings. The basic French setup has six strings (two melody + four drones). Hungarian instruments have three or four (one or two melody + two drones).

Buzzing bridge (unless you are specifically learning a type without a buzzing bridge). The buzzing bridge should have a string bridle-type adjustment, unless you are playing a Hungarian instrument, in which case you will use a wedge block system. Have someone who plays well verify that the buzzing bridge is easy to control and has a crisp sound.

Chromatic keyboard. While some “starter” models have diatonic keyboards, these models will limit your music. Even if you have to spend a little more for it, a chromatic keyboard should be a non-negotiable requirement.

Pickups. If you plan to play with amplification, start with build-in pickups. (If you do not plan on ever amplifying your instrument, you can ignore this, but my experience is that you may wish down the road that you had gotten an instrument with this capability.)

Two-octave range. Although some instruments have a larger range, these instruments are usually not suitable for beginners.

Your instrument should also have the following basic features:

String catches or hooks. These allow you to control which strings are sounding and are a required feature.

Easy-to-use tuners. My personal preference is for geared tuners. If your instrument is French-styled and has friction pegs, it should come with a “wrench” of sorts that allows you to turn them when they are under pressure. Hungarian instruments have larger pegs that do not require a wrench. If pegs slip or bind, you can often resolve this with peg dope or chalk, but if you find the tuners difficult to work with in general, it makes the instrument hard to work with.

Buzzing bridge that responds well at different playing speeds. This is hard for new players to assess, so ask for a demo. You should hear a crisp response with fine control at a variety of speeds. If the bridge buzzes uncontrollably at higher speeds, it probably means you will need to replace the bridge. (This is one change that should be easy for a maker and many players to do).

Standard strap knobs or strap locks for the straps. You should be able to change out the strap easily. For French style instruments, you should have two knobs at the head end of the instrument and two at the tail. If you have just one at the head end, you will need a “Y strap” to play standing. If there is just one at the tail end, you will not be able to play while standing.

Can I Build It from a Kit?



Unless you have significant wood-working skills and building your own instrument is a primary goal for you, buy a complete instrument rather than a kit. Building an instrument can be a rewarding activity, but it is not for the faint-hearted and probably won’t save you much money (if any) after you buy the needed tools. If you do want to build an instrument, I would recommend looking at the kits from Hurdy-Gurdy Crafters. Do not buy the Kelischek or MusicMakers kits: These have significant design flaws and by the time you have worked around them to arrive at a mediocre result, you will have spent more than you would have if you had simply bought a good starter instrument.

Evaluating a Hurdy-Gurdy



Regardless of your skill level or the complexity of the instrument you are buying, there are specific things you should look out for in an instrument. Do not get caught up in a feature list that may hide problems with the instrument. I break the items you should look for into several areas.

The following assumes the instrument has been kept at a proper humidity. Because hurdy-gurdies are made of wood, you can expect parts to move and you may find that parts do not fit or move as well if the humidity is too high or too low. When you evaluate an instrument, look for problems that a change in humidity would not address. For example, if you are in a dry environment and they keyboard binds, the problem will only get worse with increased humidity, but if the keys are a bit loose, increasing humidity could help.

Wheel, Axle, and Crank



A proper wheel system is perhaps the most critical aspect of the instrument. Almost anything else can be fixed, but if the wheel is bad, fixing it may essentially require rebuilding the instrument. Look for the following in this system:

The wheel should be made from high-quality laminated materials (like Baltic birch plywood) or composites. In general, avoid solid wood: It moves too much with changes in humidity and is not stable.

The wheel should have a smooth surface, free from irregularities. Rough grain will result in uneven tone.

There should be no wobble, play, or binding in the wheel or crank system. Grab the crank and push and pull it away from and toward the body of the instrument, up and down, and side to side. Any play here is a cause for concern. Turn the crank. If it grabs or scrapes at any point this is a dead giveaway for major problems. If the wheel squeaks, it could indicate that the bearings need lubrication, or it could indicate more serious problem.

The axle should have a proper axle. Stay away from any instruments that use  furniture “T bolts” or similar hardware without a bearing.

The gap between the wheel and the soundboard should be minimal. Large or uneven gaps indicate sloppy construction and allow dirt and debris to enter the instrument and the bearing system.

The axle and wheel should be removable. Although you will not generally remove the wheel, this is essential if the instrument ever needs to be serviced.

The wheel should turn easily with no drag when no strings are engaged. If the wheel takes effort to turn, it indicates problems inside the instrument.

The crank’s handle should spin freely on its own axle. If the crank handle does not turn, it is harder to play. Fortunately, this is usually easy to fix.

The crank should be easy to remove from the instrument. Many players remove the crank when transporting instruments to prevent damage.

Keyboard



No side to side play of the keys. Grab the keys and see if they wiggle side-to-side. If they do, it will result in imprecise intonation. You shouldn’t see up-and-down play either, but this is less important.

Tangents should hit the string close to straight on. When properly set up, tangents should be in tune without having to turn too far to the left or the right. If individual tangents are shifted significantly but their neighbors are not, this indicates a keyboard with the wrong spacing. If the ones at the end closest to the bridge are all shifted in one direction, this indicates a problem with the way the instrument is cottoned, but does not point to a problem with the instrument itself.

The keys should line up. Hold the instrument away from you. The keys should line up evenly. If they are uneven – i.e., some stick out more than others – or you find gaps between them, this indicates a poorly designed keyboard. (Exception: Hungarian keyboards have a different structure with gaps in the upper row. This is fine for that type of instrument.)

Key stems should be durable. Look for keys made from a hard, durable wood that takes a smooth finish. Ebony or rosewood are ideal.

Tangents should be durable. Look for ones made of a hard, durable wood (unless you have metal tangents).

Tangents should be adjustable. Do not consider any instrument where the tangents are not adjustable! They should stay in place under normal playing pressures yet move easily enough to be adjusted by hand

Key stems should be straight. All key stems should be straight with no twisting. If one or two show twisting, it indicates that humidity has warped them. You can have a luthier replace them. But if many or most are twisted, it indicates major problems.

Keys should move smoothly. Keys should smoothly with light finger pressure and return under gravity without shuddering or sticking. Some noise (clicking or slight sliding sound) is normal, but loud scraping indicates problems.

Low action in the keyboard. The keys move no more than 4 mm before touching the string.

Consistent tangent action across strings. If more than one melody string is present, all tangents on a key touch their strings at the same time

No interference from the keybox lid. All keys should move freely when keybox lid is open.

No collisions between adjacent keys. Make sure all keys move independently. If you press one key and another one moves with it, look for obvious causes (like tangents that touch each other).

Smooth keybox lid. The top of the keybox should be smooth and allow easy motion across its surface. Carved keyboxes look nice, but if they impede the motion of your hand, you are better off with something else.

For Hungarian instruments, bracing on both sides of the tangents. Some cheaper instruments have slotted supports only on the side with the keys. Such construction is less stable and tends to have excessive play in the keys.

Wood/body



No cracks or warps. Cracks or warps can indicate major problems. Even if they are cosmetic, why take the risk?

No sunken spots in the back or soundboard. These usually indicate serious structural damage to the instrument.

Quarter-sawn soundboard. You can recognize this because all grain will appear to run parallel, with no obvious grain figuring.

Strings and tuning



Is the instrument set up for the tuning you want? This can be easily changed, but order it for the tuning you want.

Stings should just barely touch the wheel. Without any shimming on the bridge the wheel should just barely contact the string. If you need to add large amounts of cotton to bring the strings into contact with the wheel, this indicates the bridge needs to be cut down. Excessive pressure is easier to deal with: You can add shims beneath the string.

Other



Support piece running from tailpiece to bridge. Hurdy-gurdy bridges must stand up to a lot of pressure. They should be anchored to the tail piece so that this pressure does not pull the bridge toward the wheel. Traditional Hungarian instruments solved this problem by using a heavy bridge that was glued to the soundboard and this construction is also acceptable.

No non-traditional bridge shapes. If it looks strange, ask a luthier to evaluate the bridge. Bridges that are the wrong shape can deaden the instrument’s sound.

Advanced/Step-Up Features



If you are looking to upgrade your instrument, the following features are ones you may consider adding:

More than two melody strings. Third or fourth melody strings add tuning options. Very rarely, instruments will have more than four melody strings.

Additional drones. The standard French configuration has four drones. Adding additional drones allows you to use alternative tunings.

Planetary-gear tuners. These geared tuners look like traditional ebony pegs, but allow more precise tuning.

Active pick-ups and on-board mixer. This setup allows you to balance sound in the instrument itself when you plug it in.

Sympathetic strings. Sympathetic strings provide a richer tone.

Multiple buzzing bridges. These will generally be “stacked” above each other in a small tower and will play at different pitches.

Adjustable bridge. Adjustable bridges use a jack screw system to adjust the height of strings without the need for paper shims. However, not all adjustable bridges are equal and a poorly designed system can deaden the sound. Some move the entire top of the bridge, but if you have more than two melody strings, ones with screws for each string are more versatile.

Capo on the trompette string. This single capo, often made with a harp lever, allows you to raise the pitch of the trompette by a full step to facilitate playing in other keys. For C/G instruments, it will raise the trompette from C to D. For G/D instruments, it will raise the pitch from G to A. This feature does not apply to Hungarian-style instruments.

Capo system for chanter strings. Capo systems change the open string notes on the instrument. Look for capos that operate with a push-button system and that can be adjusted for accurate intonation.

Fingerboard under the drones. This uncommon feature allows you to play notes and harmonies on the drones. Sometime these fingerboards are fitted with movable capos for the ultimate in control over tuning your drones.

String lifters. String lifters are levers or buttons that engage and disengage individual strings without the need for the player to touch the string.

Extended scale. Instruments with an extended scale (sometimes called “alto” instruments) are longer and have a range of around two and a half octaves. They are almost always fitted with capos that allow the instrument to be played as a standard-scale instrument.

Quarter-tone keys (rare). Very rarely you may encounter quarter-tone keys that allow you to play notes in between standard pitches for a few notes. These are most common on the third and sixth degrees of the scale.

Conclusion



It is my hope that these guidelines will help individuals looking at investing in a hurdy-gurdy.  Please add comments to [this document] with suggestions for additional items or corrections. Any faults in this document are my own.



This guide is available under a Creative Commons 4.o Attribution license.


What to Look for in a Hurdy-Gurdy | Arle Lommel | Hurdy Gurdy Community on Facebook



Saturday, June 30, 2018

Of hurdy gurdies, hamburgers, and Polish curse words | Michalina Malisz interview | Metal Exposure



An interview with Michalina Malisz of Eluveitie – By Sam Riffle (January 2017)

Swiss folk metal institution Eluveitie experienced serious upheaval in its ranks this past May, when long-time members Anna Murphy (hurdy gurdy, vocals), Ivo Henzi (guitars), and Merlin Sutter (drums) announced their departure from the band. However, Eluveitie has found a more-than-worthy replacement on the hurdy gurdy in Michalina Malisz, a gifted young player from Poland. Metal Exposure’s resident hurdy-gurdy enthusiast Sam caught up with Michalina in the backstage dining room at Metropolishalle Potsdam on the last date of the band’s Eisheilige Nacht tour with Subway to Sally, where they discussed Michalina’s transition from fan to band member, Eluveitie’s upcoming acoustic album Evocation II, and what the future holds for both her and the band…
Metal Exposure: Anyone who follows your YouTube channel, Helvetion, will know that you were an Eluveitie fan before you joined the band.…

read: Of hurdy gurdies, hamburgers, and Polish curse words - Metal Exposure


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Festival Le Son Continu • International Instrument Makers Exhibition | 12 au 15 juillet 2018 | Château d’Ars à Lourouer-Saint-Laurent en Berry, France



Festival Le Son Continu • International Instrument Makers Exhibition
12 au 15 juillet 2018
Château d’Ars à Lourouer-Saint-Laurent en Berry, France

[English below*] Pour sa 5ème édition, le son continu conserve la formule magique : un salon de lutherie désormais reconnu, des concerts aux sonorités « du monde », des bals programmés jusque tard dans la nuit, des conférences de spécialistes. Mais aussi des rendez-vous matinaux avec les luthiers pour découvrir leur dernière innovation, des ateliers danse pour dégourdir les jambes, des « nez-à-nez » avec une fanfare déambulatoire, des bœufs improvisés à chaque recoin d’allées, des rencontres improbables intergénérationnelles…
Et pour que ces 4 jours soient magiques jusqu’au bout, les tarifs restent inchangés.
« La plaine chante en majeur et la montagne en mineur »
(Les Maîtres Sonneurs – George Sand)
Accordons le majeur avec le mineur et retrouvons-nous tous autour de la musique, de la danse et de la lutherie du 12 au 15 juillet 2018 sous les frondaisons du Château d’Ars à Lourouer-Saint-Laurent en Berry.

* google translate: For its 5th edition, the continuous sound retains the magic formula: a now recognized violin making salon, concerts with the sounds of "the world," dances programmed late into the night, conferences of specialists. But also morning meetings with luthiers to discover their latest innovation, dance workshops to stretch their legs, "nose-to-nose" with an ambulatory fanfare, improvised [oxen] at each corner of alleys, unlikely encounters intergenerational ...
And for these 4 days to be magical until the end, the rates remain unchanged.
"The plain sings in major and the mountain in minor"
(Master of Ceremonies - George Sand)
Grant the major with the minor and we all find around the music, dance and violin from July 12 to 15, 2018 under the foliage of the Château d'Ars Louruer-Saint-Laurent in Berry.


facebook.com/events/579953279034530/

Festival Chants de Vielles | 29, 30 juin et 1 juillet 2018 | Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada



Festival Chants de Vielles
29, 30 juin et 1 juillet 2018
Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada

[English below*] – La 14e édition du happening de chant et de musiques trad, folk et acoustique Chants de Vielles aura lieu les 29, 30 juin et 1 juillet 2018 dans le magnifique village patrimonial de Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. Un rassemblement musical festif ouvert à tous qui invitera à la découverte des musiques acoustiques aux rythmes des longues journées lumineuses de la fin Juin.

* google translate: The 14th edition of the Chan, Chantal, Folk and Acoustic singing and music happening will take place on June 29, 30 and July 1, 2018 in the beautiful heritage village of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. A festive musical gathering open to all who invite to the discovery of acoustic music to the rhythms of the long days of light at the end of June.


Zona da Zanfona 2018 – XIV Encontro Internacional | 6-8 July | Rianxo, Galicia, Spain



Os detalles da programación do festival Zona da Zanfona xa na web de ACentral Folque! *

* The details of the Festival's programming already on the ACentral Folque website!

>>>  Zona da Zanfona. XIV Encontro Internacional – Folque | Complete program




Zona da Zanfona | aCentral Folque

6-8 July 2018
Rianxo, Galicia, Spain


Curso ZdZ: Óscar Fernández


Curso ZdZ: Johannes Geworkian




Wednesday, June 13, 2018

some upcoming hurdy-gurdy events workshops and festivals


Festival Chants de Vielles
29, 30 juin et 1 juillet 2018
Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada

La 14e édition du happening de chant et de musiques trad, folk et acoustique Chants de Vielles aura lieu les 29, 30 juin et 1 juillet 2018 dans le magnifique village patrimonial de Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. Un rassemblement musical festif ouvert à tous qui invitera à la découverte des musiques acoustiques aux rythmes des longues journées lumineuses de la fin juin.





Zona da Zanfona | aCentral Folque

6-8 July 2018
Rianxo, Galicia, Spain


Curso ZdZ: Óscar Fernández


Curso ZdZ: Johannes Geworkian





with Laurence Bourdin




Festival Le Son Continu • International Instrument Makers Exhibition
12 au 15 juillet 2018
Château d’Ars à Lourouer-Saint-Laurent en Berry, France

Pour sa 5ème édition, le son continu conserve la formule magique : un salon de lutherie désormais reconnu, des concerts aux sonorités « du monde », des bals programmés jusque tard dans la nuit, des conférences de spécialistes. Mais aussi des rendez-vous matinaux avec les luthiers pour découvrir leur dernière innovation, des ateliers danse pour dégourdir les jambes, des « nez-à-nez » avec une fanfare déambulatoire, des bœufs improvisés à chaque recoin d’allées, des rencontres improbables intergénérationnelles…
Et pour que ces 4 jours soient magiques jusqu’au bout, les tarifs restent inchangés.
« La plaine chante en majeur et la montagne en mineur »
(Les Maîtres Sonneurs – George Sand)
Accordons le majeur avec le mineur et retrouvons-nous tous autour de la musique, de la danse et de la lutherie du 12 au 15 juillet 2018 sous les frondaisons du Château d’Ars à Lourouer-Saint-Laurent en Berry.


facebook.com/events/579953279034530/



V Podkarpackie Spotkanie Lirników w Dolinie Sanu

11-15 July 2018
Jabłonicy Ruskiej, Poland

OGŁOSZENIE DZIADOWSKIE !!!

"Od dziada do wirtuoza"
Zapisy na V Podkarpackie Spotkanie Lirników trwają, zapraszamy w dniach 11-15 lipca 2018 do Jabłonicy Ruskiej, do malowniczej Doliny Sanu.
Wszelkie informacje znajdziecie tutaj:
http://www.voxangeli.pl/wiesci/410-od-dziada-do-wirtuoza

O resztę możecie zawsze zapytać przez facebook lub telefonicznie
pod numerem: 608366444. Możecie też wysłać gołębia pocztowego na adres: warsztaty@voxangeli.pl

Czeka nas niesamowite spotkanie, ciekawe warsztaty, dziadowskie wędrówki i co najważniejsze będziemy kręcić korbą od rana do wieczora, od zmierzchu do świtu po dziadowsku i precyzyjnie.
Zapraszamy na Wakacyjne Kręcenie Korbą na Podkarpacie

Blowzabella Workshop Festival
Hamburg, Germany

Tanz, konzert, workshops 12-14 Oktober 2018
im HeidBarghof, Hamburg, Germany. Tanz, konzert, workshops 12-14 Oktober 2018
im HeidBarghof, Hamburg, Germany.
Workshops 13 & 14 Oktober

blowzabella.co.uk/live




Spielkurs Pipenbock – instrumental and dance workshop in Northern Germany 70 km east of Hamburg – 15th – 18th of November 2018. 
Hurdy gurdy workshop with Joel Turk (GB)







Monday, June 4, 2018

LE STAGE VIELLE À ROUE ÉTÉ 2018 AVEC PASCAL LEFEUVRE & PHILIPPE MOUSNIER « 7 au 10 Aout




LE STAGE VIELLE À ROUE  ÉTÉ 2018 
AVEC
PASCAL LEFEUVRE & PHILIPPE MOUSNIER

7 au 10 Aout 2018
« la Grande métairie »
La Rochebeaucourt et Argentine  en Périgord (24)

Le stage d’été, dans un cadre champêtre, rural , typique du Périgord blanc : « La Grande Métairie »  dont le but est de promouvoir et de développer diverses activités culturelles et de loisirs (stages, spectacles…) dans un esprit d’ouverture et de convivialité.
Nous y associerons les joies de l’étude instrumentale aux plaisirs du jeu en groupe.


Monday, May 7, 2018

3D modeling of Oud backed hurdy gurdy by Graeme McCormack



– "I have been 3D modelling my Oud backed hurdy gurdy. I made this gurdy years ago…. All parts have been 3D modelled. I will upload the CAD file along with 2D plans for this gurdy at AntiQuated Strings (https://sites.google.com/site/mccormackgraeme/antiquatedstrings) soon. Enjoy the preview."


as posted in Hurdy Gurdy Australia on Facebook




Graeme's website: antiquatedstrings - mccormackgraeme