What To Look For In A Hurdy Gurdy?


Hurdy-gurdies come in various levels of complexity and cost. Like most instruments, they range from high-quality masterpieces to mere decorative pieces. However, even lower-quality instruments can come with a hefty price tag, costing thousands of dollars.

When planning to buy a hurdy gurdy, you must consider its features and specs. To help you out, we have prepared a checklist of qualities that indicate a well-made instrument.

When you start looking for a hurdy gurdy, consider these questions:

What type of music do you want to play? 

If you are not set on playing music from a specific hurdy-gurdy tradition, you will likely want to go for a French-style instrument. Luckily, most makers offer this versatile type.

Other options include Galician-style and Hungarian instruments. If historical music interests you, older styles like the box-shaped symphony are worth considering. However, unless you are diving into those traditions, French-style instruments are generally more adaptable.

What’s your budget? 

Hurdy-gurdies can be very expensive. You might be surprised to know that instruments priced under $1000 are usually of lower quality. So, if you want a high-quality instrument, you better save up for it.

As a rough estimate, basic French-style instruments with six strings from Western European and U.S. makers cost around US$3,000. On the other hand, a Hungarian-style instrument typically ranges from US$1,500 to $2,000.

What features does the instrument have?

For a beginners’ hurdy gurdy, you must consider the following features:

  • Number of strings: These should include one or two chanters and two drones. While additional strings are fine, it’s advisable not to use them until you are comfortable with the basic ones.
  • Buzzing bridge: The buzzing bridge should feature a string bridle-type adjustment, except for Hungarian instruments, which utilize a wedge block system. Have an expert player verify that the buzzing bridge is easy to control and produces a crisp sound.
  • Pickups: You should choose a hurdy gurdy with built-in pickups if amplification is part of your plan.
  • Chromatic keyboard: Instead of opting for models with diatonic keyboards, you should choose a hurdy gurdy with a chromatic keyboard.

Final Words

When buying a hurdy-gurdy, it’s crucial to consider the factors given in this post. Whether opting for a French-style instrument or exploring Hungarian variations, prioritizing the basic features can enhance your playing experience.