Everything about the Hurdy Gurdy

What is it?

The Hurdy-Gurdy is an european or the Middle East instrument designed around the 10th century as a variant / evolution of the organistrum instrument.

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like wheel fiddle or wheel vielle. Pronounced / ˈhɜr diˈgɜr di, -ˌgɜr- /, from the greek meaning lantern, organ or rhombus and called Zanfona in spanish, Vielle àroue in french and Sanfona in portuguese. A person that plays it it’s called a lira or relia.


The Keyboard family which means that it has a row of keys, buttons or levers that make the sound when you press them and from the subcategory chordophones meaning it makes sound with string vibration.


Different types of wood, anything from hard maple, sitka spruce, beech and maple with the strings and wires made of gut for old models and high-carbon steel for the new.


The types are determined by the source of sound:

  • Acoustic: With a hollow cavity to make sound with  the vibration of the strings.
  • Electric: Convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. 

It’s also important to say that the most common models should have around 24 keys with 6 strings.


For the Hand Made 6 strings 24 keys Hurdy Gurdy, around $1,100 – $1,500 USD, the cheapest we found was a Hand Made 6 strings 24 keys and the most expensive was a 6 strings 23 keys Hurdy Gurdy Maple wood, interesting that it has 1 key less.

In the middle we have something like handmade red maple 6 strings 24 keys Hurdy Gurdy for $1,200 USD all 3 of the acoustic, if you don’t find information about the instrument being acoustic or electric, you can pretty safely guess it is acoustic when it says handmade.

Weights and sizes

The size of an acoustic hurdy-gurdy  goes around  7 x 17 x 10 In (17 x 43 x 25 Cm) and has a weight around 5.2 Lbs (2 Kgs)  that’s the size and weight of a violin.


Here’s a list of a lot of them, but for this one you don’t need anything except a hard case for transportation and some parts like a handle and a metal tangent for replacements.

Start playing   

To learn to play each note you need a finger chart (or position chart).

We recommend learning to read sheet music to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 
Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments and even the “song name for hurdy-gurdy to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions and techniques.

Remember,the Hurdy-Gurdy is easy to learn and it should take 1-2 years to completely master, it’s also similar (at least a little) to the melodica, accordion and claviola, so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

Luis Gerardo

Musician as a hobby for +6 years, documenting every instrument in simple words for this website.

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