What is it?
In addition to the above, a hurdy-gurdy also has drone strings and a buzzing rhythm section operated by varying the rotation speed of the crank handle. It has been described as the stringed equivalent of the bagpipes and, as with bagpipes, there are design variations in the folk traditions of different countries. Links to videos of real hurdy gurdy players are provided.
The Digi-Gurdy is an electronic hurdy-gurdy keybox, with correctly placed keys, that outputs MIDI (an industry standard digital communication system for electronic musical instruments) via a USB cable to an attached laptop or phone running suitable MIDI player software. When used with headphones this would give you a low cost, portable, compact and silent means of playing the equivalent of the melody strings, i.e. something to learn to play on wherever you may be. It would not even require a battery as it would be powered via the USB cable.
1) Major barriers to entry for beginners are that while a playable electric guitar for example can be bought for around $200, a hurdy-gurdy is made to order by one of a few specialists and costs around $1500 even for a basic instrument with a waiting time of several months to a year.
2) In addition, it is noisy, making a good place to practice without upsetting your companions hard to find! This problem has been solved for bagpipe players with the availability of both practice chanters resembling a simple flute and electronic e-chanters allowing practice while wearing headphones.
3) Even if you do order one, you need something to learn to play in the meantime, while you are waiting for it to be built.
How it works: The entire structure of my first attempt was 3D printed in ABS plastic. The keys press on micro-switches and the brain of the device is an Arduino Teensy 3.5 microcontroller. An OLED display shows you which note you are playing at any time. The new one documented here uses alloy extrusions to create a better quality device, with 3D printed components slotted into them.
It now has a Demonstration Mode which plays a selection of songs at the speed of your choosing while displaying the notes on the OLED screen as it goes. NOTE: Some of these need more work, feel free to edit them! Version 1 had a fold up handle held in the right hand to help stabilize it while the melody was being played with the left hand. In the real instrument the right hand would turn a crank handle, which is a separate skill to be learned in its own right. I have now simulated this using a hobby robot gearmotor as a dynamo.
Primary objective: To produce this version 2 of the Digi-Gurdy either fully built or as a kit which could be assembled by someone around 14 years or older with basic soldering skills and ability to assemble a plastic model kit. October 2019: It is now buiit from 3D printed parts, alloy extrusions and laser cut ply parts.
NOTE: Click on my name and send me a private message to obtain the soundfont file for use on the attached mobile phone as it seems to be too large for me to upload anywhere.
Video examples of various styles of hurdy-gurdy players, in no particular order: