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 lower down this page.
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 is 3D printed in ABS plastic. The keys press on micro-switches and the brain of the device is an Arduino Teensy 3.6 microcontroller. An OLED display shows you which note you are playing at any time.
I also envisage a Demonstration Mode which would play a selection of songs at the speed of your choosing while displaying the notes on the OLED screen as it goes.
At present it has a fold up handle held in the right hand which helps stabilize it while the melody is 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 and I am investigating ways to simulate this action that remain compatible with the overall concept of a compact portable instrument.
The ultimate aim of this is to produce a 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 the ability to complete a plastic model kit.
Version 1 is entirely 3D printed in bright red ABS blocks which are glued together, with a flip up OLED screen and a folding handle for the right hand which originally was an accessory for stabilizing an SLR camera. The files are attached below along with an assembly and use manual.
The next version needs to
i) Have a reduced number of printed parts and be easier to assemble.
ii) Be more robust.
iii) Have the option at least of adding in a simulated crank handle module.
Video examples of various styles of hurdy-gurdy players, in no particular order: