vielle plate

"Through the hurdy-gurdy is not the type of Instruments which is appreciated by everyone, and which can be compared with the Violin, with over Violate and other Instruments, I can't prevent myself from saying that it does not yield anything to the most beautiful Instruments, being likely to produce the same chords and the same delicacy."

Article VII - De la vielle, dans "La Vielleuse Habile", par M. Bouin - 1761

Details on the instrument...

The hurdy-gurdy is the only keyboard and string instrument, the whell of wich is used as a bow. There are many shapes (round, rectangular, punts... according to the makers and the reqirements of the musicians) all over Europe.


ref: planche extraite de "La vielle en Vendée - éditions CAD
  1. Handle and crank
  2. Tailpiece
  3. Sound holes
  4. Trompette adjusting peg
  5. Dog / Chien
  6. Big and little bridge
  7. Butted for the mask-wheel
  8. Wheel
  9. White Key
  10. Soundboard
  11. Diatonic key
  12. Keybox
  13. Lid of keybox
  14. Body
  15. Ears
  16. Button
  17. Tuning peg
  18. "Chevillier"
  19. Carved Head

Generally, there are six strings ont the hurdy-gurdy :

Description d'une partie essentielle de la vielle. Cliché: X. AIME

Explanations of the instrument...

To obtain a first sound, it is necessary to move the wheel using the handle and the crank, which makes the strings posed on the wheel vibrate. We operate the two strings through the keyboard, wich is of chromatic type on two octaves (contrary to the piano, the diatonic scale is played thanks to black keys, the alterations thanks to white keys). Contrary to the violin, it is not the small contact of the fingers on the strings which allows the musician to produce a note, but some small hammers made of wood - the tangents - which shorten the vibrating length of string (like the finger on the handle of a guitar).
The wheel plays the role of a continuous bow.


Indications and precise for the maintenance and the adjustement of the following elements :

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Copyright juillet 2001 - Xavier AIME - Reproduction interdite