Springers museum...... Keyed bowed instruments


Hurdy-Gurdy  and Nyckelharpa

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The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents , small wedges, typically made of wood, against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board to make the vibration of the strings audible. Most hurdy-gurdies have multiple drone strings, which give a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody, resulting in a sound similar to that of bagpipes.

A 19th century lute backed Hurdy-Gurdy circa 1860 from Mirecourt, France. By Thouvenel Henry.

Kontrabas med dubbellek. Nyckelharpa. Late19th century. . (contra-drone harpa with two rows of keys)
Also called the Österbyharpa.



A Swedish nyckelharpa or keyed fiddle. This one is by Olle Plahn, Falun. Sweden. 3 melody rows of keys and one drone. Also 12 underlying sympathetic strings. Versions of these instrument are known to exist back many centuries. Images of a similar instrument are depicted in a gate house in Gotland dated 1350.
An small hurdy gurdy of guitar outline early 19th century    
  Hurdy gurdy lute backed circa 1840  
An early 19th century hurdy gurdy of guitar outline.

In the eighteenth century the term hurdy-gurdy was also applied to a small, portable "barrel organ" (a cranked box instrument with a number of organ pipes, a bellows and a barrel with pins that rotated and programmed the tunes) that was frequently played by poor buskers (street musicians). Barrel organs require only the turning of the crank to play; the music is coded by pinned barrels, perforated paper rolls, and more recently by electronic modules


Hardanger Fiddles   Pochette and kit violins    Metal violins   Decorated violins   Unusual violas   Fakes  Mute violins    Early violins

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