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Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?

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katlaughing 13 Apr 01 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,seth 13 Apr 01 - 03:45 PM
zander (inactive) 13 Apr 01 - 04:36 PM
GUEST,kat's friend 13 Apr 01 - 07:49 PM
Sorcha 13 Apr 01 - 08:56 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Apr 01 - 08:57 PM
Bill D 13 Apr 01 - 09:44 PM
Gypsy 13 Apr 01 - 10:51 PM
lady penelope 14 Apr 01 - 04:43 AM
Mr Red 14 Apr 01 - 10:20 AM
Sandy Paton 14 Apr 01 - 11:08 AM
Bill D 14 Apr 01 - 12:21 PM
John P 14 Apr 01 - 12:22 PM
John P 14 Apr 01 - 12:31 PM
Gypsy 15 Apr 01 - 12:09 AM
Bert 15 Apr 01 - 12:15 AM
katlaughing 15 Apr 01 - 12:17 AM
Jon Freeman 15 Apr 01 - 01:26 AM
Bert 15 Apr 01 - 01:47 AM
John P 15 Apr 01 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,GUEST: English Jon 15 Apr 01 - 11:43 AM
SINSULL 28 Jul 01 - 11:36 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 29 Jul 01 - 07:34 AM
vectis 29 Jul 01 - 04:15 PM
Pinetop Slim 29 Jul 01 - 04:51 PM
Barry Finn 29 Jul 01 - 05:49 PM
katlaughing 29 Jul 01 - 06:43 PM
Armen Tanzerian 30 Jul 01 - 12:10 AM
katlaughing 30 Jul 01 - 12:25 AM
Jeri 30 Jul 01 - 12:25 AM
Anglo 30 Jul 01 - 03:29 AM
English Jon 30 Jul 01 - 06:38 AM
Gypsy 30 Jul 01 - 10:35 PM
Mark Cohen 31 Jul 01 - 04:08 AM
John P 31 Jul 01 - 09:19 AM
Bill D 31 Jul 01 - 03:00 PM
Bill D 31 Jul 01 - 03:06 PM
John P 01 Aug 01 - 09:08 AM
Anglo 01 Aug 01 - 10:24 AM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Aug 01 - 01:50 PM
katlaughing 01 Aug 01 - 03:16 PM
ard mhacha 01 Aug 01 - 05:14 PM
Mark Cohen 02 Aug 01 - 04:50 AM
Bill D 02 Aug 01 - 07:22 PM
GUEST,Tina F. 09 Jan 11 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Jan 11 - 04:55 PM
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Subject: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 03:28 PM

I've always loved the way they sound and have seen a few good-looking ones on ebay and elsewhere. So...how hard are they to learn to play? How much physical effort in relation to, say, a lap dulcimer, fiddle, or baritone uke?

Thanks!

kat


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: GUEST,seth
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 03:45 PM

easy to make sound bad.

in terms of physical effort, not that much, but in terms of technique, a long time.

I tried it but gave up when I realised that my life was finite - so many thangs that I want to be good at

Seth


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: zander (inactive)
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 04:36 PM

yes


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: GUEST,kat's friend
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 07:49 PM

the best thing about a hurdy-gurdy is its name!


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Sorcha
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 08:56 PM

No, no, no kat's friend. They sound way cool. Next best thing to pipes! I'll bet you have to be able to rub your tummy and pat your head to play it, tho!


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 08:57 PM

I never had much trouble...you just turn the little crank and it plays "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Did anyone else as a child have one of those metal music boxes with the crank on the side and the nursery rhyme characters printed on it? I always called mine a hurdy-gurdy, never knew until years later there was anything else by that name.

I think you have to be bewitched to play a real hurdy-gurdy well. Amazing sound, though. Go for it, kat--then if I ever find a pianolin we can play unearthly duets!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 09:44 PM

there's lots of tweaking, tuning, lubricating, adjusting humidifying...etc. involved...and then there's the actual playing!..(local fellow built his own,..it sounds 'ok' about 12% of the time, but sure gets him attention in large groups where they haven't heard him yet!)


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Gypsy
Date: 13 Apr 01 - 10:51 PM

Either get a well set up one, or find a small child to play with it for a few weeks...outside, far from the house, and neighbours! Like anything, it can be as hard, or easy as you make it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: lady penelope
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 04:43 AM

Oh, they're not too bad, the worst thing is collecting enough wasps to put inside and then there's teaching them all to hum in tune !!!

TTFN M'lady P.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Mr Red
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 10:20 AM

I love 'em.
and the comment from Phil Beer of Show of Hands - the difference between a Hurdy Gurdy and a buzz saw is the vibrato.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 11:08 AM

Twelve percent is generous. Playing one may not be terribly hard, Kat, but apparently tuning one is a beast!

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 12:21 PM

*grin*...you're right, Sandy....12% may be om the generous side for our local one...here's a pic of what can be done with plywood and random junk-yard parts..(they tried making one our of an old cello, too, but that was even worse)..."If you don't quit twisting it's tail, it'll NEVER stop yowling"


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: John P
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 12:22 PM

The hurdy-gurdy, like many other instruments is very easy to play some good sounding music on, but also provides years' worth of learning if you want to delve deeply into it. It is easier than fretted instruments to get started on because you don't have to learn to press down the strings. You just turn the crank, press a key, and it goes.

The problem with getting a hurdy-gurdy to sound good is not in the playing, but in finding a hurdy-gurdy that is capable of sounding good. There are a LOT of pretty but useless hurdy-gurdys around. DO NOT BUY ONE SIGHT UNSEEN! Do not buy one without having an experienced player tell you that the instrument works. There are some that aren't set up correctly but could be made to work. And there are lots that will never function because they were built wrong in the first place. I think that most people who denigrate the sound of the hurdy-gurdy have just never heard a good one.

Plan on spending at least $1000. Olympic Instruments makes a basic model called The Minstrel for about that much that is a great instrument. I used to have one and never had any problems with it. The full-blown, full featured instruments start at about $2500. If you are looking to spend less than $1000 on a new instrument, you are probably not going to get one that works. If you are buying a used instrument, make sure it is from a reputable builder. Alden and Cali Hackmann maintain a great informational web site. They are the owners of the aforementioned Olympic Instruments and you can get to their business site from the main site. They have lots of links to other builders as well.

Any hurdy-gurdy requires some fussing with to keep it in tune and in proper adjustment. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there are some very good books. There is also a week-long festival every September with world-class instructors, lots of players, lots of different instruments, great food, and wonderful scenic beauty. It's called The Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Festival. I'll be there for at least part of the week.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: John P
Date: 14 Apr 01 - 12:31 PM

Lets try the festival link again:

Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Festival

The festival is near Seattle, by the way.

JP


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Gypsy
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 12:09 AM

Check out any Patrick Bouffard tape, for how a Hurdy Gurdy SHOULD sound. WOW! Saw him in a house concert a few years ago, what a performance. Sat about 3 feet away from the great one.....


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bert
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 12:15 AM

kat, they are a diatonic instrument and should be about as easy to play as a mountain dulcimer. Although I've never played either.

They have a bad reputation because they are a poorly designed instrument and they are difficult to tune.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: katlaughing
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 12:17 AM

Thanks, everyone, esp. John Peekstok. Look as though they will be a little out of my range, money-wise until that first romance novel sells.:-)

My fascination with them and strong desire to ownand play one started when I was about 12 years old. My brother took me to a weeknight concert at the local college, which featured a single performer on the hurdy-gurdy the entire concert. IT was INCREDIBLE. I fell in love with it and its sound. It was so ancient and conjured some images in my mind and feelings I couldn't explain. Now, I believe those feelings were stirred from past life experiences.

Anyway, for now, I'll be content with my lap dulcimer. Just got a psaltery bow for it and the harmonics are uncanny. It is a lot of fun, too!

Thanks, so much!

kat

Thanks, Bert! I'm doing really well on the lap/mtn. dulci, so maybe there would be hope for me on the HG!?


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 01:26 AM

Bert, I don't know anything about playing them but I notice that Olympic Instruments make models with chromatic as well as diatonic keyboxes.

As for me and the sound, the few I have heard have all sounded great to me.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bert
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 01:47 AM

They DO make chromatic ones but I don't think that they are traditional.

I designed one a couple of years ago that would be easy to make and would stay in tune. If I can get a couple of orders I'll go into production.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: John P
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 08:01 AM

The chromatic hurdy-gurdy has been traditional for at least the last 300 years. Before that, yes, they were pretty much diatonic.

They are not particularly difficult to tune -- it just needs to be done, like any other instrument. Harps and hammered dulcimers both take longer to tune.

Bert, I'm not sure what you mean about the hurdy-gurdy being a poorly designed instrument. Since you've never played one, I'm not sure I'm willing to take your word for that. All the well-built ones that I have played on have seemed ingeniously designed to me. Since you are able to fix the design of instruments that have been evolving for 1000 years, perhaps you should come up with a guitar that has a B string that can be tuned accurately ;-)

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: GUEST,GUEST: English Jon
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 11:43 AM

Not on my usual machine, hence "Guest".

Yes. They are bastards.

Buy an Eaton, if you're in the U.K. Otherwise go to St. Chartier in France for the festival. Consider Boudet, Thonon etc.

Don't bother with a cheap one. If you can take someone who can play along with you, that will help a lot. There are a few bargains to be had, but realistically, expect to pay £2000 + Buy the best one you can afford. There is no point whatever in getting a crap one. They don't work.

My Warrington 'gurdy was £1600 and is aboput the best deal I've seen in the U.K. but I was lucky.

Once you've got the damn thing, making a tune is easy, playing the Dog is not. It will take you a year of hard graft to get anything vaguely rhythmic out of it. Get the Musket hurdy-gurdy book and practice a lot and you may get somewhere. Better still, try and play with as many other people as possible.

Cotton wool. Nigel Eaton recommends "Macdonald's Snow drops". I've never seen this brand. Basically you want long fillaments. Use it sparingly on Chanters, Mouche and Trompettes, apply a small amount evenly across the string where it touches the wheel. You will need more wool on the Bourdons. Correct ammount of cotton is more critical than rosin, but both are important.

They are complete bastards.

Enjoy,

English Jon


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: SINSULL
Date: 28 Jul 01 - 11:36 PM

Or for $1, you have a hurdy-gurdy LP and support the Mudcat. So all you HG fans who think they "way cool", bid high and bid often.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 29 Jul 01 - 07:34 AM

An employer calls his office boy into the office and says, "Here is $300. I want you to go to the pet shop and buy a pair first-class Daschunds. "Right-ho," says the office boy, but if you really want first-class ones is $300 enough?" "OK, says the boss here is $400." The office boy starts out and turns around at the door, "If you really want first-class ones...." "OK," says the boss, "Here is $500. Now get out there and do the job." "Right-ho, says the office boy." He walks out of the office and returns in a few seconds and says, "By the way, sir, what are Dachshunds?"

What is a hurdy-gurdy?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: vectis
Date: 29 Jul 01 - 04:15 PM

Listen to or better still dance to the RBB Band. Their hurdy gurdy player is lovely to listen to and to dance to. He also plays for a morris team but I can't remember their name.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Pinetop Slim
Date: 29 Jul 01 - 04:51 PM

Kat: I'm fairly certain there are some recordings with Lorraine Lee Hammond on mountain dulcimer and Jake Walton on hurdy gurdy. I haven't heard them, but I'd bet they're a treat. PM me if you want me to chase down further details.
Dulcimer player I.B. Stamper was also a builder of hurdy gurdys. There are pictures of some on his "Red Wing" album (June Appal label). As far as I know, Stamper's workshop was not overly sophisticated, so I'm guessing there's a chance that a playable HG can be built for an affordable price.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 29 Jul 01 - 05:49 PM

Dale (can't recall her first name), of Pint & Dale is one hell of a good player & it comes through on their many CD's too. Barry


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Jul 01 - 06:43 PM

Ha, I'd forgotten about starting this thread. Thanks for the new info, everyone!

Murray, here is a picture of Hurdy-Gurdy

I will look for some of the recordings mentioned. I saw a man play one in concert when I was about 13 and fell in love with its sound.

kat


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Armen Tanzerian
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 12:10 AM

Oh, that's a hurdy-gurdy! So what is the cranked device that takes a large deck of punch-cards -- sort of a precursor of early computers -- that they used to play on the streets of Paris?


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 12:25 AM

Something more along the lines of a music box? I've seen very large windup music boxes, as large as a china hutch which had punch card for different melodies. The same collector had smalled ones, too. I wonder if what you are thinking of was some sort of organ grinder?


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Jeri
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 12:25 AM

Armen, "organ?" I'm thinking of "organ grinders" and monkeys. I don't know if the instrument had a more specific name.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Anglo
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 03:29 AM

You're thinking of a barrel organ. You turn the crank to power the bellows and advance the punch cards. These have often (mistakenly) been called hurdy-gurdies; the only similarity is in the crank. The organ grinder was often accompanied by a monkey, true. The true hurdy-gurdy is played by god-like creatures such as Nigel Eaton, Patrick Bouffard, (both mentioned above).

To answer the original question, they are as easy or as difficult to play as you want to make them. The keyboard is closely related to the piano (only played with the left hand, the right hand is busy turning the crank) so you could play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or a transcription of a violin concerto. Unlike the piano you can't play chords per se, as the keys stop the melody strings (usually a pair tuned in unison) so you can only play one note at a time (like playing a violin with one string). You do have the drones, though, so there is some polyphony.

So in essence what you've got is a cross between a violin, a piano, and bagpipes.

There are four in my house at the moment, and I've been practicing a bit, but I'll be dead a long, long time before I could aspire to the level of deity mentioned above. But will I join the harps in heaven, or the accordions in hell?


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: English Jon
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 06:38 AM

New maker well worth a look:

Claire Duguee (not sure of spelling?). She is the partner of Kai Tonjes the mandolin maker in Sittingbourne, Kent. VERY GOOD MACHINES VERY GOOD PRICES.

EJ


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Gypsy
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 10:35 PM

Add Michael Hubbert to the list of super luthiers for hurdy gurdy. Wow! His work is phenomenal


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 04:08 AM

Barry, it's Felicia Dale (and William Pint -- which, by the way, rhymes with "mint", radio announcers notwithstanding). I heard her play some years ago when I lived in Seattle, the first time I'd ever seen or heard of the instrument. Amazing sound.

But I'm curious to know if anybody else had one of those music-box toys as a child. Mine was definitely called a hurdy-gurdy, no doubt named irreverently for the original instrument.

Aloha,
Mark

PS, Barry, glad you're back!


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: John P
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 09:19 AM

Alden and Cali HackmannÕs Hurdy-gurdy Site is the general reference that everyone goes to and links to.

My good friends William Pint and Felicia Dale have a web site.

My band Telynor has a web site with some short sound samples.

To really learn about the instrument, come to the Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Festival.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 03:00 PM

for those who missed it first time around, I have reposted the picture mentioned above under the "if you don't stop twisting it's tail.." blue clicky.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 03:06 PM

perhaps an interesting addition, is this, taken moments earlier, of Dick Greenhaus, music lover


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: John P
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 09:08 AM

And don't forget the ever-popular hurdy-gurdy Nude Calendar with 12 guys showing off their cranks, as it were. Many of the pictures are now available on line, but there's still six months worth unseen (including yours truly as Mr. November) if you want to buy a calendar and be a hurdy-gurdy supporter. This is the one that kicked off the nude Mudcat calendar madness!

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Anglo
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 10:24 AM

Re the picture referenced above, Dick Rogers, fine fellow and folk stalwart that he is, does not have the sweetest sounding instrument, and may not have been the best advocate for the cause of the h-g.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 01:50 PM

The other thing that often gets referred to as a hurdy gurdy is the street piano - here's a link to someone writing about one on a website about mechanical music


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 03:16 PM

Love those calendar men and their..um...instruments, JohnP! Thanks for the reminder and the link!

kat


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: ard mhacha
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 05:14 PM

Just been going through some old Planxty videos to-day and Andy Irvine made great music on this devil of an instrument. Talent can`t be beaten. Slan Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 04:50 AM

Dick, you don't look very happy -- I guess Anglo must be right? Nice shirt, by the way. I have one just like it. I got it from this cool website...Mugwump, Mudhen, something like that.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 07:22 PM

Hurdy-Gurdys made of junkyard parts are amazing that they work at all...but that one is sort of infamous in these parts...the number of jokes about matches... and whether they float... and scissors for tuning, are legion! Dick G. just didn't want to lose his seat on the bench, or he'd have moved...*grin*


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: GUEST,Tina F.
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 08:35 PM

My friend George Leverett makes beautiful and affordable hurdy-gurdies:
http://www.altarwind.com/hurdy/


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Subject: RE: Help: Are Hurdy-Gurdys hard to learn to play?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:55 PM

Thanks for the link, Tina. It is interesting to see how they are made and to hear them played. They are beautiful instruments.

I wish your friend would tie his long hair up while he's working around the power equipment, though. (But maybe the glamourous look was just for the media.)


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