Hurdy gurdies have been played since Medieval times. For centuries, hurdy gurdy players entertained everyone from royals to peasants. Nowadays, the instrument has a small but passionate fanbase in early and folk music circles. Even with that fanbase, though, they’re niche instruments. You can’t just go to your local Guitar Center and expect to find hurdy gurdies for sale.
Luckily, there are a lot of great options for the aspiring hurdy gurdy player. If you’re a little impatient or want to save some money, there are a few places to find used hurdy gurdies for sale. Or, you can order a new one directly from the maker, and get a custom instrument. Either way, you’ll be channeling your inner wandering minstrel in no time!
By the way, if you’re new to the hurdy gurdy, the Hurdy-Gurdy Method by Doreen and Michael Muskett is a good place to start learning. It’s a little pricey, but compared to your new gurdy it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s an especially valuable resource for anyone without a teacher nearby, since it helps players build good technique.
Where To Find New Hurdy Gurdies For Sale
Buying a new hurdy gurdy requires patience. The best makers are usually backordered, which means you’ll have to wait a bit before receiving your new instrument. Plus, they’re not cheap. For a good hurdy gurdy, even a basic one, you should expect to pay at least $1,000. You can sometimes find cheaper ones, but as I’ll explain below, you should be very careful.
There also aren’t many sites with “one-click”-style ordering for hurdy gurdies. Chances are, you’ll have to email or call to place your order. It’s less convenient than the Amazon-style instant gratification that we’re used to. But it does mean that you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, and maybe customize a few options on your new hurdy gurdy. They say that good things come to those who wait. They must be hurdy gurdy players!
Avoid Cheap Anonymous Hurdy Gurdies
“Cheap” is a very relative term. For someone who may be more used to guitar or ukulele prices, $1,000 seems like a lot of money to spend on an instrument. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hurdy gurdies. They’re complicated instruments that require a lot of time and expertise to build. When you see a hurdy gurdy for sale, it is very important to make sure that it was built properly. Otherwise, you’re buying a very expensive wall hanging.
There are many hurdy gurdies made cheaply in workshops in eastern Europe and Asia. They are usually sold on eBay and other large retail sites, usually in the $800-1,200 range. The pictures are nice, the listings use flowery language, and the price seems to be right.
Look closer, though, and you’ll notice some issues. First off, they are rarely sold under any kind of maker’s name. That should make you wonder about who exactly is making them! You also want to be able to look up reviews, other players’ experiences, etc. Without a name to search, you’re out of luck.
Another thing you’ll notice is that they usually have a lot of inventory. It takes a while to make a hurdy gurdy, and good makers are hard to find. Usually, they have a months- if not years-long waiting list. A maker with a bunch of unsold instruments is either making them too quickly or isn’t very popular.
Finally, you’ll end up noticing that the listings are often poorly written and full of inaccuracies. They may say it’s made of one kind of wood, then name a completely different wood a few paragraphs later. They may use convoluted terms that don’t actually mean anything. Or, the grammar might just be poor.
These are all signs to watch out for, without even getting into the technical aspects of the instrument itself. For those, there’s a great article from Hurdy Gurdy Weekly on what to look for when you see one for sale. As you’ll read, there’s a lot that goes into making a functional hurdy gurdy. And there’s also a lot that can make one completely non-functional. Buyer beware!
It’s also worth noting that the UGears mechanical hurdy-gurdy model that you can buy on Amazon is in no way an actual hurdy gurdy. It’s an incredible 3D model, made entirely of wood, that actually works very well mechanically. However, you won’t get anything even remotely close to an actual hurdy gurdy experience if you try to play it. Great as a toy, gift, or conversation piece, lousy as a musical instrument.
Hurdy Gurdy Makers
Hurdy gurdy making is a slow and highly technical process. Compared to more popular or simpler instruments, there are relatively few hurdy gurdy makers out there. Nowadays, though, it’s easier than ever to contact a maker, discuss models, and order, even from halfway across the world. This list includes popular makers who have easily accessible websites, with information about the instruments they make and how best to order.
Because of the time it takes to build a hurdy gurdy and the demand on top makers, many have a waitlist. It’s certainly not great for the impatient, but it does give you time to think about what you want.
Please note that this list is not a “best of,” and does not constitute an endorsement of the makers listed.
- Altarwind (Oregon, USA) – Altarwind instruments are somewhat polarizing in the hurdy gurdy community, with many players having strong opinions one way or the other. However, they have affordably priced hurdy gurdies for sale that are made in the USA, which is fairly rare.
- Olympic Hurdy Gurdies (Washington, USA) – Olympic has been building hurdy gurdies for over 30 years, and are very popular among American players. They also offer restoration and repair services. However will only work on their own instruments or those built by retired/dead luthiers. They will not repair on a hurdy gurdy made by a still-active maker.
- Balázs Nagy (Budapest, Hungary) – Nagy makes a variety of hurdy gurdies, including Hungarian and French styles.
- Stanislaw Nogaj (Brzozow, Poland) – Nogaj is a prolific builder based out of Poland. He builds a number of models, and has also designed a pickup/preamp system that he can install in his hurdy gurdies.
- Chris Allen and Sabina Kormlyo (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales) – Allen and Kormlyo build a variety of historical instruments. They build replicas of medieval symphonies and a range of beautiful-looking and -sounding hurdy gurdies.
Where to Find Used Hurdy Gurdies For Sale
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot that can go wrong with a hurdy gurdy. The inner workings get complicated, and there can be problems that aren’t readily apparent from the outside. If you’re buying a used hurdy gurdy online, ask a bunch of qustions. You want to make sure that the seller knows the instrument, knows how to accurately assess its condition, and is being completely up-front and honest about it. Ask for pictures and, if possible, a recording.
Even if you’re very handy, be wary about buying anything that needs fixing or, worse yet, needs parts. As you can probably imagine, you can’t go to Home Depot for hurdy gurdy keys. If you have experience with instrument repair or woodworking and have the proper tools, you may have an advantage. Even then, there’s a lot that can (and will) go wrong, and you could end up with a very expensive and very unplayable money pit. Unless you’re completely confident in your abilities, try to find a hurdy gurdy in good working order.
The Hurdy Gurdy Marketplace on Facebook is the most active online market for used hurdy gurdies. You’ll find “for sale” postings from all over the world, and a fairly active community that can offer advice and recommendations.
Lazar’s Early Music is a very popular shop for all things Renaissance and Baroque. While it doesn’t have new hurdy gurdies for sale, it does have used instrument listings. They are aren’t updated frequently, but the site is worth checking on every so often. A word of warning: this is still very much a Web 1.0 site! You may end up having flashbacks to the Netscape Navigator days of the late 90s.
An old standby when it comes to buying just about anything used, eBay does often have used hurdy gurdies for sale. However, it is very important to do all of your homework before buying off of eBay. There are many antique dealers selling on eBay who know very little about the things they’re selling. Again, the hurdy gurdy is a very complicated instrument, with a lot that can and does go wrong. You should be 100% confident that the one you are buying is in good working order before sending any money. Ask for recordings, videos, photos and other evidence, and make sure there’s a way to return it or get a refund.
Where To Find Hurdy Gurdy Kits For Sale
There is a third option for people who want to save some money and get more intimately acquainted with the inner workings of their hurdy gurdy: building from a kit. Since you’re not paying for labor, you can usually find these selling for half or less of what a fully-assembled hurdy gurdy would go for. And since you build it yourself, you will end up with a much better concept of how it works should anything go wrong.
Of course, if it were easy to build a hurdy gurdy, a lot more people would do it. The kits try to simplify things and give clear instructions, but you’ll still need to be handy. You will also want to pay attention to detail and work carefully. Since kits usually don’t have a lot in the way of spare parts, one wrong move can have serious consequences. If the next step involves gluing, drilling, or altering the part permanently, double and triple check what you’re doing.
Hurdy Gurdy Kits
- Renaissance Workshop Company (Madrid, Spain) – A popular early music instrument maker, they make a replica of a 16th century hurdy gurdy. You can buy the kit or a fully assembled instrument. Note that they use a weird universal currency system for pricing on their website. Check the conversion rates to make sure you know exactly how much you’ll be paying.
- Nerdy Gurdy (The Netherlands) – Using laser cutting and 3D printing, maker Jaap Brand and his wife Fay have created a very affordable hurdy gurdy kit. You can choose between 4 or 6 strings, and they also offer fully assembled hurdy gurdies for sale.