I’ll be at the Mazurki Festival Tagowisko Instrumentów (Musical Instrument Exhibition) with my instruments on Saturday the 28th. It’s not on the English programme, but is on the Polish one so is definitely happening! Come and try out my gurdies, and see my (experimental) MIDI system and hybrid synth in action!
Hurdy Gurdy #7, finished and picked up by the customer!
3x chanters, 2x drones, 2x trompettes, 4x capos, 4x sympathetic strings, 3 channel active preamp system. Very happy with how this one came out — in fact I need to retro-fit some of the electronics changes onto my own instrument… No more 50Hz hum!
Tomorrow my latest gurdy gets picked up by its new owner! Here’s a little taste of what’s to come:
Ghostly waveforms from testing my new gurdy preamp
Doing some prototyping+testing for the next MIDI-enabled gurdy board:
My current approach is an Arduino (Genuino) Uno with a custom made board with a line of hall effect sensors, and the various other boards plugged into the Arduino. It works, but there are various problems — wiring the whole thing together is a hassle; the limited I/O on the Uno requires me to multiplex the sensors, introducing delays; hand-soldering through-hole sensors means they’re all in slightly different positions; and a single line of sensors isn’t enough to cover the whole throw of a key, resulting in notes turning off when they’re bent too far.
I heard about emsproto.com and was initially considering designing a board containing the sensors and microcontroller myself, and having it built, but after drafting up a very simple one-component test board and seeing that there’s a base cost of €200 per board for PCB and assembly, I decided on another approach.
The next version of the board will be a custom designed sensor and breakout board with two rows of surface-mounted hall effect sensors, into which I can plug a Teensy 3.5, removing the need for multiplexing, vastly increasing the speed at which the system can run, and opening up various possibilities like easy-to-implement USB-MIDI support.
FOR SALE: Two newly built Hurdy Gurdies
The first two instruments from this winter’s series are now for sale. The new design is an evolution of my previous instruments, aiming to be more compact whilst having a loud, mellow, balanced sound. The instruments fit nicely in Ritter Alto/Tenor sax bags (I’ve flown several times with this model as hand luggage without any problems).
2x melody strings (G and g)
2x drones (C and G)
2x trompettes (C and G)
4x sympathetic strings (C, G, D, A)
4x capos (one for each drone and trompette string)
Three channel active amplification system
Fully chromatic two octave keyboard (including F# in the upper octave)
Height-adjustable melody string bridge
Adjustable drone bridges
Happy to report that this unexpected visitor to my CNC router left safely and was not brutally routed out of existence
FOR SALE: Prototype “Vio” Hurdy Gurdy €2700 + P&P from Germany
This is the twin of my current personal instrument, originally built four years ago but finished recently. The video was taken after only one day of setting up and breaking in, so it’s a bit scratchy, and intended to give an impression of the raw sound of the instrument (both acoustic and from the two internal pickups), ready for you to tame (or not, if you prefer!)
The instrument has three chanters (currently G, d and g), two drones (currently C and G) and two trompettes, also C and G. The C drone and trompette are fitted with capos, raising the pitch by one tone. The chanter bridge height is adjustable.
The instrument is fitted with two passive internal pickups, one on the soundboard below the bridge giving a good overall sound, and one on the chanter bridge itself, giving a very focused chanter sound (almost no trompette!). The sounds from both pickups can be heard in the video. There is one jack for each pickup, enabling you to mix them or apply separate effects externally.
The whole body is made from flamed maple, the keys and other small details are ebony, with screwed wooden tangents. The instrument is a prototype, and therefore has some minor cosmetic and design flaws; otherwise it is a fine, working instrument at a special prototype price.
I’ve already had some interest in the instrument and am waiting until Monday for a potential buyer to get back to me, other than that it’s first-come-first served. Any questions, etc. comment/message/email me email@example.com
A new hurdy gurdy is being born! This one will be for immediate sale at a special prototype price. More details to follow further into the week.
Progress in the workshop
A morning of post-travel sleep left me with enough energy to help secure the last of the twelve fruit trees at the mill, and make little name signs for all the varieties.
Thanks to the new door and my dehumidifier, the workshop is finally down to 54% air humidity, suitable for instrument building. We also had many good discussions with some lovely visitors about them potentially moving here, and the future of the project. Tomorrow some pigs will arrive to help us plough the garden, and while I was away a pair of barn owls moved into one of the dead poplar trunks by the gate. Generally everything’s looking up…
Prepared some Cedar and European Walnut for dulcimer building:
Put a new set of strings on my guitar (built in 2011!) and it sounds goood. Now I just have to learn to play it, finally.
Spent this morning doing maintenance work on this very old hurdy gurdy with a very interesting history, which I shall be writing more about soon:
Spent this morning meeting a very interesting old hurdy gurdy owned by some very interesting people. Tomorrow we’re off to find a lathe with which to fix it.
Much as I miss building hurdy gurdies, using my current one for 1.5 years now is teaching me a huge amount about what to better next time. Dragging it around Europe in a rucksack was an excellent stress test, and the various repairs I’ve had to do (and continue to have to do) over the last few months highlights areas I need to put more thought into in the future.
For example, the aluminium axle with setscrew arrangement is inadequate due to it coming loose over a period of 6 months, the trompette disengager I made was much too fragile, the strap knobs need to be glued into a solid, well-attached internal block making contact to two planes, ditto for the bridge-end string holders — having them pull up against binding (which the instrument would be better off without anyway) is inadequate. Additionally, an adjustable melody string bridge is a no-brainer, and building custom capos is almost certainly unnecessary and produces worse results than just using harp capos.
And my hurdy gurdy is fixed! Huge thanks to Brooks Hood for letting me use his workshop space — top guy, highly recommended for guitar repair work if you’re in Reykjavík.
New tune, recorded as a test of my #gurdy’s pickup: OWLS WITH TENTACLES