The Digi-Gurdy: An electronic MIDI enabled Hurdy Gurdy project

John Dingley

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The hurdy-gurdy is an ancient musical instrument (10th century) with drones and melody strings bowed by a rotating wheel, played by pressing keys which contact them at different points. It featured in TV series such as “Black Sails” and “Walking Dead” as well computer games. A major barrier is that they are very expensive at thousands of pounds each and built to order with lead times of over a year. Rather like bagpipes, they are loud. For pipers, practice e-chanters are available while nothing similar exists for the hurdy-gurdy. The Digi-Gurdy project started as a 3D printed version of the keyboard part of the instrument in isolation, with some internal electronics, for my own personal use to learn a few tunes on. After posting on Thingiverse, a website for sharing 3D printed ideas, I had many requests from people asking me to build them one. This open-source project has developed through many variations which I would bring to the talk, resulting in an all laser-cut wooden full-size hurdy gurdy design with a realistic crank handle system and a detachable playable keybox for travelling. It is an electronic device, with correctly placed keys, that outputs data via the industry standard MIDI communications system for electronic musical instruments, via a USB cable to an attached or wirelessly paired phone or iPad running suitable MIDI player software. It is a low-cost way to enter the Hurdy Gurdy world and allows practice anywhere using headphones, thus preventing eviction or divorce!