Die Drehleier

by Marianne Bröcker

This part of the website is an English translation of the definitive hurdy-gurdy reference book Die Drehleier (The Hurdy-gurdy), written by Marianne Bröcker. For general information about this translation please see the Index Page.

This material is covered by copyright and may not be used without permission. Please see the Index Page for more information about distribution.

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Table of Contents of Die Drehleier

Title Page and Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Wheel and Drone

A. The Hurdy-gurdy Wheel
B. The Wheel as an Infinite Bow
C. Producing an Enduring Tone with Wind Instruments
D. The Enduring Tone and the Drone
E. The Wheel and Hurdy-gurdy in the Middle East
F. The Application of the Wheel in the Middle East
G. The Hurdy-gurdy's Path to Europe
H. The Earliest Representations of the Hurdy-gurdy
I. Medieval Drone Practices in Europe
J. The Hurdy-gurdy's Drone Strings
K. The Trompette String
L. Re-tuning and Removing the Drone Strings

Chapter 3: The Keys

A. The Origin of the Keys
B. The Rotating Keys
C. Hurdy-gurdies Without Keys
D. Pull Keys
E. Push Keys
F. Sliding Keys
G. Key Mechanisms and Tonal Range

Chapter 4: The Forms of the Body

A. The Guitar or Figure-Eight Form and its Variations
B. Hurdy-gurdies With Two- or Three-Part Crank Ends
C. Uncommon Shapes
D. The "Vielle en luth"

Chapter 5: Curious Developments

A. The Nyckelharpa
B. The Organized Hurdy-gurdy and other 18th and 19th Century Curiosities
C. The Streichklavier

Chapter 6: The Names of the Hurdy-gurdy

A. Organistrum
B. Symphonia
C. Is "Armonie" a Symphonie ?
D. Gaita
E. Hurdy-gurdy
F. Vielle
G. Leier

Chapter 7: The Uses of the Hurdy-gurdy in the Middle Ages

A. Its Position in the Medieval Instrumentarium
B. The Tuning of the Hurdy-gurdy
C. Early Polyphony and Instrumental Practice
D. The Hurdy-gurdy in Church Music
E. The Hurdy-gurdy in Medieval Secular Music

Chapter 8: The Modern Repertoire

A. The Use of the Hurdy-gurdy in Modern Times
B. The Hurdy-gurdy Compositions Which Have Been Preserved
C. The French Hurdy-gurdy Methods
D. The After-effects of the Hurdy-gurdy Vogue
E. The Use of the Hurdy-gurdy in Recent Times

Chapter 9: The Social Position of the Hurdy-gurdy

A. The Judgement of the Sound of the Hurdy-gurdy
B. The Varying Image of the Hurdy-gurdy
C. The Hurdy-gurdy as a Church Instrument
D. The Instrument of the Minstrels
E. The Hurdy-gurdy of the Beggars
F. Women and the Hurdy-gurdy
G. The Fashionable Instrument of the French Aristocracy
H. The Hurdy-gurdy as a Folk Music Instrument

Chapter 10: Final Remarks


Supplemental chapters

Chapter 11: Notes on Building and Playing Technique

Chapter 12: More on the Position and Construction

Chapter 13: Additions to the Story of the Hurdy-gurdy

Chapter 14: Brief Final Remarks


Music sources
Illustration sources
Musical references
Bibliographical references
Museum catalogs
Name index
Subject index


Musical examples





Beati illi qui in circulum circumeunt, fient enim magnae rotae. Please contact us if you have comments or questions about this page or other pages on this site.

Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments

© Original text in German copyright 1977, Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft GmbH
© Translation copyright 2005, Olympic Musical Instruments and the Bröcker Tranlation Group