Hurdy-gurdy Bibliography

These are lists of all the hurdy-gurdy sources we know of, alphabetized by author. Please direct suggestions, information about sources not listed here, and other comments to us at our contact address.

Some of these books and printed music are available from Dusty Strings in Seattle. They can sell by mail-order and are very nice to deal with. Please patronize this source if possible, since they are very reasonably priced and we want them to keep carrying these items. If they don't have the book you are looking for, ask us where we got our copy and we'll try to refer you to a source if it's still available. There are some excellent web resources for finding obscure books.

Many thanks to the contributors to this page: Marcello Bono [MB], Marianne Hansen, Julie Hoff, Greg Whitcomb, Maggie Young, Jim Cockell [JC], Michael Burianyk [MBu], Cathy Anderson, Joanne Andrus, Hans Rasmussen [HR], Anna and John Peekstok, Christina Wright, Claude Flagel [CF], Jacob Priestly, William Watson [WW], the University of Washington Music Library, and all the people at Interlibrary Loan. Reviews by contributors are denoted by their initials in brackets as shown. This usually means we haven't seen the work yet, but would like to.

Reference Works

Lirans hemligheter - En studie i nordisk instrumenthistoria
By Per-Ulf Allmo and Jan Winter, 1985, ISSN 0282-8952, published by AllWins förlag HB, Stockholm, Sweden

In Swedish, with a short summary in English. This book covers the history of the lira (the Swedish name for hurdy-gurdy) in the Nordic countries, with extensive pictures showing instruments ranging from medieval to extremely modern. Some of these pictures are uniquely Scandinavian, and aren't featured in any other book we've seen. There are also pictures of modern makers and players, a listing and analysis of the instruments in Scandinavian museums (including a surprising number of instruments by prominent French makers), a discussion of the types of music played, and drawings of some of the mechanical details. There are chronological listings of graphic and written references to the instrument, and an extensive bibliography. Tongång Records is one source for this book. There's a RealAudio sound sample on their site.

The Origins of Bowing
By Werner Bachmann, 1969, no ISBN, translated from German by Norma Deane, published by Oxford University Press, London, originally published in German, 1964 by VEB Breithopf and Hartel, Liepzig.

In English. A historical treatise on the history of bowed instruments, including a short section on the origin of the organistrum and its development into the hurdy-gurdy. Includes photos and bibliography.

Encyclopedia Blowzabellica
See entry below in Repertoire

La Vielle à Roue en France - Répertoire et mentalités
By Françoise Bois Poteur and Nicole Pistono, 1996, ISBN 2-87750-071-3, published by Éditions Aug. Zurfluh.

In French. This short book covers several periods of the instrument's history: the instrument itself dating back to the organistrum, its history in Paris between 1715 and 1774, its history in the provinces in the 18th to 20th centuries, the modern revival, and its place in the contemporary world. There's a short list of luthiers and written sources in the back. Available at the Maison du Luthier de Jenzat.

La Ghironda
By Marcello Bono, 1989, no ISBN, published by Arnoldo Forni Editore, Bologna, Italy

In Italian, with very nice line drawings explaining the parts, function and history of the hurdy-gurdy. It includes what appears to be a short method section, with 60 pieces or exercises and a listing of the music composed for hurdy-gurdy. There's a chapter on construction, and another on the different types of hurdy-gurdy found in regions of Europe. There's a fairly recent discography with the music divided by region and style, a bibliography, and a series of photos of instruments made by modern Italians (including the author). Out of print as of December 1997, though there may be a few copies hidden on shelves in Italian bookstores if you happen to be lucky enough to be shopping there. One source has indicated that the book has been reprinted.

Making and Playing Musical Instruments
By Jack Botermans, Herman Dewitt and Hans Goddefroy, text by Afke den Boer and Margot de Zeeuw, translated by Anthony Burrett, 1989, ISBN 0-295-96948-2, English translation published by University of Washington Press, Seattle WA

Originally in Dutch, this is a book on constructing all kinds of instruments, but it is also an introduction to the musicologist's system of instrument classification. The last chapter is devoted to a full set of hurdy-gurdy plans and the instructions of how to make it - see discussion in the Hurdy-gurdy makers page. As of July 1996, this work is out of print, and the UW Press seems to have no interest in reprinting it. We have attempted to contact the publisher to obtain permission to copy the relevent chapter, to no avail.

Memoire de la Vielle - des troubadours et des trouvères aux fêtes de Saint-Chartier
By Jean-Louis Boulestix, 1982, published by Les Cahiers Documentaires de CRBP de Limoges, Cedex, France, no ISBN number.

In French. This appears to be a collection of information put together by or for the St. Chartier festival. There are sections on history, building, playing technique, and repertoire. Each section is introduced by a nice line drawing. There are facsimiles of some old manuscripts, including what appears to be a full copy of Dupuit's method, the relevent pages of Mersenne, and a portion of Terrasson. An appendix includes a nice listing of ancient and modern builders, a bibliography and a small but interesting discography. Thanks to Anna Peekstok for loaning out her copy to us.

Notice Sur la Vielle
By Eugene de Briqueville, 1911, published by Fischbacher, Paris, no ISBN number, also reprinted 1980 by La Flute de Pan, Paris.

In French, a short work discussing the mechanical workings, the body shapes, a list of 18th century makers, a history (concentrating on the 18th and 19th centuries) and the playing technique and music written for the instrument. There are several illustrations and photos that are unique to this book.

Die Drehleier, ihr Bau und ihr Geshichte
By Marianne Bröcker, 1977, no ISBN number, published by Verlag für systematishe Musikwissenshaft GmbH, Bonn - Bad Godesburg, Germany

In German, either as two volumes or two volumes with a supplement. This book is usually acknowledged as the definitive work on the hurdy-gurdy, with sections on the different wheel and string configurations, tangent and key types, body forms, the instrument during the Middle Ages, the repertoire, and the instrument's social status. There is an extensive (overwhelming) listing of bibliographical and musical sources, and instrument collection catalogs, followed by 236 illustrations and photos and some 60 pieces of music. There is a section on comparison in construction, playing techniques and history with more photos and figures, including a series of 35 photos of a hurdy-gurdy being made by French luthier Marcel Soing. The University of Washington has a copy with the supplement. It could still be purchased from the publisher in Germany in 1992, but it was quite expensive (~US$125). We haven't checked on its availability since then, but have heard that it is out of print. Occasionally a used copy surfaces, usually for ~US$100. It is sometimes listed under "Broeker" in English-language library card catalogs or their electronic equivalent. Thanks to my father, Kent Hackmann, for our copy. An English translation exisits and may be available in the future, depending on a number of factors.

La Vielle et les Luthiers de Jenzat
by Jean-François Chassaing, 1987, ISBN 2-905543-12-4, published by Aux Amoureux de Science, Combronde

In French. This is the history of the families of hurdy-gurdy builders of the village of Jenzat: Pajot, Pimpard, Cailhe, Tixier, and Nigout. With photos of the luthiers, their workshops, and their work, inventory lists and other historical material (including a vielle-playing Michelin Man). Includes bibliography. Available from the Maison du Luthier de Jenzat, where M. Chassaing is the curator. Also available at several booths at St. Chartier.

La Maison du Luthiers de Jenzat - Équipment et Techniques des Luthiers de Jenzat
by Jean-François Chassaing, 1992, ISBN 2-9500907-1-0, published by Les Amis de la Vielle de Jenzat, Jenzat

In French. A short guide to the museum in Jenzat, which every hurdy-gurdy enthusiast should visit without fail. There are explanations of the tools and lifestyle of the Jenzat luthiers and their families. Available from the Maison du Luthier de Jenzat, where M. Chassaing is the curator. Also included is a form to send to M. Chassaing to help with his research if you own a Jenzat vielle. This form may become available here if M. Chassaing agrees.

George de la Tour and His World
By Philip Conisbee, 1996, ISBN 0-89468-262-8, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

In English. This is the catalog of the exhibition of La Tour's art which was shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1996 and at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX in 1997. La Tour was a very accurate painter from the early to mid 1600's who portrayed the hurdy-gurdy in several of his works. There are very nice color plates showing these paintings, which are detailed to the point of showing the paper shims under the chanter strings. There is extensive text about the paintings and their history, including plates showing works by La Tour's predecessors and contemporaries that also show the hurdy-gurdy.

The Hurdy-gurdy - Setup and Maintenance [Die Drehleier - Feinabstimmung und Wartung]
By Philip Destrem and Volker Heidemann, 1993, ISBN 2-9507682-0-2 in the edition published by AMTA, Riom, France, ISBN 3-927240-15-X in the edition published by Verlag der Spielleute, Brensbach, Germany

In English, French, and German. The authors have written an excellent manual on how to set up and adjust a hurdy-gurdy, illustrated with clear line drawings and diagrams. It provides a potential buyer with an understanding of what features to look for on a hurdy-gurdy, helps to guide a builder away from design flaws and setup errors, and provides a sort of Rosetta Stone for translators by identifying parts in all 3 languages. This book is available from Dusty Strings in Seattle. Also available from the AMTA and from Verlag der Spielleute at

By Herman Dewit and Toon Moonan, published by Vereniging voor Huismuziek, no date (estimate 1982-1985), no ISBN, The Netherlands

In Dutch. This work contains instructions on how to build a hurdy-gurdy, showing tools, materials, techniques and jigs with extensive text, illustrations, and photos. The instrument shown is similar to the one shown in Making and Playing Musical Instruments, but the instructions take up about 50 pages instead of 5. The authors show the use of a form, and how to make a banded wheel. There is also a short history of the instrument, a bibliography, a discography of vinyl recordings, a listing of repertoire, and a list of instructional workshops (called "stages") which is almost certainly no longer current. The publisher's address is given as Vereniging voor Huismuziek, Utrechtsestraat 77, Postbus 350, 3400 AJ IJsselstein, Nederland, tel 03408-85678. Their email address is loam _at_ (Thanks to René Meeuws for the address.)

Vielle à Roue, Territoires illimités
Collection published by the FAMDT (Fédération des Associations de Musique et Danse Traditionelles) as part of the Collection Modal, edited/coordinated by Jany Rouger and Pierre Imbert, 1996, ISBN 2.910432-06-8, Saint-Jouin-de-Milly, France

In French, with short abstracts in English. This is a collection of 14 articles on different aspects of the hurdy-gurdy. The contributors include hurdy-gurdy luminaries Claude Flagel, "Maxou" Heintzen, and Pierre Imbert. The book contains treatises on the hurdy-gurdy traditions of France, Hungary, Ukraine and the Bourbonnais region; the itinerate musicians of Europe and the lady vielle players of the 18th century; the relationship between luthier and player; the collection of the Montuçon Museum; elements of traditional playing style; the use of the hurdy-gurdy for accompanying singing; a profile of the work of luthier Jean-Luc Bleton; interviews with Valentin Clastrier and Pascal Lefeuvre; and the relationship of the player and the instrument. There are numerous photos and illustrations (including photos of some fascinating hurdy-gurdies). There are an extensive discography and bibliography, as well as separate discographies for the interview articles. Available from the CMTRA in France.

De la maniere d'entretenir la vielle
By Jacques Fettiveis, 1978, published by Remy Magermans, Andenne, Belgium.

In French. A short book on the Belgian style of hurdy-gurdy, which is similar to the French style with some differences in body shape, dog adjustment, and string layout. A variety of instruments are shown, as well as some of the hand tools used. The adjustment of the parts is discussed: what rosin, strings, and cotton to use, the crank, adjusting the nuts, making the dog, and lubrication. The book is filled with pictures and amusing drawings. An equivalency table gives the names of the parts in French and two dialects of French from the towns of Liège and Vervier.

La vielle parisienne sous Louis XV : un modele pour deux siècles
By Claude Flagel, 1988, in the collection Instrumentistes et luthiers parisiens published by the Dèlègation á l'action artistique de la ville de Paris.

In French. [CF] We'd like to see a copy of this article.

The Hurdy-Gurdy in Eighteenth-Century France
By Robert A. Green, 1995, ISBN 0-253-20942-0, Publications of the Early Music Institute, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis

In English. This book focuses on the repertoire and playing style of the 18th century in France, which is the period that influenced the instrument the most. The author provides a well-researched historical background, and discusses the prominant musicians of the day and music they composed for the hurdy-gurdy. There is an extensive listing of the baroque repertoire. Includes some photos of a very nice hurdy-gurdy made by François Feury in about 1740, and an excellent bibliography. .

Pratique de jeu de vielle Centre-France
Subtitled Relevè de notes - conseils et exercises pour vielles en rè. By Jean-François "Maxou" Heintzen, 1995, no ISBN, published by AMTA, Riom, France

Originally in French. An English translation became available in 1999, packaged with the cassette tape. The author stresses that this is not a method, and assumes that the reader is already a hurdy-gurdy player. There is a discussion of repertoire and the application of dog technique, including instruction on how to treat bourees in 3/8, bourees in 2/4, waltzes and mazurkas. Includes a very useful discography and bibliography which are coordinated with the repertoire in the book. This book is written for players using the Bourbonnais tuning in D, so some transposition is needed if you use the more common Auvergnais G/C tuning. Heintzen's system of notation for the dog is very nice, the best we've seen. A companion tape was released in 1996, with examples of the techniques.

Les Musiques a Bourdons, Vielles a Roue et Cornamuses
By Roland Hollinger, 1982, no ISBN, published by La Flute de Pan, Paris

In French. This book covers the history of the hurdy-gurdy and cornamuse. The focus is on the French hurdy-gurdy, with bibliography, discography divided by style, list of museum collections, and photo section. Includes a figure comparing the coup de poigneé techniques covered by three French methods.

L'Orgue, la chanson, la cornamuse, la vielle a roue:
Un patrimoine europeen: Musee de Louvain-la-Neuve, du 13 septembre au 3 novembre 1985 , by the Institut superieur d'archeologie et d'histoire de l'art de l'Universite catholique de Louvain, 1985, published Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

In French. A museum exhibition catalog, which we'd like to see.

Arcadia at Versailles - Noble Amateur Musicians and Their Mussettes and Hurdy-Gurdies at the French Court (c. 1660-1789) - A Visual Study
By Richard Leppert , 1978, ISBN 90-265-0246X, published by Swets and Zeitlinger B.V., Amsterdam and Lisse.

In English. This is a short treatise analyzing the social status of the hurdy-gurdy, mostly based on paintings from the period. There is early history of both instruments, and a summary of Terrason's Dissertation. The author has perhaps allowed his opinions to bias his conclusions.

Pastoral Instruments in French Baroque Music
By Frayda Lindemann, 1978, no publisher given - Doctoral dissertation at Columbia University

In English.

Hungarian Folk Songs and Folk Instruments
By János Manga. The translation by Gyula Gulyás and Cynthia Jolly was published in 1969 by Corvina Press, Budapest, Hungary. A translation revised by Cynthia Jolly and David Skuse was published in 1988 by the same publisher.

In English. This work contains a short section on the tekerölant, the Hungarian name for the hurdy-gurdy which means "rotary lute" and is often shortened to tekerö. There are several photos, including a color photo of an early 20th century instrument (reversed during printing). Includes a bibliography. Available from Pannonia Books, P.O. Box 1017, Station "B" Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2T8, Tel./Fax - (416)966-5156 [JC]

The World of Medieval and Renaissance Musical Instruments
by Jeremy Montagu, 1976, ISBN 0 7153 7280 7, published by David and Charles, Newton Abbott, London

In English. This book gives a nice overview of musical instruments from the early Middle Ages (9th century) to the end of the Renaissance (17th century). There are brief sections on the organistrum, the symphonie, and the hurdy-gurdy, with illustrations. A nice book for the coffee table or to get some perspective on where the hurdy-gurdy fit into the musical scenes of each age it was used in.

The Ukrainian hurdy-gurdy : questions of its traits and origin
by Valentyn Moroz, 1989, no ISBN # given, published by University of Alberta

Text in Ukrainian, abstract in English, 190 pages with photos. This is an M.A. thesis at the Dept. of Slavic and East European Studies, University of Alberta. [MBu]

La Vielle en Bresse
Edited by Louis Moyret, 198?, published by Musee de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance
by David Munrow, 1976, ISBN 0-19-321321-4, published by Oxford University Press, London

In English. This book has a short section (p.16-17) on the hurdy-gurdy, with several photos. Munrow was an acknowledged expert in the field of early music. The book was also included with a set of LP recordings . Some of my comments about the book may be found on the listing of the LP. Includes a short bibliography of references.

Musical Instruments from the Renaissance to the 19th Century
By Sergio Paganelli, 1970, SBN 600359204, translated by Anthony Rhodes from the Italian original Gli strumenti musicali nell 'arte, published 1966 by Fratelli Fabbri Editori, Milan, translation published Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, London, UK.

In English. A small, short book, with almost no text about the hurdy-gurdy. It has 70 color plates, including two very nice ones of hurdy-gurdies.

The Medieval Organistrum and Symphonia - 1: A Legacy from the East?
By Christopher Page, Galpin Society Journal March 1982, pp37-44.

This article examines the possibility that the hurdy-gurdy was first developed in the Middle East before it arrived in Europe.

The Medieval Organistrum and Symphonia - 2: Terminology
By Christopher Page, Galpin Society Journal March 1983, pp71-87.

This article is a detailed look at the history of the terminology of the earliest versions of the instrument, including several illustrations from early manuscripts.

The Hurdy-gurdy
By Susann Palmer and Samuel Palmer, 1980, ISBN 0-7153-7888-0, published by David and Charles, Brunel House Newton Abbot Devon, UK.

This is the most extensive book in English on the hurdy-gurdy. It includes a short method section by Samuel Palmer, who was one of the hurdy-gurdy players in Blowzabella. It has an extensive listing of hurdy-gurdies in museums, a short list of music and method books, a discography which concentrates on early music and traditional music on vinyl, and a bibliography. This book is regrettably no longer in print, though some people have been lucky enough to find a copy at yard or library sales. This book is well worth reading, but not all the details are quite correct.

Shepherd's Delight
By John Ralyea, 1981, no ISBN, published by Hurdy-gurdy Press, Chicago

In English. A compendium of sources of music, recordings, and bibliographical references about the hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa, organized hurdy-gurdy, musette, and tromba marina, followed by a discussion of the hurdy-gurdy's appearances in French theater. This book is self-published and the typography is a little rough, but it is a very useful source of information.

A modest manual for the hurdy-gurdy
By John Ralyea, 1981, no ISBN, published by Hurdy-gurdy Press, Chicago

In English. There are three distinct sections of this book. The first is Ralyea's explanation of the instrument, with history, some playing technique, short bibliography, very short discography, repertoire, and list of contemporary makers. The second is a translation of Charles Bâton's Mémoire sur la Vielle en D la ré, along with a translation of a short section of Terrasson's Dissertation. This is the only translation of any of Bâton's work that we know of, except for quotes and short passages used by Robert Green. The third section describes the modifications Mr. Ralyea made to his instrument, which include some fairly unusual ideas. Like his Shepherd's Delight, this book is self-published and has some typographical eccentricities.

L'Organistrum, ou l'Instrument des Premieres Polyphonies Ecrites Occidentales: Etude Organologigue, Iconographie
By Christian Rault, 1985, ISBN 2-905053-12-7, published by Aux Amateurs de Livres, Paris

In French. This is perhaps the definitive work on the organistrum, the first instrument that used a wheel to bow the strings. It has extensive photos and illustrations of the iconographical evidence, including a beautiful color plate showing the sculpture of the organistrum players at Santiago de Compestella. It also includes the three primary Latin texts concerning the organistrum, and a list of many others. There are some very nice photos of the author's modern reconstructions of the instrument, and explanations of Rault's interpretation of the evidence.

Mèmoires et Souvenirs
by Gaston Rivière, 1990, no ISBN, published by AMTA, Riom, France

In French. Rivière is a well-known figure in the French hurdy-gurdy community, who did a great deal to keep the instrument alive in the 20th century. His book contains many photos and short paragraphs describing his career, including his early life, teachers, hurdy-gurdy and cornamuse making, students, and recording career. Available from the publisher.

Fonctionnement du chevalet mobile de la vielle á roue
By Pierre Rebaud in Modal, la revue des musiciens routiniers, Autumn 1984

In French. This article describes the physics of the chien. It's available as a PDF.

La Vielle, Historiqe et Lutherie
By Le Rond des Sorciers, 1979, Vierzon de Berry

We're very interesting in seeing this book.

La Zanfona
By Faustino Santalices, no date or publisher given. One library lists it as published in "197?".

In Spanish, with some illustrations. The text gives the history of the instrument in Spain, particularly in Galicia, and in the rest of Europe as well. All the figures show a 5 stringed instrument with 3 chanters and 2 drones, with a guitar-shaped body and a peghead carved with a scroll like a violin. Several tunings are shown, with fingering patterns.

Dissertation Historique sur la Vielle
By Antoine Terrasson, 1741, no ISBN, originally published by Lamesle, Paris, reprinted from original in the Municipal Museum of the Hague, 1966, by Antiqua, Amsterdam.

In French. A short book written to promote the hurdy-gurdy and explain its history to the French Court. At least one other reprint is available, possibly more readable than the original with its 18th century typography. Pages of the original are shown by Boulestix.

La vielle en Vendée, enquête sur un instrument de musique traditionnelle
By Laurent Tixier, 1988, ISBN 2-9502991-0-5, published by Editions Culture, Arts, Découverte, Saint-Jean-de-Monts, France

In French. A very short book, almost a booklet, on the history of the hurdy-gurdy in Vendée. The instrument appeared there in the 19th century, imported or perhaps reintroduced from other areas of France. The extant instruments made by an anonymous local maker are shown, with some of their history. This book may still be available from the C.A.D., 17, rue du Cardinal de Richelieu, F 85160 St Jean de Monts, France.

Making Musical Instruments
By Bryan Tolley, 1978, ISBN 08-53405298, published by Hove, Wayland Publishers, England

In English. The last chapter shows how to build a simple hurdy-gurdy.

Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art
by Emanuel Winternitz, 1967, published by W.W. Norton and Co., New York

In English. According to one bibliography, pp. 66-85 are about the hurdy-gurdy. We've only seen this source briefly, with not enough time to read it. It gets referenced frequently in articles and books. There are a number of illustrations, showing examples of the hurdy-gurdy in art. (Thanks to Jacob Priestly for showing his copy to us.)




A method is used to facilitate learning how to play the instrument, either alone or with instruction. A discussion of the merits of the 18th century French methods may be found in Robert Green's book.
Pièces choisies pour la vielle
By Jean-Baptiste Christophe Ballard, 1732, Paris, new edition 1742.

In French. No modern reprint known. [MB] Green writes that this method was actually written by an anonymous author (whom some speculate to have been Charles Bâton) and printed by Ballard.

Doigtés et virtuosité, exercises gradués pour la vielle
By Laurent Bitaud, 1988, Ëditions J.M. Fuzeau, Courlay. In French, with cassette tape. [MB]

Méthode raisonnée...
By Toussaint Bordet, 1755, Paris, reprinted by S.P.E.S., Florence, Italy.

In French. Relatively little instruction about playing method, lots of music in duo for drone instruments (hurdy-gurdy and musette). [MB]

La Vielleuse Habile
By J. François Boüin, 1761, published Paris.

In French. Reprinted in 1985 by Éditions Minkoff, Geneva (ISBN 2-8266-0815-0). Rated as one of the better methods, this reprint also includes Dupuit's method, listed below. [MB]

La Belle Vielleuse
By Michel Corrette, 1783, originally published in several editions by Marchand, Paris.

In French. There are at least two reprints of this method: in 1978 with an introduction by Claude Flagel as a supplement to Musiciens et musique en Normandie, and a 1984 reprint by Éditions Minkoff, Geneva (ISBN 2-8266-0804-5) [MB]

Methode pour apprendre a jouer de la vielle
By Michel Corrette, 1763, published by David, Paris.

In French. Only known copies are on microfilm. Original is in Bibliotheque du Conservatoire de musique, Paris. This is an earlier version of La Belle Vielleuse, and is not as complete. [MB] May have been reprinted by Early Music Facsimilies. [AH]

Drehleier spielen - Grundlagen & Hintergründe
by Riccardo Delfino and Matthias Loibner, 1997, ISBN: 3-927240-47-8, published by Verlag Der Spielleute, Hofman & Co. KG, Langlosenweg 14, D-64385 Reichelsheim, Germany

In German. The contributor, Hans Rasmussen, gave this comment: "In my opinion it is a very good method for learning to play the instrument, written by two musicians, who have given every aspect of the instrument very serious thoughts. I play the instrument and have tried a few methods, but this book really tries to rethink everything, and does it in a very consistent way." [HR] We haven't seen it yet, but we'd like to. Available from Verlag der Spielleute. Their website has this to say about it: "This study book is the first of its kind, illuminating the many possible musical and playing techniques of the hurdy-gurdy, their advantages in different music styles, and the relationship of the musician to his instrument. The emphasis lies in the organization of the extensive exercises that should be mastered for the different music styles and techniques. Music examples from distinct eras demonstrate the scope of the hurdy-gurdy and lead to the musical application of the practices. The richly illustrated book should not only be viewed as a teaching book, but also as a stimulating discourse for those lovingly fascinated with the hurdy-gurdy, or developing such. It requires no prerequisites but the willingness for research and practice." (translation contributed by [WW].)

Méthode de vielle en 12 leçons
By André Dubois, 1976.

In French, for vielle tuned in D, with LP record. [MB] Doreen Muskett mentions Dubois favorably in her method book.

Principes pour toucher de la vielle avec six sonates pour cet instrument qui conviennent aux violon, flute, clavessin, [etc]
By Jean Baptiste Dupuit, 1741, published Paris.

In French. Copies are on microfilm. One original is in Library of Congress. Reprinted by Éditions Minkoff, Geneva, with the Boüin method, listed above. A full copy seems to be included in Boulestix.

Musiques en duo pour vielles a roue
By Michéle Fromenteau and Guy Casteuble, 1979 and 1985, Ëditions J.M. Fuzeau, Courlay.

In French and English. Music of the 18th century with a short section on hurdy-gurdy. In 2 volumes. [MB]

Pratique de jeu de vielle Centre-France
By Jean-François "Maxou" Heintzen

In French, translation in English available. The author stresses that this is not a method. Its purpose is to educate the reader about playing the hurdy-gurdy in a particular style. See linked entry for more information.

Die Drehleier; Handhabung und Spieltechnique - Lehrbuch des Frankfurter Drehleierensembles
"Die Hummel" Ensemble, consisting of Erich Kern, Marianne Glier, Gerd Ganz, and Gabriele Schneider-Ganz, 1981, reprinted several times, no ISBN, self-published in Franfurt/Main. Separate translation by John Ralyea

In German, with separate translation to English available. It covers quite a spectum of information about the instrument, its care, history, tunings and body position. It includes a very nice representation of hand and finger positions used in dog playing, and a number of exercises for learning the dog technique. Includes a short bibliography and an even shorter discography. Ralyea's translation consists of a translation of the text only, without the figures and illustrations. The method with a photocopy of Ralyea's translation is available from
c/o Marianne Glier
Vilbeler Landstr. 90
D-60388 Frankfurt
The method in German only is available from Verlag der Spielleute. (Thanks for Marianne Glier for the update.)

Method Book for the Vielle or Hurdy-Gurdy
By Doreen Muskett; 3rd edition in 1998, edited by Michael Muskett, ISBN 0-9946993-07-6; First edition in 1979, ISBN 0-946993-00-9; published by Michael and Doreen Muskett, Dorchester, Dorset, UK.

This is presently the only method book entirely in English. It focusses on playing the vielle in G/C tuning. The first edition included lessons for the left and right hands with tunes to be learned for each lesson , a short history with some illustrations, listing of music, a short bibliography, a list of other methods (all in French except for one in German), and a short discography of early and traditional music on vinyl . The new (3rd) edition is much improved, with expanded lessons, more tunes, and an expansion of the section on setup and maintenance. It can be obtained from Dusty Strings in Seattle. It's also available directly from Michael Muskett for $45 US, postpaid, send check in US funds made out to Michael Muskett to:
Muskett Music
47 Tudor Gardens
Stony Stratford
Milton Keynes
MK11 1HX. Bucks.
United Kingdom

The Palmer book
This book has a short method section at the end written by Samual Palmer.

Méthode de vielle
By Gaston Riviére, 1951, Montluçon.

In French, with a lot of music from central France in the key of D. [MB]

Repertoire Sources

illustration An illustration of the dangers of playing the hurdy-gurdy, taken from Daniel Thonon's book. It was drawn by Yves Steinmetz, and is reproduced here by his kind permission and Daniel's. Please do not use this image without also obtaining permission.
A great variety of music can be played on the hurdy-gurdy. The most commonly played is French country dance music. Some printed sources are listed here. Many traditional tunes are available on the web in ABC format.

An extensive listing of the music written for the instrument in the 18th century may be found in Robert Green's book. This listing focusses on the baroque French material, but there is certainly a wealth of printed music available in other styles as well.

Cahier de Repertoire - Patrick Bouffard joue Jenzat
In French, by Frederic Paris. No ISBN number.

These are transcriptions of 30 dance tunes from the Berry repertoire cassettes recorded by Patrick Bouffard.

Encyclopedia Blowzabellica
Written by members of Blowzabella "past and present" (the band is no longer together). ISBN 1-872277-11-X.

In English. An extensive collection of music for tunes played by Blowzabella on their albums, and a short section by Nigel Eaton about the hurdy-gurdy. The tunes are divided into sections for the types of dances they are played for, and there are instructions for many of the dances.

Musiques en Duo pour Vielles a Roue - Duets for Hurdy-gurdy (the First Collection)
Chosen and presented by Mìchèle Fromenteau and Guy Casteuble. The First Collection, 25 pieces by eighteenth century French composers for two hurdy-gurdies tuned to C. [There's also a second collection, which we don't have listed yet.] Translated from the French by Jane Waddicor M.A. (Oxon). Published 1979, by Èditions J.M. Fuzeau S.A., 79440 Courly, Tel. 72 22 13.

In French and English. There are tips on how to use the book to learn the pieces, the ornaments, and the baroque style in general.

Musiques Pour Vielle a Roue
by Gilles Chabenat. 1998, ISBN 2-9507682-1-0, published by AMTA in their Les musiques du paysages series.

In French. This book contains transcriptions of 45 tunes from 3 albums, with specifics on tunings and trompette rhythms. The recordings covered are Les Ecoliers de Saint Genest, Gilles' Bleu Nuit, and De l'Eau et des Amandes with Frédéric Paris. There are also many photos of Gilles playing the instrument and an interview with Gilles.

The Telynor songbook
In English, with lyrics in various languages. Written and published by John and Anna Peekstok, 1991.

This is a collection of the tunes and songs from Telynor's first two albums. There are traditional dance pieces and folks songs mixed with some of John and Anna's own compositions. If you have one, hold on to it, as it's out of print.

The Music Written for Ad Vielle Que Pourra
By Daniel Thonon. 1997, ISBN 2-92254-003, published by Les Éditions A.V.Q.P, St-Marc-sur-Richelieu, Canada.

In English, with lyrics in various languages, mostly French. This is a collection of 40 tunes and songs that Daniel wrote for Ad Vielle Que Pourra's first four albums. Daniel's commentary is quite amusing, the arrangements are excellent, but the best part is the illustrations by Yves Steinmetz.

The Massif Village Orchestra - Music and Arrangements
Tunes and arrangements published annually for the MVO workshops and Grand Bal.

The Massif Central Tune Books, No. 1
Compiled by Mel Stevens. 1987, ISBN 1-872277-05-5, published by Dragonfly Music, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

No. 1 is the Pink Book. It includes scottishes, bourrées à deux temps, bourrées à trois temps, bourrées d'Auvernge, valses, mazurkas, and polkas. Mel was a member of Rosbif.

The Massif Central Tune Books, No. 2
Compiled by Mel Stevens. 1988, ISBN 1-872277-12-8, published by Dragonfly Music, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

No. 2 is the Blue Book. It includes all the same types of dances as the Pink Book.

Other Materials

Here's a book on a related instrument, the nyckelharpa:

Nyckelharpan, Studier i ett folkligt musikinstrument
By Jan Ling, 1967, no ISBN, published Stockholm.

In Swedish, with summary in English. There is some discussion of the hurdy-gurdy.

Books We're Looking For

We are always looking for books. I found these by searching various library catalogs and bibliographies. Our local Interlibrary Loan has worked overtime for us, but not everything is available by that route. If you see one of these or know of another one, let us know!

L'Orgue, la chanson, la cornamuse, la vielle a roue:
Un patrimoine europeen: Musee de Louvain-la-Neuve, du 13 septembre au 3 novembre 1985 [Exhibition catalog], by the Institut superieur d'archeologie et d'histoire de l'art de l'Universite catholique de Louvain, 1985, published Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


...and of course, anything that isn't listed here that relates to the hurdy-gurdy

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

Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments

Beati illi qui in circulum circumeunt, fient enim magnae rotae.

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