2000s Helmut Gotschy "Phoenix Standard" Hurdy Gurdy

This appears to be a "Phoenix Standard" model hurdy gurdy and it was made by Mr. Helmut Gotschy before his apprentice, Alexandra Betz, took over building from him. It's a one-owner instrument and was bought new in the early 2000s, as I recall. They brought it down here from Burlington about a month or so ago to put it up for resale and every now and then asked me how it was coming-along.

While it's basically near-new save some very minor scuffs to the wheel-cover and key-cover, a replacement tuner, and a teensy ding here or there, it would not make much sound (save squealing pig noises) and I noticed that a good two-thirds of the keys were sticking a bit in use (it's summer, now, and the humidity swelled them enough to stick). I knew that I'd need to spend some time with it so I needed to log some hours to get it going.

Luckily, in the last couple days, I was able to spend a few hours with it and re-fit the keys so they move quickly (time-consuming because they have to be disassembled and shaved down with a file) and added enough powdered rosin to the strings to get some sound out of it. I'm sure it would sound better with maybe some dark rosin (it has powdered light-amber rosin at the moment) and some new felting/wool to wrap the strings, but I was happy to get it sounding mostly like a proper hurdy gurdy for the soundclip. Clearly, playing it is pretty simple -- but I can tell that to play it like a pro, one would need to spend a fair amount of time getting used to holding it comfortably.

So, long story short: this is a lightly-used, good-pedigree, professional-quality hurdy gurdy and it's ready to roll. The owners did supply a giant drum bag to serve as a gigbag, but to be honest I think it's too large to really use for transport and seems more of a liability than a useful bag -- so if you're planning to pick this up to use busking or playing shows, I definitely suggest finding some sort of more-fitted hard case to travel with.

I will include a baggie of powdered rosin -- I applied it with a brush to the wool/felt on the strings.

4:1 geared banjo pegs make tuning easier than the traditional wood pegs.

Here's the top with the wheel uncovered -- the whole instrument is made from nice-quality hard maple save the top, which looks a lot like cedar to me.

The strap buttons are for supporting the two straps that help make this useful for stand-up playing.

I love the handmade crank and knob, too.

I currently have the two "chanter" strings tuned G and an octave G above that. The big drones are tuned D for the high and G for the low. I have the third "trumpet" drone string tuned to a B note, so you get a major G chord with all the drones engaged. Of course, one can tune this however they like. There are a few standard tuning practices which probably sound a little more traditional, but this seemed to be where the instrument liked the tension at.


Michael Larkin said…
A fascinating and visually appealing musical instrument.
Martin said…
Hurdy gurdies have already been performed because Medieval moments. For hundreds of years, hurdy gurdy gamers entertained everyone from royals to peasants. Today, the instrument has a small but passionate fanbase in early and people tunes circles. Despite having that fanbase, nevertheless, they’re niche devices. You are able to’t just head to your local Guitar Middle and anticipate finding Hurdy Gurdy For Sale.
Unknown said…
I visited Helmut at his workshop in early 2001 and purchased this Phoenix model gurdy gurdy from him at that time. The craftsmanship is excellent and the sound is fantastic! It does require a little practice to set it up nicely, but will always sound great when you're done