Hurdy-gurdy player cranks out a dark medieval melody to give you goosebumps

13 January 2023, 16:03

Dark Medieval Ballad performed on Hurdy-Gurdy in YouTube clip

By Sian Moore

A mechanical string instrument from the Middle Ages that can still evoke chills today...

With a few turns on a hurdy-gurdy’s hand crank, a rosined wheel sweeps against the instrument’s three main strings.

The resulting sound? A steady and unwavering drone that sounds straight from the Middle Ages (and Game of Thrones, too).

Musician Andrey Vinogradov has mastered the medieval wheel fiddle, a popular instrument during the Renaissance period, which he uses to play local folk melodies from all corners of the globe.

Listen to his beautiful, haunting rendition of a dark, medieval ballad below.

Read more: Holy smokes, a hurdy-gurdy cranking heavy metal riffs sounds monumental

Hear the incredibly hypnotising sound of the zanfona, a strange medieval musical instrument
Hear the incredibly hypnotising sound of the zanfona, a strange medieval musical instrument. Picture: YouTube / Andrey Vinogradov

So, how does this marvellous stringed instrument actually work?

The crank we see Vinogradov turning back and forth triggers the rosined wheel which sits partly inside the hurdy-gurdy and works much like a violin bow, by rubbing the strings of the instrument. He simultaneously plays the keyboard that sits on the neck of the instrument with their other hand.

By pressing the keys, small wedges of wood, known as tangents, are pushed against one or two strings to change the pitch.

You might know the instrument by its French name, vielle à roue, or perhaps its other titles, the zanfona, draailier or ghironda. It most likely first came about around the 11th century, in Europe or the Middle East.

Whenever we hear a hurdy-gurdy playing, we just want to *ahem*... crank it up.