Drone Tuning and Use

Hurdy-gurdy tunes, playing tips and advice, sheet music and books

Re: Drone Tuning and Use

Postby Euan » Fri May 21, 2010 4:35 pm


It's entirely up to you. You can have what you want. The fact that other people use 'rules' doesn't mean you need to folow them. I don't.

Gros bourdon d
Petite bourdon g
Mouche a
Trompette d /e

My sympathetic strings are 2 guitar 2nd strings and 2 guitar thirds. Tuned in octaves of g and d. Lovely. You get a low resonance as well as the ring. I'd like to have two a's as well but.....

Taking the gros bourdon up to E is fine along with the trompette. You might like to also do the same with the chanters to keep the overall sound. Watch the string tension. Probably not for a c/g unless youtake the G down. Compromise or change the key the tune is in (my method).

For classical the a mouche with the d gros bourdon is fabulous. A bit OTT for bourees though.

This topic is the same as strings. It'll run and run. You just need to sort out what you want yourselves. Unfortunately without a load of capos and hassle you need to restrict your roots unless you go for a new gurdy with loads of strings.

I also have an issue playing with a melodeon player who loves Em......mmmmmm
Posts: 25
Joined: Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:58 am

Re: Drone Tuning and Use

Postby paulsherwood6 » Sat May 22, 2010 9:54 am

Hi again,

There isn't a simple answer here. I think that the 'norm' is changing as the hurdy-gurdy evolves, and new players show what can be done, and makers devise more ways to increase the flexibility of the instrument. My personal opinion is that the traditional instrument (ie without capos or multiple trompettes etc) like I have, is best played in it's home keys. Tuning strings up and down is just too much of a faff for me - the re-tuned string tends to be either too loud or soft, and takes a while to settle down. When I play Ciapa Rousa, which I really like too, I play it in D minor (as I have a D/G instrument) and I do my best to persuade fellow musicians to join me in this key. (I will have one or two D gros bourdons and a D trompette on as well). It is a nice surprise to find a C/F melodeon in a session!
If I was in a session and the tune was played in E minor, I would join in but without bothering with any drones. At some stage I will experiment with a trompette capo but I haven't explored that yet.

The situation is quite different with the modern instruments and there you have a lot more choice as to which strings you fit and a myriad of capo options. This does mean that bands can play in a wider variety of keys, which is better musically, but as I haven't got one, I rather accept the limitations of the instrument rather than struggle to accommodate other keys. I also take a mandolin with me to sessions which helps!

good luck finding what works for you!

User avatar
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:38 pm

Re: Drone Tuning and Use

Postby halfies » Sun May 23, 2010 4:03 pm

Euan, and also Paul, many thanks to you both.

We have tried re-tuning our selectable Gross Bourdon to E which works quite well as at that scale length it struggles anyway with D and likes a little more tension.

Our Sympathetics are tuned 2 x D in unison plus 2 x G similarly using what look like wire guitar strings. That 's how it arrived last year from Neil (very nice 9 year old Neil Brook luteback). They seem to work quite well but alternative tunings are certainly an idea.

We had a very helpful (as always) email exchange with Neil about 2nd Trompettes and about Capos too. It seems that for play in E minor a Capo on the D Trompette for E tuning is best and quickest in use (currently we are experimenting with wooden wedges and the like as well as quick peg tweaking). The Bourdon in use can be re-tuned to E or even left that way (see above).

It was suggested too by Neil that 2nd trompettes on D/G Gurdies are customarily tuned to G either above or below the D. The lower gives an earthy kind of sound and the higher a kind of insecty buzz he says, and these are useful for play in C (with re-tuned Bourdon) and G. Hmm, fascinating.

We have a lot of sympathy for the view that your own Gurdy plays it's own keysigs and be content with that unless you are a pro in a band or similar, or just play the melody line on the Chanter/s.

Oh dear, I am accustomed to playing Ciapa Rousa mainly in Em on a D/G Melodeon per the French dance group ! Bet it sounds good in Dm though as well. The other Melodeon I sometimes take to pub sessions is a G/C not a C/F, but if I am stuck I use an E. Concertina for any old key, and Marj' plays Fiddle anyway when she is not Gurdying (not that we Gurdy in public quite yet).

Many thanks for your interest and help.


Rob and Marj'
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:28 pm


Return to Playing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest