Paolo Coriani handmade hurdy gurdies


Luthier Paolo Coriani

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My hurdy gurdies

My interest in the hurdy gurdy began in 1976, when I heard it played in a concert given by Bruno Pianta, ethnomusicologist and musician: I was completely spellbound. At the time I was playing in a street theatre group which performed traditional folk music and I had already started working at the Masetti workshop.
My ambition to make a hurdy gurdy fuelled my interest in gathering as much information as possible on the instrument, but there were very few instruments being played at the time in Italy, with just a handful of examples in a few museums, and very little written information available.
The Ensemble SuonabandaYet several trips later to France and meetings with a few makers, I had, by 1978, finished work on my first hurdy gurdy. From then on I was able to take part in various courses, initially in France and then in Italy, and could finally substitute the guitar for the hurdy gurdy in my ensemble.

The group continued to develop its interest in traditional music. The first hurdy gurdy I made was guitar shaped with a flat back, I continued to make more and differing models over the years. All the instruments I have made, apart from a copy of a Baroque hurdy gurdy made in 1773 by Jean Louvet, the most influential hurdy gurdy maker of the XVIII century, are based on a personal design yet they have been inspired by classic models. The various technical solutions and range of options I use in their construction are all designed and manufactured according to my own techniques.

My research into the timbre and sonority of these instruments has prompted me to use woods Lute hurdy gurdy with cedar wood soundboard that are not normally used in their construction, despite the fact that they are used to make other instruments. This deliberate choice in woods produces instruments that have a very personal sound that is immediately recognisable, due to the cedar wood soundboard and Brazilian rosewood body. These features distinguished my work from the work of other makers’ instruments I came across at Hurdy gurdy with nylon axles Festivals and Exhibitions.

The wheel revolves around Nylon axles for a more “natural” movement, these can be replaced in a few minutes when worn. The head Detail in the construction of a hurdy gurdydetailwhere present, is individually carved by a sculptor, so that each instrument is different and personalised. The decoration, purfling and inlay are always different. The techniques used in construction differ from traditional methods; I have borrowed certain features from the construction of other instruments, and these give the instrument a depth of sound and make it easier to handle.

Lute shaped Hurdy Gurdy

This instrument was inspired by the hurdy gurdies of the traditional XVIII century rather than 12-stringed Lute hurdy gurdy XIX century examples. Its body is made up of 11 staves, instead of the usual 9, and its rounded shape gives it greater rigidity and resistance. The body can be made of one wood instead of the two normally used, one dark and one light. I make two different sized bodies, depending on lSoundboard made with one type of woodhow many melody strings it can accommodate, with a maximum of four in order to achieve a wide range of chords in different keys.

Baroque Hurdy Gurdy

Based on a Jean Louvet hurdy gurdy of 1733 which today is housed in the museumBaroque hurdy gurdyof the Paris Conservatoire, it has a recalculated keyboard for enhanced tonal precision. I can make it either with the original keyboard structure or with my own personal keyboard structure.

De La Tour Hurdy Gurdy

This particular hurdy gurdy is based on the instrument in the painting by the artist Georges De La Tour. I have studied and reproduced meticulously the design of the instrument and its various proportions to produce an instrument that is very similar to the one painted by the artist, yet it has all the acoustic power of a modern instrument De la Tour hurdy gurdyand is ideal for wayfaring musicians. Once again, I have incorporated some personal technical modifications, the soundboard and back are not flat but are slightly rounded.

Gothic Renaissance Hurdy Gurdy

This model is based on the “Luigi” hurdy gurdy housed in the museum dedicated to the instrument at Mountluchon in France. It was more than likely Renaissance hurdy gurdy based on the instrument in Mountluchon made in Italy. Its dimensions are somewhat smaller than the original, and the soundboard and back are well rounded. The sound it produces can be both sweet yet penetrating as a result of the type of wood used in its construction, making it ideal for the originally intended performance purposes of the instrument.

Guitar Hurdy Gurdy

This is the first model I made. This large instrument was inspired by the hurdy gurdies northern France, and it was the first one I sold in France, back in 1981. Its depth of sound and power means it is particularly suitable for dance music.





The Nyckelharpa started to feature alongside my hurdy gurdy in my group in 1986. I had started to play an instrument made by my friend and colleague Marcel Lasson of Limogne, France, in 1982.
This traditional Scandinavian instrument had been played in folk music groups for some time throughout Europe.
NyckelharpaI began making the nyckelharpas in 1988.
Mine are based on a modern instrument model, that has been “revamped”, with the addition of some personalised components, such as the laminated ribs, unconventional woods, the absence of edges, the way the strings are strung and some smaller dimensions of the fingerboard.
These modifications do not in any way affect the sound, but they do make the instrument easier to handle. My nyckelharpas can, on request, have the fourth row of keys on the fourth string.



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