Expert player and hurdy-gurdy community member, Jimi Hellinga (aka Elektrovolt) recently got his hands on a Vrabel hurdy-gurdy. These instruments have been the topic of much controversy over the years.
You can listen to Jimi play this instrument here:
If you think the above video sounds good, keep in mind that Jimi has a lot of experience with hurdy-gurdies, and the sound he is able to produce out of an instrument is a reflection of the skills he has developed, not the construction quality of the instrument.
Here is what Jimi had to say alongside his video:
“I was asked by a friend to test his Galician model by Vrabel.
As you might know, the Vrabel gurdies are one of the least expensive gurdies that you can find. And therefore attractive to those who are looking for their first gurdy. Best to start with a cheap one, right?
It was not that easy. Before I was able to play the instrument, I had to do some work on it and it still did not work or sound well.
I’ve trued the wheel, filled the string slots and more.
The string alignment is off for half of the strings, especially on the drones and trompette.The chien needed to be filled as the string slot was around four mm too deep.
In order to work well, it definitely needs new bridges. The axle and knob were very loose, several key slots are almost big enough to rotate the keys- this does not help with the intonation.
There are a few gaping holes where there should be a proper joint. The chanter strings cannot be intonated properly and it is very hard to play the buzzing rhythm.
The result you hear in the video was recorded after doing some work to make it play, but the intonation was still a big problem. One of the drones did not work at all as the bridge was completely in the wrong place. To be clear: the instrument was completely unplayable from the start.
Of course you cannot expect a well finished instrument at this price (around 600-700 euros). The build quality seems to vary quite a bit ranging from ‘bad’ to ‘okay but needs work’.
As this is the only Vrabel instrument I’ve tried, I cannot speak for the other ones.
In my opinion this instrument is absolutely not suitable for learning, and also needs lots of work done to play properly. If you only want something that looks great for a fantasy costume kit or just for making drones and other sounds, it could be a fun choice.
It needs a new axle, a new chien, the key holes should be filled, new bridges and nuts, new strings, a new knob and more things in order to be somewhat decent. It is rather heavy and probably will not break anytime soon, so maybe that is a plus.
According to some, the Vrabel Tekero model is a better instrument. Still I am worried about the lack of care that went into the build.
Should you buy it?
– Do it, if you like the looks, if you want to meddle with repairs, care less about the sound and playing or need it for a fantasy costume kit.
– Don’t do it if you just want a good instrument for playing, or if you are planning to take lessons and play with others.”
-Jimi Hellinga, April 2023
Jimi also supplied us with detailed photos of the instrument. You can view the album here.
2 images in particular stick out showing the poor build quality of the instrument:
The original post by Jimi can be found on Facebook here. You must be a part of the “Hurdy Gurdy Community” Facebook page to view it. Jimi also posted it here on Reddit. Join this and other groups over at our groups page!
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