Sipping an Ale in the Berim Gardon

The Hit Gardon, or in the magyar nyelvÜtőgütőgardon” (Hungarian is phonetic so it sounds just as it is written), is an Hungarian folk instrument that was the natural evolution of Viola da Gamba and a truncheon.

Most describe it as a simple cello hollowed out from a single piece of wood. Honestly, though, it is probably more closely related to the viola da gamba. Traditionally, it has four strings and a flat bridge. Three strings are tuned in unison and are beaten with a stick. The fourth, much thinner string is plucked which results in it snapping against the finger board.

Here is a classical Hungarian arrangement of violin and hit gardon. Notice the crazy way the man holds his violin vertically against his chest? This is typical of drunk people Hungarian fiddlers.

Here is an even closer look:

Here is a couple of pretty ladies accompanied by a gardon.  Warning: if you have never heard it, Hungarian folk singing is a bit different. This isn’t the best example, but is quite typical. When you get used it is, it is quite pretty in fact.

And here are two other very attractive Hungarian fiddlists:

Ok, time to get back on track.

So, the traditional hit gardon is quite limited in its ability to accompany later period music. For instance, here is Corvus Corax performing Dulcissima as part of their Cantus Buranus project which redid Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. Throughout the piece a crazy man in a white Hungarian tunic is featured dancing around the stage whacking off. It is also worth watching the vidoe to see the insane first violinist get up and shred his bow.

The four pretty ladies providing backup screams were Psalteria.

If you like that, you may also like their production of O Varium Fortune:

Ok, time to get back on track.

So, it is kind of monotonous. Corvus Corax developed a version of the gardon with a longer neck and tied on frets. I assume they replaced the plucked string with another hit string. The player then stops the four strings on a particular fret and stikes the instrument. Just think about how great this would be for the Amoroso.

Anyway, I cannot find the video of this anywhere. I will have to keep looking.

Now, let me introduce you to the Berimbau.  Basically it is a metal string attached to a stick to make a bow. A gourd is attached to act as a resonation chamber. A rock is used to get different pitches and sounds.

It is mostly known today as the rhythmic instrument used to accompany Brazilian Capoeira. Here is a quick instructional video:

With a little creativity, and some amazing skill, this instrument can naturally be used with an ensemble. Here is Charry playing the bau with Cantiga on La Volta:

This looks like the New York State Ren Fair, but I don’t know where Bob was at the moment.

The cool bit is that you can pull the gourd away from the chest to create a wawawa sound.

So, here is where just the right combination of loneliness and felines induces that spiritual balance of insanity and creativity:

We take a melodic hit gardon and attach a large resonation gourd to it. Now we have the flexibility of a gardon with an octave of range combined with the twangy expressiveness of a berimbau.

I toyed with calling it a hit bau, but I kind of like the name berim gardon, which brings back memories of Germany.

I am going to Ikea right away to get the parts I need.




2 comments on “Sipping an Ale in the Berim Gardon

  1. Hi Will, thank you for your post on the hungarian hit-gardon. I am just writing programme notes for a concert of muzsikas and coudn’t really figure out what kind of instrument the hit-gardon is. (Since I am music journalist, working about more than 15 years in the field of world music – a case like thi is very unusual).

    Maybe you might take a look in my blog, where I am just working on kurdish music – interesting instruments here too –

    See you – Mirjam

  2. Ted Young says:

    Tag, deine Artikel und die Video sind Prima. Leider weiß ich nicht mehr. Es gibt wenig Informationen auf der Web und meine buecher sind nicht besser. Danke fuer deine Site. Die ist interesant. Tschuß.

    Hi, your article and video are great. Unfortunately, I do not know anything more about the Hit Gardon. There is little information on the web and my books are not any better. Thank you very much for your website. It is very interesting. Take care.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s