- Max Kuehn
There are many differences between fiddle vs violin, but the two instruments are often used interchangeably. Fiddles are typically played with a lighter touch than violins, and the music they are used for is often more upbeat. Violins are usually played with a more classical approach and are used in a wider range of genres.
What Is a Fiddle, Exactly?
Fiddle can refer to one of three things:
It’s a term that refers to a violin played in the conventional classical style. It can refer to a violin commonly heard in country, bluegrass, and folk music. (This is the most popular definition.)
It can refer to any stringed instrument employed in the folk idioms indicated above. A “bass fiddle,” for example, could refer to a double bass played in this style.
Fiddles and the predecessors of the modern violin appeared in medieval Europe simultaneously. The violin, however, became the major medium for “fiddling” as it rounded into its current form. Fiddle music was popular throughout Europe, but it is particularly associated with traditional Irish music.
In the nineteenth century, Scotch-Irish people—those of Scottish descent who resided in northeast Ireland—migrated en masse to America, carrying their fiddling traditions. (At the time, traditional violins were virtually solely used for “fiddling.”)
Many Scotch-Irish settled in Appalachia’s foundational states of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. From there, bluegrass, a uniquely American musical form, arose. Bluegrass is defined by the violin, guitar, banjo, and mandolin.
What Is a Violin, Exactly?
A violin is a stringed instrument made of wood. It has the following features in the past:
- G3, D4, A4, and E5 are the four strings tuned in fifths.
- Strings were initially composed of sheep gut (often referred to as catgut), but steel strings are now the most popular. It’s possible to play it with a horsehair bow (arco), a wooden bow back (col legno), or your fingers (pizzicato)
- In a string choir, she sings in the soprano part.
- Vibrating strings atop a hollow wooden body make sound.
- The top (or soundboard) is made of spruce, while the rest of the body is made of maple.
- The fretless fingerboard allows players to sound specific pitches by depressing their fingertips. A “stop” is when you press down on a string. The term “double stops” refers to pressing two strings at the same time. There are also options for triple and quadruple stops.
- Peg tuners at the top of the instrument and fine tuners down the tailpiece are used to tune it.
- The instrument is tucked between the player’s chin and shoulder. Her right hand is used to bow or pluck, and her left hand is used to play notes on the fingerboard.
- Within the string family, the violin is undoubtedly the most iconic instrument. From Mozart and Beethoven to current greats like John Adams and Christopher Rouse, countless classical composers have produced concertos and sonatas to showcase the violin.
Violin Vs Fiddle Comparison
The violin is nearly always heard with other violins, violas, cellos, double basses, or symphonic horns in orchestral, symphonic, or chamber settings. Check out the difference viola vs violin vs cello!
The mandolin, guitar, percussion, mountain dulcimer, banjo, and electronic keyboard, on the other hand, can be accompanied by a broad spectrum of instruments.
The Body’s Structure
These three instruments are all made of polished oak with a flawless, finished appearance. However, when it comes to shape, they are all slightly different.
The fiddle and violin have a smaller frame than the viola in both width and length. The normal fiddle varies from the violin in that it has a greater diameter due to an arched angle around the waist. Most people think this method of determining the difference is unreliable because fiddle and violin sizes vary depending on the maker.
Bowed string instruments are among the most difficult to master since the tone quality degrades quickly in the hands of inexperienced players. While it is true that violinists require more professional training due to the demanding nature of outstanding performance, this should not imply that either style is more or less challenging to play.
Tuning and Strings
The violin strings are usually tuned to G3, D4, A4, E5, and the viola strings are tuned to C3, G3, D4, and A4. Fiddles have the same strings like violins, but modern fiddlers have added a fifth string, changing the tuning to G3, D4, A4, E5, and C3.
This lends the fiddle style a folk-country twang that pairs beautifully with the banjo. Many fiddlers, especially formally educated, prefer the conventional four-string musical instrument.
A viola’s natural tuning is one fifth below that of a violin, and it has a range of more than three and a half octaves.
The highest notes on a modern piano correspond to the strings G3 through C8, the highest notes on a violin. However, the top notes of the violin family produce harmonics that are substantially different from those of the viola and fiddle.
A fiddle’s bridge is flatter and less arched than a classical violin’s. This enables double and triple stop bowing, which is common in many styles of fiddling music. A violin features a more arched bridge designed to provide a clearer sound.
The tone variations on the violin, viola, and fiddle are likewise diverse, as is the method of playing each instrument. Each style benefits from the differences in the bridges.
A fiddle requires a lot of string bending and several bow stops, whereas a violin only requires a single tone, and a viola requires the musician to arch strings with a straight bow for better tones.
The alto clef, which uses the C clef, is used to write music for the viola, whereas the treble clef is used to write music for the violin and fiddle. The fiddle’s music is also composed in C clef.
The alto clef is rarely used with other instruments, which gives the viola an edge over the other two.
Techniques and Playing Styles
Because the viola is a larger instrument than the violin, it requires a different technique and fingering.
The viola is recognized for having a heavier bow and strings than the violin, allowing the player to lean more firmly on the ropes. The longer bow allows the player to generate a lower range that isn’t relatively as high as the violin’s but pleasant enough to keep the audience on their feet.
Violins are played with the left side of the player’s jaw perfectly resting on the chinrest and the left shoulder supporting the instrument. The musician’s left-hand presses the strings to produce pitch, while the right hand plucks or bows the strings to produce sound.
Violins have a reputation for accurately reproducing the composer’s music. It’s vital to note that a well-played violin never deviates even slightly from the composer’s music notation.
Because violinists must be so accurate, symphonies may employ up to 50 violinists to perform various pieces of the same music.
Then there’s the fiddle, which is famed for giving each piece of music its unique interpretation. A fiddler can, and frequently does, deviate from a tune’s original melody, rendering it unrecognizable. The fiddle’s style is notable for allowing the player to showcase their talent uniquely.
You can hold the fiddle between the player’s chin and shoulder, or it can be rested directly on the fiddler’s chest. Placing the fiddle on the chest is never seen or done in violin performance.
Parts and Construction
The fiddle, violin, and viola are quite similar in parts, construction, and build. The only distinction is that a fiddle’s chin rest is a separate piece, but a viola or violin’s chin rest is part of the tailpiece.
The chinrest is attached to the fiddle using an inventive screwing method. It comes in various styles and can be mounted on the side of the fiddle tailpiece or directly on top of the instrument.
Many people can discern the difference between a Hardanger Fiddle and a Stradivarius Violin (not to mention the price difference!).
Is It Simpler To Play The Fiddle Than The Violin?
In most cases, fiddle music is simpler. Performing on the violin requires more physical stamina and mental focus than playing the fiddle. Improvisation is a common component of music played on the fiddle. Improvisation is not very common in violin music.
Why Are Violins Sometimes Referred To As Fiddles?
Etymology. The origin of the word “fiddle” is unknown; however, it most likely stems from the Latin word “fidula,” an early word for the violin; alternatively, it may have originated in Germanic. It would suggest that the name is connected to the Icelandic word fila and the Old English word fiele.
What Do You Call Someone Who Plays The Fiddle?
There are a lot of folks who use it as a fun substitute for the term “violin.” A “fiddler” is a person who plays an instrument called the fiddle. The bow is also referred to as a “fiddling stick” in some circles. Playing the fiddle, also known simply as fiddling, is a kind of folk music.
Although we do not spend much time discussing violins or violas on our site, however, Fidlar has received a significant number of inquiries inquiring about the distinction between the Fiddle and these individuals. It is hoped that this will shed some light on a number of the differences between the violin and the fiddle.