Fiddle Setup Variations

Although violins and fiddles are essentially the same instrument, the style of the music played may determine setup differences between fiddles and classical violins, most notably the shape of the bridge and the type of strings. While many fiddlers use a traditional or classical setup, some prefer the following variations.

Bridges

While classical violinists and many fiddlers use a classic style bridge with a typical rounded arch, some fiddlers use a bridge with a flatter arch as is illustrated below.

The flatter arch allows the fiddler to reduce the range of bow-arm motion needed for techniques such as a drone, a note continuously sounded throughout all or most of a tune on an adjacent string, and/or a double shuffle, a rapid alternation between pairs of adjacent strings. This flatter arch is used primarily by fiddlers who play a style of music that requires very quick note changes with a lot of improvisation and embellishment.

Strings

While most violinists today prefer synthetic core strings with many fiddlers using them as well, some fiddlers prefer steel strings. A lot of fiddle music is played outdoors or in much nosier venues than classical music, so some fiddlers prefer the more “raw” sound of steel strings. Steel strings are stark, louder, and less warm than modern classical strings. They produce a “brighter” sound, compared to the deeper tones of synthetic core strings. The responsiveness of metal strings is super fast. And, they are very elastic, which makes cross-tuning easier. They also resist changes in weather better than synthetic strings.

I’ll bet you this guy is using a flatter bridge with steel strings. Just listen to him go 🙂


Lost John the fiddling man – 1964 – from the film Bluegrass Roots

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