Violin or Fiddle?

Like many folks, I wondered what the difference is between a violin and a fiddle. It’s simple.

When young Carson Peters was asked this question, his response was a violin has strings, and a fiddle has straaangs.

There’s an old musician’s joke about the difference:
“What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?”
“You don’t spill beer on a violin!”

While there may be some small changes to the basic instrument after it is created depending on the violinist or fiddler playing it (called the “set up”), there is no difference between a violin and a fiddle. Changes might be to the type of strings, the shape of the bridge, the chin rest or even just the way the instrument is held.

Fiddle is a colloquial term for the violin and refers to the type of music that is being played. “Fiddle” is generally used when the type of music being played such as old time, bluegrass, folk and country. “Violin” is generally used when playing classical music or jazz. Violins are often seen as expensive instruments. Fiddles are generally seen as cheap violins. Neither sentiment is necessarily true.

The Difference Between a Violin and a Fiddle


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  5 comments for “Violin or Fiddle?

  1. Tom
    February 22, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    A fiddle can be fitted with a fiddle bridge, which is a little more flat to make drones and double stops easier. See http://stringsmagazine.com/are-violins-fiddles-set-up-differently/.

    • February 22, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      Yes. You are correct. I have read about and seen some of these flatter fiddle bridges. At this point in my fiddling career ( a whole 19 days in), I could not imagine trying to play with a flatter bridge. Even with the more rounded “violin bridge” it is hard enough to bow without hitting the unintended adjacent strings. A person’s bowing precision would have to be impeccable to use a flatter bridge.

      • December 5, 2019 at 7:59 pm

        A lower arch on the bridge is convenient for some people who might experience some of these:
        a) can play clearly on lower arch
        b) want to use more drone and double stops
        c) prefer to be less ” athletic” in arm movements going, for example. from the E to the D or G strings.
        d) need to play for hours at a time, since (c) can be useful and less tiring when playing longer.

        Disclaimer: just guessing!
        Your thoughts?

        • December 6, 2019 at 2:53 am

          All valid in my opinion. The most commonly mentioned reason I find is to make it easier to play drones and double stops.

          • December 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm

            Yes I love the double stops and drones. My fiddle bridge isn’t flat but is less arched than the classical one. Kind of in between, I’d say. I just have to play more!

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