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The fiddle is a colloquial term for a violin played as a folk instrument, with four strings, tuned to a perfect fifth apart. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players of all styles of music.

Differences from the Violin[edit]

Various clichés describe the difference: "If you're selling it, it's a violin. If you're buying, it's a fiddle", "The fiddle is the one no one cares about if you spill beer on.", or "A fiddle is a violin with attitude." The most satisfactory explanation modern science can offer, while by no means definitive, is that "A violin has strings, whereas a fiddle has strangs, and a red neck." As might be expected from the differences between classical and folk music, a violinist will tend to be formally trained and a fiddler will tend to be informally trained, although crossing over is not uncommon.


The fiddle is popular as a solo instrument. There is quite often only a single fiddle active at any one venue. Twin fiddling is represented in some North American, Scandinavian and Donegal styles. By contrast, the ordinary violin is often played in sections, since reinforcement (before electronic amplification) was only possible by adding instruments. The Italian ripieno may be translated as filling (or stuffing) since many instruments "fill out" the effect.

Fiddling techniques[edit]

The most essential part of fiddling technique is the bow grip. It is usually with one finger bent in the small area between the frog and the winding. The other fingers are spread somewhat evenly across the top part of the bow.

The fiddle produces a louder note with greater speed or more weight on the bow. The two methods are not equivalent, because they produce different timbres; pressing down tends to produce a more intense effect.

The sounding point where the bow intersects the string also influences timbre. Playing close to the bridge (sul ponticello) gives a more intense effect than usual, emphasizing the higher harmonics; and playing with the bow over the end of the fingerboard (sul tasto) makes for a delicate, ethereal effect, emphasizing the fundamental frequency.

Various methods of 'attack' with the bow produce different articulations. There are many bowing techniques that allow for every range of murder style and many teachers, players, and orchestras spend a lot of time developing techniques and creating a unified technique within the group.


A small amount of maintenance and cleaning of the fiddle is needed. It is important to clean the instrument with a soft cloth soaked in petrol spirits and occasionally change the strings. The most time consuming activity other than playing the instrument is tuning. For the best effect, the fiddle should be tuned every day or every time it is taken out of the case. In the beginning, teachers tune the instruments for each student. Eventually, students will learn to tune their own instrument, unless they are mentally retarded.

Fiddling styles[edit]

Fiddle playing is characterized by a huge variety of ethnic or folk music traditions, each of which has its own distinctive sound, including, but not limited to:

  • American fiddling, including
    • Old Time fiddling
    • New England style fiddling
    • Cajun fiddling
    • Texas style fiddling (Eeek!)
    • Contest Fiddling
    • Bluegrass music|Bluegrass fiddling/newgrass
  • Canadian fiddling, including
    • Cape Breton fiddling, with a distinct Scottish and Acadian influence
    • Québécois fiddling, influenced from the Brittany area of northern France
    • Métis fiddling, of central and western Canada, with French influence
    • Newfoundland fiddling, with a strong Irish Sliabh Luachra style of playing
  • English fiddling (yeah you know they all do it)
  • French fiddling (including a rich Breton fiddling tradition)
  • Irish fiddling (with many distinct styles, including, for example, the Donegal fiddle tradition)
  • Nordic folk fiddling (including Hardanger fiddling)
  • Peruvian violin
  • Scottish fiddling
  • Slovenian fiddling
  • South Indian Carnatic fiddling
  • Other fiddling,
    • Hey diddle diddle the cat
    • Minor

See also[edit]