Differences between Fiddle and Violin

Most of us have seen the violin before, but have you seen a fiddle? Many people argue about the fact that fiddle and violins are different instruments, whereas some suggest they are very much alike. If you were shown a picture of both fiddle and violin together? Read our article to know all the differences between a fiddle and the violin.

Will you be able to speck the differences? You must have watched people playing a fiddle in a movie but it got introduced as the violin. Do not be shocked anymore. 

Are they the same instrument or different?

Yes, fiddles and violins are the same instruments. Both of them have four strings attached, a wooden body, and played in the same way. They are both played with a bow, either plucked, or strummed.

The only difference lies in the type of music that is played using them. If you want a contrast between both, fiddle music is dance music historically. People have been playing the fiddle in happy occasions and during ceremonies. Violins are used in churches and are used to play sacred music.

Minor Differences between a Fiddle and the violin

In this article, we have listed down 9 minor differences between a fiddle and the violin. In case you are an expert, there is no way an amateur can figure out where the change lies.

Musical Differences

Type of music played by violin & fiddle

Both of the musical instruments and played in the same way. However, they are used to play different types of music. Violins are used to play classical music and fiddle is used to play traditional music, usually folk, country song, bluegrass, and others. Fiddle is used to play Appalachian and Cajun music in the USA instead of the violin. Both of these instruments originated from northern Italy in the early 16th century. 

Genre Type

Violins are played with precise style and gentleness. Following the proper composition with exact accuracies along with the house of practice to attain the correct technical skills is extremely important. The violinist must ensure that he/she must do justice to the composed piece. On the other hand, fiddles also require a great deal of technique and skill. 

Fiddle players have the room to improvise and their music is lively enough to get the audience dancing on their feet. Violin symbolizes mystery, beauty, and power. Whereas, fiddle upholds rhythmic energy, and aesthetic balance. Fiddlers do not value the beauty of the music as much as violinists do.

Difference in technique

Even though both the instruments need to be held between your collar bone and jaw. You have to use your left hand to regulate the sound and tone of the length by stopping the strings using your fingers against the fingerboard.

But the sound produced is different. Assistant Violin Professor Laura Talbott, from the University of Ohio State, stated that both fiddle and violin require different techniques to produce music.

Violin emphasizes a lot on technique but fiddle doesn’t. In fact it has more or less no specific technique to play it. Fiddle players do not stay fixated on a specific technique for each melody. 

Structure difference between the violin and a Fiddle

On the first look, you will not find any major structural differences between the violin and a fiddle. However, if you look closely you will see that the fiddle has a flatter curve than the violin on the top of its bridge and has four tuners.

You may find subtle differences between some conventional violin and American old-time fiddle and bluegrass fiddles. Especially in the top bridge, it may be cut or less curved than the others.

As a result your right arm’s range is reduced and less motion is required for string crossing in some playing styles. Having a curved bridge also helps fiddle players play double shuffles and stops easily and also make three stops without much effort. 

The Difference in tone and sound quality between Fiddle and the violin

Inevitably, the fiddle and violin both produce differ in terms of sound and tone quality. Fiddles produce a mellower tone when played with lower action and energy. Their sound is much more open and loud.

They can also produce a harsh buzzing sound if the wrong strings are played. You will notice the fault immediately during a fiddle performance. However, in high action fiddles produce crisp and articulate sound quality. When violins are played they have a warm and deep rich tonal quality.

It is much more concrete and fuller compared to the fiddle’s sound. If you have the violin and you want to enhance its tone, you can coat it with varnish.

This will help to change the vibrations that are absorbed by the instrument’s wood and as a result change the instrument’s sound quality. It will also give the instrument a louder and sharper tone. 

How strings are an important feature

The quality of sound completely depends on the compositions of the strings. Even though a fiddle and violin is the same instrument, differences in their string quality and composition can produce different type of altered and distinctive sound quality.

Changing the number of strings can also generate solid improvements. The instrument’s playability, responsiveness, and volume depend on the number and the composition of its strings. Most Irish fiddles have strings made of synthetic materials.

Violins, however, have their strings made of steel.  Steel strings compensate for low action playing and help to produce a sharp focused and bright tone. It can also help to cut through the sound session.

Violin tuning vs. fiddle tuning

If you have played the violin before and covered a classic piece then you must be aware how much tuning the violin need.

Violins with higher action use synthetic core strings that required additional tuning to help it produce richer and fuller sound. This rich sound eventually helps it to round off a strong loud tone.

In contrast, steel core strings in most fiddles are easy to tune and they stay in tune for a longer period of time. As it can withstand the energetic and lovely playing that playing a fiddle needs.

Cross tuning which is also commonly known as scordatura is used for both violin and fiddles. Most fiddlers tune their fiddles to the AEAE fiddle tuning. According to folk music, cross tuning helps instruments produce different sound by changing the pitch of drones and string resonances.

Hence fiddles are cross-tuned for playing folk and other traditional songs. Fiddles are also ross tuned, this is another common tune that fiddlers use for playing folk songs of Appalachia, in Scandinavia in the USA. 

Violin Bowing vs. Fiddle bowing

If you have seen fiddlers and violinists play their instrument you must have noticed that they have different bowings. Fiddlers tend to play with bows that are looser, while violinists love to play with a tight bow.

You will also notice the extremes placed at both poles of the spectrum too. Some fiddlers also play with the hair toughing their bow’s stick, while many violinists also play with no curve or camber in their bow at all. 

If you want to play a fiddle and not sure how you should be bowing, do not worry regarding fiddle bowing. Just as you have read previously fiddlers do not have any specific technique or pattern that they must follow.

Hold you bow in a way so that you can endure playing energetically and your hands should be lightweight and comfortable.

Fiddle and Violin Sizes

Since the violin and fiddle are the same instruments, they both have the same body and size around 35 to 40 cm. However, the bows differ in length. Fiddles have a bow that is slightly longer than the violin.

Construction and parts of a Fiddle and the violin

If talked about parts, both the violin and the fiddle are made of the same parts. There is no difference between them. The only visible minor difference is in its construction of their chin rest. Fiddles have a chin rest as a separate piece, and in the violin chin rest piece is a part of the instrument’s tail piece.

The chinrest is mounted using an extra inventive screwing method. You will find this available in different designs, it can be kept on the top of the fiddle or the tailpiece’s side.

Bottom Line

Hope you are clear about the differences between a fiddle and the violin. Now that you know that they are the same instrument, which one do you want to play violin or the fiddle? Do you want to play both and see check one suits you the most? Hope you have a fun time playing whichever instrument suits you best.

You can also read: How to Get Better at Guitar?

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