The fiddle, violin, and viola all come from this family of stringed instruments. They’re very similar in how they sound. These instruments are often confused and some people refuse to acknowledge that there’s a difference between the fiddle and violin. Footballers will tell you it’s more about the style of play than anything else that makes a difference.
What are the things that fiddle, violin and viola players often refer to when they talk about the similarities or differences between these three stringed instruments? Is there a certain way to hold your guitar, drumsticks, or other instrument? Do you use a violin to play classical music while somebody who plays the fiddle is found most often in a country music band or a bluegrass group? Are there any other differences between guitar players?
However, it doesn’t seem impossible to imagine that a violinist and a fiddler have the same instruments. Although the skill set and play style are more important, the gear you have is often what determines who you are in terms of a musician. Are you fiddler or a violinist?
What is a Fiddle
The violin is a bow-shaped instrument that has four strings, each tuned in perfect fifths. The violin is the smallest member of the string instrument family, along with the cello and viola. When playing folk music, a violin is called a “fiddle”. The term “fiddle” can also be used to describe instruments that are used in any genre, even classical music. Fiddle playing (or fiddling) is a type of music.
They could be the same instrument. But why are they called different names? It’s quite surprising. The truth is that the words reveal the same root but come from different sources: fiddle and violin came from Germanic paths, while fiddle comes from Italian. This is all. Although the two terms were originally interchangeable, styles and purposes evolved so that the fiddle became more popular in bluegrass. The violin, however, remained classical.
The fiddle and the violin are both very respectable instruments, which require great skill. You can play the violin and fiddle on stage at country festivals or in concert halls.
What’s the Difference Between a Violin and a Fiddle
There is a big difference in the training, which can take up to twenty years.
However, despite their vastly different musical backgrounds, they are still the same instrument. You would think there would be some sort of distinction, but there is. It’s kind of.
The real difference between the instruments is not their names. It’s how they are used. A violin and a fiddle can be considered the same instruments. They are distinguished by:
- Condition (clean vs dirty),
- Set-up (pro vs DIY),
- Repertoire (classical vs bluegrass, country, folk, jazz)
- The te-chnique (virtuosity or self-taught)
- Sound (full loud tone or scratchy).
Both are essential to music. I don’t want you to think I have a negative view of fiddlers. Without fiddlers, the world would be boring. Vengerov’s Tchaikovski playing on his Stradivarius is a great pleasure, but I also enjoy drinking a beer and jamming with fiddlers in the local pub.
Violin vs Fiddle: Qualities of the Violin
A violin should always be well-set up, clean, tuned and with great strings.
The violin is definitely the more classy of the two instruments. The violin is the most important instrument in music. There are strict standards for its upkeep and a general tonal expectation across much of classical production. It is rare to find a serious violin player that keeps their instrument in pristine condition.
It’s not surprising that violins are more expensive than fiddles due to the extra care and expense involved. For example, string preference is subjective but tends to be higher with violins than with fiddles, especially if you use traditional gut strings. When the violin was first created, it was common to use animal guts for strings. This tradition is still being followed by some players. They are a bit more expensive than steel strings which are popular among fiddle players, but they can be used by violin players as well.
A violin’s bow is often more elegant and well-kept than a regular one. It is likely that any violin player will keep their violin tuned. There are no words to describe the dedication of violin players to keeping their expensive instruments in tip-top condition.
These tendencies are not just about tradition or show. Classical music, which violinists often perform, is well-known for its complexity, precision, and beauty. Many violin players are taught to a very high standard to be able to play with the same robotic precision as the composers. It takes years to perfect this technique and violin players who keep it alive are not keen to abandon the exact technique they have worked so hard to master. Prissy? Maybe. Effective? Inarguably. You can see it in the many talented and traditionally-trained violinists.
The most important difference lies in the sound. The traditional violin tone is just as perfect as the playing. It is rich and full of sound, doesn’t need amplification and, when it’s done right, it sounds pitch-perfect. With such a tight guideline for playing there is less room for error. Therefore, some techniques used in fiddle playing are not applicable to the orchestra.
It’s not surprising that violinists are able to get a snobby wrapping from certain people, if you stop and think about it. The violin is a perfect instrument. It should be treated like a violin. You play it like you would a violin. The violin sounds like a violin. That’s that. The fiddle is next.
Fiddle vs Violin: Qualities of the Fiddle
Habitually, the fiddle has a DIY maintenance. It is made of old, cheap steel strings and old bow hair with broken hair. The fiddle is also covered in rosin dust.
Michael Cleveland is a perfect example of a great fiddler. You can see his personal technique, his amazing sound, swing, and energy. Don’t lie to me, he has a great technique!
The 16-century classic beauty of this backwoods version is actually the same instrument. What makes it a Fiddle? It’s how it is played and the adjustments it requires. Fiddle players don’t tend to be very picky about maintaining their instruments or buying high-quality instruments. Fiddlers do not want great sound, but there are many high-end instruments out there.
However, a fiddler will often be more picky about what they need than a violinist. Many fiddles are available for as low as $500 and will suit many players perfectly. Imagine trying to sell anything at this price to a violinist. This is how you see it.
The fiddler’s style is, in a way, a tradition all its own. They get the tone they want from their steel strings, even though the price is cheaper. The dead bow hairs aren’t a problem, and the fiddle is probably clean. (If you are a violinist, I sincerely apologize for the trauma this sentence has caused.
If their music desired perfection, fiddlers might be more picky than their violin-playing counterparts. But imperfection is part of the roots of bluegrass and jazz music. These types of music are known for their spontaneity and willingness to improvise. Do you ever play a wrong note when playing your violin ensemble? Good luck ever forgiving yourself. Did you ever play the wrong note in jazz? Congratulations on your new record deal!
Music styles such as country and folk don’t always rely on improv. Imagine Paganini walking to a barn in Alabama, dressed in his finest, playing a Charlie Daniels song on his unique, hand-made instrument. The violin is just as important as the fiddle.
Fiddlers are known for using a less formal style. Fiddlers are often self-taught and have some unsavory habits that have become the norm because they weren’t taught. This is quite the opposite to the perfectionist violinist. Technique differences don’t always stem from poor practice, unless you ask a violinist. Most technique differences boil down to style, regardless of whether it was misinformation. Standard tuning and vibrato, for instance, don’t have the strictest standards in fiddling (source).
Fiddle vs Violin vs Viola: 10 Small Differences
The difference between a violin and a fiddle is like the difference between, say, apples and oranges. Fiddles are generally used to play old-timey music and violins are generally used to play classical music.
1. Fiddle vs Violin – the frame of the body
These 3 instruments are made from polished hardwood. Some sociologists, however, argue that they’re all the same.
Both the violin and fiddle have smaller frames than the viola, both in width and length. Standard fiddles have a wider diameter than the violin due to the arched angle at the waist. Many agree that it is difficult to tell the difference between standard fiddle and violin size because they differ depending on their manufacturer.
2. Strings and tuning
The violin strings are usually tuned to G3, D4, E5, and Viola is tuned C3, G3, and D4. Modern fiddlers have added a fifth string to the violin’s strings. However, the tuning has changed to G3, D4, E5, and A3.
This gives fiddle music a folk-country twang, which is a good match for a banjo. Fiddlers, especially those who have been classically trained, prefer the traditional four-string musical instrument.
A viola’s natural tuning is exactly one fifth lower than a violin and has a range exceeding three and a half octaves.
The pitch at which a violin can be played varies between the strings G3 and C8, which corresponds with the highest notes on a modern piano. However, harmonics produced by the top notes of the violin family are quite different to a viola or fiddle.
3. Violin vs Fiddle Bridge
A fiddle’s bridge is flatter than that of a classical violin and has less arched. This allows for triple stop and double stop bowing. A violin’s bridge is more arched and is designed to produce a cleaner note.
There are different tones for the violin, viola and fiddle. Each instrument has a unique style. Each style is able to benefit from the differences in the bridges. A fiddle requires a lot more string bending and stops while bowing, while a violin requires only one tone. A viola requires that the player arch strings with a straightbow for better tones.
Find out more about how to build a fiddle at FiddleClass or in our article on fiddle building.
4. Sizes for Violin and Fiddle
A viola’s body length is 38cm-43cm long, while a violin and fiddle are 35.5cm long. The violin bow is approximately 1 cm longer than the viola bows, and the fiddle bows are slightly longer than a violin.
5. Differences in music played and sound
The violin is more inclined to classical or traditional music, while the fiddle can be found in bluegrass, western swing and folk music. The fiddle is also used in Celtic cultural permanences.
You can find violins in country, jazz, and classical music.
The viola is also a standard instrument in contemporary pop music.
The sound of the viola is more deep and mellow than that of a violin. However, the sound of the violin is louder than that produced by viola.
Music for the viola is written in the alto key; it uses the C clef, while music for the violin and fiddle are written in the treble key. Music for the fiddle can also be written in C clef.
Violina has the advantage over other instruments because the alto clef is seldom used with it.
7. Playing styles and techniques
The viola is bigger than the violin so it’s important to use a different technique.
Viola has a heavier bow than the violin and heavier strings than the violin. This allows the player to leverage the ropes more effectively. A longer bow allows the player to produce a lower note that isn’t as high as the violin, but still sweet enough to keep the audience engaged.
The left side of the violin’s jaw should be resting on the chinrest, and the left shoulder supporting the instrument. The left hand of the player presses on the strings to produce pitch, while the right hand plucks or bows them to create sound.
The exact reproduction of music by violins is a well-known fact. A well-played violin will not deviate from the composer’s music notation in any way.
Because they require such precision, symphonies can carry up to 50 violinists.
There is also the fiddle. They are well-known for their unique interpretations of every piece of music. Fiddlers can vary the original melody, making it difficult to recognize. It is well-known that the style of the fiddle can benefit the performer by showcasing his/her talent in a unique manner.
You can hold the fiddle between your chin and shoulder, or you can rest it on your chest. In a violin performance, the fiddle should never be placed on the chest.
8. Composition and Accompaniment
Most compositions, including “Kegelstatt Trio”, “Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Serenade” include permanence violin parts. A violin typically accompanies the cellos, violas, and sometimes symphonic horns and/or double basses.
The violin is often used in instrumental pieces alongside a diverse range of instruments including banjos, electronic keyboards and guitars.
9. Parts and construction of Fiddle, Viola and Violin
They are very similar in terms of their parts, construction, and build. Only difference is that the chinrest of a fiddle is an individual piece and not part of the tailpiece for the viola or violin. The clever screwing mechanism mounts the chinrest on the fiddle. You can place it on either the side of your fiddle tailpiece, or directly above the top.
However, it is easy to tell the differences in musical instruments between a Hardanger Fiddle or a Stradivarius Violin. ).
10. Physical Structure
A violin and a fiddle are identical in appearance. Although the same instrument can be used as a violin and fiddle, it’s almost entirely a matter of style and intent.
The introduction of the 5-string Fiddle is a recent innovation in modern instruments. It has a lower 5th (Viola), C-String, and is below the G string. This is not a reproduction of the change for the violin.
A common distinction could be the preference for synthetic polymer strings among classical violinists. However, some fiddle players prefer the crisper sound of the steel core strings.
Violins and Violas are both members of the violin family, but they have some significant differences. The Fiddle is also a member of this family but shares less in common with them other than the name. Hopefully this will clear up some of the misconceptions.
FAQ for Violin vs Fiddle Differences
What are the differences between the violin and the fiddle?
The violin is a bowed string instrument that was invented in Europe. The fiddle is an old folk instrument originating from the British Isles.
The violin has four strings and a body that has a hollowed-out back and sides, while the fiddle has five strings and a flat back.
The violin’s body has been carved out of one piece of wood, while the fiddle’s body consists of two pieces of wood that are joined together by pegs on either side of the neck.
How does the violin sound different from a fiddle?
The violin is the most famous of all stringed instruments. It has been around for centuries. The violin is also a very versatile instrument. It can be played with a bow or plucked, and it produces a variety of sounds.
The fiddle is a type of stringed instrument that has been around for centuries as well. It is smaller than the violin and has a different sound because it uses gut strings rather than steel strings on its body.
What are some of the similarities between violin and fiddle?
Violin and fiddle are both stringed instruments. The violin is a bowed instrument and the fiddle is a plucked one.
Both instruments have four strings and are also tuned in fourths, but the violin has four movable pegs for adjusting the tension of its strings, while the fiddle has one peg.
The violin is also known as a “concert” instrument whereas the fiddle is traditionally used in folk music.
Do you need an instrument to play a violin or fiddle?
One of the most common questions asked by people who are learning to play a violin or fiddle is “do I need an instrument to play?” The answer is that you don’t need anything but your hands and fingers.
However, if you want to play a violin or fiddle professionally, then yes, you will need an instrument. There are some instruments that can be used for both violin and fiddle – such as the mandolin and guitar.