Are the fiddle and violin the same or not? In many ways, these two instruments are the same. In fact, the majority of violinists call their instrument a fiddle. Unlike the word “violin,” the term fiddle is both a verb and a noun. Violin is simply a noun, which means you can’t ask someone if he “violins,” only if he “fiddles.”
More commonly, fiddle is a term used to refer to a violin used in pop music, while violin is the name adopted for the instrument in classical or orchestral scenarios. However, as nouns, these terms can be used interchangeably in any setting.
According to Ted’s List, a violin can be called a fiddle and vice versa when it all boils down to it. These two instruments are more similar than they are different, with their differences leaning mostly on semantics. Today, we’ll be going over the things that make a fiddle and a violin virtually the same in every aspect.
A Comparison Between the Fiddle and the Violin
Let’s take a look at the following areas to have a clearer idea of the (very slight) differences and similarities of the fiddle and violin.
How do the violin and fiddle differ in terms of structure? Not by much, considering that in some scenarios, they are the same in every way structurally. It is just that fiddles have a flatter curve on the bridge’s top area and four fine tuners in general.
Among the slight differences between regular violins and fiddles might be seen in the old-time fiddling setting, where there is less of a curve on the fiddle’s top bridge due to it having been cut. It then results in the right-arm motion’s reduced range for rapid-string crossings, which is usually done in some playing styles. However, this structure does allow one to execute triple stops, chord playing, and double stops and shuffles with ease.
The classical setting expresses the need for a violin with a more rounded curve on its bridge’s top section, as this produces articulate notes with more ease and clarity. This specific design also accommodates the fingerboard better, making practice runs easier.
It is worth noting that not much of a difference exists between the slightly less round and rounder top bridge of the fiddle and violin, respectively. We’re talking mere millimeters in difference that won’t, in any way, hold you back from playing each instrument using styles meant originally for the other.
Some say the violin is a little bit harder to learn than the fiddle. However, the first time one sets out learning these instruments, there is very little that sets them apart in terms of difficulty. The intermediate and advanced stages are usually where these differences become more pronounced until they cause both play styles to diverge.
Vibrato mastery is the focus of early violin practices, which is done primarily by developing the left-hand technique for achieving consistency and tonal beauty. In violin practice sessions, developing the right hand lets one play more smoothly and with controlled pressure.
On the other hand, slide learning, rolls and graces, and Irish cuts and fourth finger drones are what’s typically addressed by the left hand early on in fiddling.
Fiddling is something that normally doesn’t require formal lessons, so most fiddlers aren’t usually versed in reading musical notes or playing things by ear. While a lot of violinists possess these skills, they typically fall short in improvisation. This led to the birth of yet another stereotype.
The fiddle and violin narrative is a case of the “same instrument but different technique.” Playing the violin requires one to hold on to the top of the instrument using his or her jaw, making talking and playing simultaneously virtually impossible. With fiddling, you can find a way around this by holding the instrument down with the arm instead of the chin to play “dance moves” music that would otherwise be frowned upon in a classical setting.
As far as musical movement is concerned, a fiddle usually plays a more upbeat tempo fit for dance music. It creates the kind of music passed on from generation to generation that helps trigger the rhythmic movement of feet. Conversely, the musical movement of the violin is smoother and more studied. Basically, it involves gliding feet and bodies as opposed to stomping and tapping moves.
Your Choice Depends on Your Music
As far as appearance goes, there is very little (if any) difference between a violin and a fiddle. With looks as the sole basis, you can refer to your instrument by either name, no matter the scenario. However, if you were to consider the play style, musical movement, and technique used to play the instrument, you might lean towards one name more than the other.
Nonetheless, at the end of the day, the moniker you choose for the violin or fiddle boils down to the circumstances surrounding your relationship with it.