What is the Difference Between a Violin and a Fiddle?

What is the Difference Between a Violin and a Fiddle?

I get this question a lot. And the answer is, nothing!  A violin and a fiddle are the exact same instrument. One that is used for orchestral work can also be used for Celtic, Bluegrass or any other type of fiddle playing.

That said, violinists and fiddlers have different needs from their instruments and may look for different attributes. A violinist playing in a large symphony might want an instrument with a loud and bright sound, while a fiddle player who mainly plays in small venues may look for a warmer, softer tone in their instrument.

In addition, some of a violin’s parts may be changed to adjust for sound and playing style. A fiddler benefits from a slightly flatter bridge, enabling easier crossing of strings and use of double-stops. A classical violinist uses a more arched bridge to ensure they only touch the string(s) intended at any time. The type of strings on a violin can make a big difference in its sound, preferences varying on individual tastes and genre.  Strings can have steel, synthetic, nylon, perlon or gut core each of which produces a different tone. The bow too, plays an important role, and can impact a violin’s sound greatly.

While the fiddle and violin are indeed the same instrument, musicians will buy and adapt their instrument differently, depending on their needs. What do I play? I am fortunate enough to have received a 1921 Heberlein violin in high school when I played with the Westchester Youth Symphony. It is a beautiful violin with a bright, ringing tone that I find well suited to both orchestral work and fiddling. I have a classically arched bridge and have used Dominant strings since I got my instrument. I have tried other types and brands, but I’ve yet to find anything I prefer more.