Violin vs. Fiddle: What’s the Difference?

Violin vs. Fiddle What’s the DifferenceWith this month having one of many holidays, the Christmas tunes on the radio or holiday movies can inspire any child to learn an instrument, like the violin. It seems your child can’t stop talking about their interest in violin these days, especially if they enjoy “Carol of the Bells” by a classical artist or The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Now you find yourself looking up violin lessons in Atlanta to surprise them with a Christmas present!

In your search, it may have crossed your mind to question if there was a difference between the violin or the fiddle. You probably went back and forth with the answer. Obviously, they’re different instruments, or else they would have the same name. Or, no? Are they the same? Surely the fiddler on the roof played fiddle in “Fiddler on the Roof” and not a violin, right? You figure people play classical music on the violin and a jig on the fiddle. Is there a difference between the two?

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The subtle differences

Ask any fiddle or violin teacher in Atlanta, and they will tell you that there is no major difference between the violin or the fiddle. Both instruments have four strings and are played with a bow, plucked, or in some cases strum like a ukulele. They look virtually the same too.

Professional players will point out that the slight differences between the fiddle and the violin are that the violin may have synthetic strings instead of the classic steel strings. The fiddle, on the other hand, always has steel strings. The fiddle also has a later bridge and typically gets lower string action than the violin. Musicians who know the stringed family well will tell you that those who play the fiddle hardly leave first position, whereas violinists will use the entire range the instrument offers and will play notes on a much grander scale.

It’s about how you play

The key difference between the two instruments is how it’s played. So, yes, if you think of the violin playing more classical pieces than the fiddle, you’d be correct. Because the violin uses a broader range of notes, the violin is used for classical music and uses playing techniques like vibrato. On the other hand, the fiddle is mostly used for more upbeat songs that require quick note changes that are often featured in folk music. Unlike violinists, fiddlers are known to play music by ear rather than sight-read.

The fiddle is commonly used in folk music from countries and regions like:

  • Ireland: If your family is Irish, this comes as no surprise to you. The fiddle is one of the most popular instruments used in Irish Folk music. It’s often the main instrument you can hear in any Irish folk song.
  • Scandinavia: The Scandinavian region also uses a lot of the fiddle in its folk music. In Norway, they have a fiddle unique to their culture called the Hardanger fiddle that looks like the usual fiddle but can have eight or nine strings.
  • Scotland: Most Scottish Folk music is upbeat and energetic. It has been majorly influenced by Irish and Norwegian folk music.
  • North America: North American folk music comes in several different varieties included blues, bluegrass, cajun, and even rock. Folk music in the U.S. gets its influence from Irish and Scottish folk music.

If your family has Irish, Scottish, or Scandinavian roots, your child will likely want to learn some of their traditional folk songs and may even learn to play the fiddle one day! Ideally, though, they should learn to play the violin first to learn the basics of playing, sight-reading, and playing techniques.

Give the gift of learning

If you’re looking for a sweet surprise for your child this holiday season, consider giving them the gift of learning to play an instrument like the violin. There are a lot of things you can do, as a parent, to prepare your child for success with the violin. All of our tutors at Lessons In Your Home are thoroughly vetted. They love their jobs as both musicians and teachers and are ready to share their passion with your child. Our teachers will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are being taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child! Contact us today to learn more.

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