difference between a violin and fiddle???

September 7, 2010 at 10:38 PM ·

what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin?  what is the difference between a fiddler and a violinist?

Replies (43)

September 7, 2010 at 11:05 PM ·

there is probably already a thread some were around here that covers this. and this has been a question since violins existed (or maybe fiddles existed, LOL). there is no real difference. Some of the labeled differences are just preference. for example some fiddlers like there bridge cut flatter. but this is only preference. You can take that very same instrument and put a standard bridge and you have a violin, on which you can still play fiddle music. I have seen even in the classical world a violin being called a fiddle. for example in Harry Wakes book "useful measurements" he has a quote under a picture of a luthier looking at a violin were the quote states something like the following: he looks over the instrument, and after satisfying himself, says "yes, it is a fiddle". For a general: a fiddle is used to play fiddle music by a fiddler, and a violin is used to play everything else by a violinist. but both can play or be both.

September 7, 2010 at 11:07 PM ·

The terms "violin" and "fiddle" are used interchangeably, but there are actually a few differences to accomodate the music. A fiddle typically has a flatter bridge so that double stops and chords can be played more easily and it becomes more possible to play 3 notes at once. Fiddles also are usually strung with steel strings for sound and durability. I also find that fiddlers use more rosin than traditional violinists.

Realistically, you can say either one and it'll mean the same thing, but this is from a technical point of view. Hope this helped!

September 7, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

Oh dear, I can't stop myself.

A.  No one cares if you spill beer on a fiddle.

B.   One has strings, the other has strangs.

September 7, 2010 at 11:22 PM ·


I can't seem to find it but I had comic that gave the difference. it was a shop that on one side a sign said fiddles and on the other side a sign said violins. In the middle was two men: the one in the suit and tie was looking at the violins, the other man was in overalls and a straw hat, looking at the fiddles

September 7, 2010 at 11:42 PM ·


What do you mean that no one cares if you spill beer on a fiddle? It matters, expecially if it is good beer!

September 7, 2010 at 11:49 PM ·

I think it's safe to say that when even Heifetz refers to a violin as a fiddle they are the same thing:


(at 5:38)


September 8, 2010 at 12:07 AM ·

This is like saying that there's a difference between a cup'o'jo and a cafe latte. There is no difference, except the cafe latte costs about $2.50 more.

Likewise, there is no difference between a violin and a fiddle, except that the violin costs about $250,000 more. Both a violin and a fiddle have 6 letters, and both refer to roughly the same musical instrument. Both can be used as a ping pong paddle or to row a boat. Both have strings mistuned to the same notes.

However, a violin is primarily a noun, and it has only one meaning (the musical instrument). A fiddle is both a noun (the musical instrument) and a verb ('Don't fiddle around with that vase; you could break it.'). You never hear anyone say, 'Don't violin around with that vase; you could break it." Occasionally each can be used as an adjective ('Keep that violin player away from that fiddle player.'). 

As Bob Newhart once said, "I don't like country music. I don't mean to denigrate those who do like country music. And for those of you who like country music, 'denigrate' means to put down."

September 8, 2010 at 12:11 AM ·

Nothing clears this kind of doubts better than Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary:

"Fiddle, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat"

Funnily enough, it suits the noun "violin" just as well =)
And there is also:

"Cremona, n. A high-priced violin made in Connecticut".

I wouldn't consider the differences so technically...

September 8, 2010 at 04:22 AM · Not to intrude, but this is one of our funnier threads.

September 8, 2010 at 12:12 PM ·

Years ago I heard a country fiddler interviewed on television, and she was asked the same question. She thought for a moment and said: "well...I guess if you don't read music you play a fiddle".

I basically agree with everyone who says that they are two words that mean the same thing but that one seems to fit more or less better, depending on the context. Country players seem to only use the word, 'fiddle'. Classical players affectionately use both.  I usually use 'violin' more in the abstract, i.e. 'violin technique', 'violin repertoire'. I usually  say 'fiddle' to refer to a specific instrument - 'this fiddle has a brown varnish' etc.  To say 'the Beethoven fiddle concerto' doesn't quite work!

I seem to remember reading that both words may have derived from an older instrument, the vielle.

September 8, 2010 at 02:33 PM ·

On a fiddle you can fiddle around, but on a violin you can violate around. What can a violin do that a fiddle cannot?  Violinate.

September 8, 2010 at 03:09 PM ·

But can it do that by its own v(i)olition? ;-)

September 8, 2010 at 05:01 PM ·

I always tell folks it's a violin if you're the one selling it.  Call it a fiddle when you're the one buying.

September 8, 2010 at 05:04 PM ·

So. this Fiddler goes into a music store and starts playing the violins .After a while the clerk comes over and says "that's some great fiddling fiddler" .The Fiddler is upset by this because the music he was playing  is classical. He ask the Clerk "how did you now I was a fiddler".    Clerk         " Your Style" .   The  Fiddler leaves the store ,angry at what the clerk said. The next day the Fiddler signs up for University so he can have Perfect pitch ,perfect posture and perfect style and no one will guess that he was a fiddler.  After years of studying the arts the Fiddler leaves the University with his degree in hand.He holds his head up high for now he has perfect pitch ,perfect posture and the perfect style. He then walks into a store and starts playing the violins.He plays Mozart then some Beethoven and of course  some Paganini .The clerks come up to him "Hey ,your a fiddler arnt yeah?" The Fiddler looks at him in amazement "how did you know?" .Clerk  "Your at a Canadian Tire Store"

September 8, 2010 at 05:39 PM ·

the mark up

September 8, 2010 at 05:48 PM ·

commonly held distinction is beer stains on one and not the other.  i think the question has more to do with the music you're playing ... and what you wear while playing it.

September 8, 2010 at 07:21 PM ·

I've noticed a few things about the different setups for fiddle and violin, as mentioned earlier. I'm of the opinion that you can just as easily play "fiddle" tunes as classical pieces when a fiddle (er..violin) has a classical setup - reasonably high bridge, minimum of synthetic core strings (not steel core). On the bluegrass style setup, they are normally strung with steel core and have a flattened bridge for easier shuffle bowing (ie rapid alternation between string pairs 32-21-32 etc). However, with a classical setup, I find this just as easy to do. Why? Synthetics (or even gut) have far more "give", and playing away from the bridge eases the action of the shuffle. Admittedly, the tone will be a bit different, but from a playing point of view it's still very possible.

Now, try playing in the high positions with a flattened bridge ... it's all too easy to accidently hit adjacent strings when bowing on any of the inner strings.

Difference between fiddlers and violinists? Well, epic really. Generalising, fiddlers play on cheaper instruments, have less formal training than violinists, tend to play in 1st position mostly, and are better at producing solid, rhythmic, foot-tapping music (as much of the repertoire is dance music anyway). Violinists can produce purer, sweeter tone, and often are more technically advanced because of the nature of their repertoire, but sometimes find it difficult to adapt to playing dance music / and or playing / learning by ear (and fiddlers find it difficult when attempting classical works, even those in 1st position only). As I said, these are just generalisations, and there are indeed fiddlers with astounding (non-classical) technique and musicality, simply because of their innate talent.

Then there are the crossovers - classical experts who move into or adopt other genres and play excellently in them. Giles Apap is one such example - Joe Venuti and Hugo Rignold, to name but a few more.

I think the distiction between fiddlers and violinists is blurring by the day .... :)

September 8, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

The fight between violin and fiddle was on the go

When fiddle claimed that only it can play Cotton Eyed Jo

Violin retorted when it comes to a Quadrille

Only it knows how to fill the grill  

Fiddle then called violin a gigolo

And violin said that remark comes from a silly bow.

September 8, 2010 at 07:38 PM ·

" Poetic Justice" :)

September 8, 2010 at 08:58 PM ·

I always liked this description of the difference:

    A violin sings; a fiddle dances.


But to get less serious...

    A violin has a brown neck; a fiddle has a red neck.


Q: How do you get a fiddler to stop playing?

A: Put sheet music in front of him.


Q: How do you get a violinist to stop playing?

A: Take his sheet music away.

September 8, 2010 at 10:51 PM ·

i was afraid this would degenerate into bad humor.  but here's some more:

how many fiddlers does it take to change a light bulb?   answer:  5.  1 to change it and 4 to complain that it's electric.

how many fiddlers does it take to eat a possum?  answer:  2.  one to eat it and one to watch for cars.....



September 9, 2010 at 05:02 AM ·

lol! Love the possum one! Sounds like we could take all the Jeff Foxworthy  "you know you're a red neck when"  jokes, and substitute "fiddler'  for "red neck".

feristannce, here are a few I just found, I'll tell ya what...

You think "The Nutcracker" is something you do off the high dive.

Directions to your house include: "turn off the paved road."

You've ever hollered "Rock the house, Bubba!" during your kid's piano recital

You prominently display a gift in your house that you bought at Graceland

It's midnight and everyone one your street knows what album you're playing.

You prepare for a bubble bath by eating beans.


You tap your foot when music isn't playing.

You CAN'T stop tapping your foot when music IS playing.

Your pencil/pen made a make-shift bow.

When someone screams, 'Smash the windows!' you know they're not saying let's party-harty.

When you hear a little kid counting to three, a waltz starts playing in your head.

Jigs are super cool.

The only camps you ever go to are fiddle camps.

You are good friends with the musicians on any fiddle CDs you own.

When you told your friends that her cuts werent good, you weren't thinking in an emo sense.

Your year really starts when fiddle camp rolls around.

You can listen to fiddle music and not be annoyed.

You don't plan parties anymore, you plan 'jams'.

When the song thats been stuck in your head all day isn't heavy metal, it's Willow springs.

September 9, 2010 at 12:11 PM ·

You load your shotgun so that you can shoot down The Lark Ascending.

September 9, 2010 at 02:04 PM ·

A fiddler and a violinist were walking through the woods together when a large bear came on to the path, the fiddler removed his shoes and prepared to run, the violinist said you cant out run a bear. The fiddler said, I dont have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you  ;)


How many violinists does it take to change a light bulb....they dont know until the conductor tells them.


Its all in good fun picking on each others styles. Some funny stuff about fiddlers, got me to smile. On the serious side though,  Im a fiddler , but I like good classical music as well. You'll find quite the mix of CDs in my collection. From old scratchy recording of old time fiddlers to Hilary Hahn playing the Bach solo's  (love Hilary's playing).

We all share the same love for the same instrument and encounter the same problems . On the flattened bridge matter, I play with a standard (classical) cut bridge.  The flatter bridge is used by a lot of Old Time and Bluegrass players.  But fiddlers in the Irish,English,Scottish and Cape Brenton  styles like the classical cut as they play more cuts ,rolls and triplets then they do drones and double stops.

I belong to both fiddle and violin forums because something can be learned from all styles.

Alright, well, Im gonna kick off my shoes,put on my straw hat and bib overall's and get  out my violin and sheet music and work on some Bach, ya'll have a great day !!

September 9, 2010 at 02:32 PM ·

Fiddler: "Doc, I keep hearing the same tune over and over again in my mind. What should I do?"
Psychiatrist: "Vocals."

Violinist: "Doc, I keep hearing the same concerto over and over again in my mind. What should I do?"
Psychiatrist: "Skip to the coda."

September 9, 2010 at 06:14 PM ·

this should settle it: (great w.c. fields routine)



September 10, 2010 at 10:25 AM ·

Following on from Jim Dorans' post I believe I must be a fiddle/violin cross-over, but in the other direction, from Irish/English folk to classical.  To be fair, I had a considerable amount of classical cello playing behind me long before I started on the fiddle/violin. Does that count?

September 10, 2010 at 10:37 AM ·

The difference is clear: you can fiddle on a violin but you can not violin on a fiddle.

 Which, for no particular reason, reminds me of my favorite from preschool):  How do you tell a male  hippopotamus from a female hippopotamus? 

You tell it a joke.

If he laughs its a male and if she laughs its a female. 


September 10, 2010 at 02:02 PM ·

Violinist: "As an encore, my accompanist - Vladimir Horowitz - and I should like to play 'Fantasie Melancholique La Feline and Scherzo' by Johann Von Schteppinit."

Fiddler: "Now I'm gonna' tickle your ears with another little fiddler's tune called 'Scratch that cat; she's meowin' again.' Here we go now - one, two, three, four.... "

September 12, 2010 at 03:17 AM ·

It's a fiddle if you are buying, and when it comes time to sell it, it's a violin.

April 12, 2013 at 05:56 PM · The violin and fiddle are the same instrument.

The word violin is English for Violino which comes from Italy, and in Germanic are 3 words: Violine or Geige, or Fiedel (hence the word fiddle).

April 12, 2013 at 08:58 PM · Dr. Watson Forbes (Head of Music for BBC Scotland) wrote a Forward to the book "The Violin Makers" by Mary Anne Alburger (1978) stating that the "... fedyl was used for centuries before the more sophisticated violin was brought to Scotland -- but the name was transferred, and so we often talk of the violin as the fiddle." Origins of words are always interesting. German or Scottish? Hmmm...

April 13, 2013 at 09:28 AM · Classical Latin has a word "fides" (nothing to do with faith, btw) meaning a gut string of a stringed instrument, and, by extension, a stringed instrument such as lyre, lute or cithara. Bowed instruments were apparently unknown in those days. Derived words in the Latin are "fidicula", a small lute or cithara, and "fidicen", meaning someone who plays the lute.

I wonder if the Latin root "fid-" is also common to the much later "fiddle".

April 13, 2013 at 10:36 AM · My daughter is asked this all the time because she plays both classical and Irish music so when she does an Irish performance, she will sometimes let the crowd know the difference between a fiddle and a violin. She shows them her fiddle then stands up straight and tall with her best violin posture, plays something that shifts up really high, and says, "If I stand like this and play like this, this instrument magically turns into a violin."

April 13, 2013 at 11:52 AM · A "violin" is what you play.

A "fiddle" is what everyone else plays.

April 13, 2013 at 01:57 PM · If you're playing violin, you can't stop in the middle of the song and spit!

April 13, 2013 at 02:53 PM · fiddle players can shuffle effortlessly - violinists can't.

April 13, 2013 at 03:18 PM · Ahem. I would like to call your attention to the Beethoven "Shufflekeit" Quartet (Opus 0.07), which calls for the first violinist to use a "spitcatto" bowing in the slow movement (the so-called "Drool" movement). And it has to be played legato, to emphasize the flowing melody. It's a wonderful spittune. You can certainly appreciate it more if it's saliva performance.

April 13, 2013 at 04:30 PM · You can stop a violin from playing if you take away the player's sheet music.

You can stop a fiddle from playing if you put the sheet music in front of the player.

April 13, 2013 at 05:25 PM · On a more serious note, in Scottish music there's a long tradition of good classical players who are also excellent fiddlers.

The instrument is the same, and many elements of technique are the same. It's the phrasing and ornamentation that are different.

Of course, there are many classically trained players who try fiddling but play with classical phrasing - not a great sound. But if you understand the fiddle tradition you are playing, having a classical technique can only be an advantage.

April 13, 2013 at 05:40 PM · i find bouncing the bow properly isn't easy either.

April 16, 2013 at 11:44 AM · The difference is that when you go to a fiddle workshop the person leading it says, "well that's an f there, but if you want to play a g, no one will give you a ticket." Or, "you are supposed to do a burl there, but you can just play one note if you want." Truthfully, I don't know what happens in a violin workshop, but I suspect tickets might be given. :)

April 16, 2013 at 07:07 PM · "A violin sings, a fiddle dances."

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