Violin vs fiddle: what is common and what makes them different

If you have ever played the violin, then at some point, you caught yourself thinking about the fiddle as well, probably wondering about the common ground or maybe the differences between these two instruments which look the same. 

The distinction might not be quite as foggy as the majority of people think, but it can unquestionably be overwhelming to bring those differences to light. You might even think: do these words have the same meaning?

Violin vs fiddle?

Or maybe, they are synonyms for the same instrument? 

Is there a hidden physical or historical distinction in them? 

And probably you will be right in every question asked here. Let’s dig in!


Violin vs fiddle: physical differences and similarities

The violin and the fiddle have four strings: G, D, A, and E; four pegs; one tailpiece; and the same dimensions. They are no different when it comes to construction and sound production: same body, same neck, same f-holes, same scroll, same pegbox. 

So physically, there is little to no difference between them, although fiddlers might use a different set up to classical violin players. If we think about a fiddler as a performer who plays folk, bluegrass, cajun, or country, we would likely be comparing these styles to classical music and how they might affect the fiddler’s choice of instrument setup. For example, different bridge or strings can make a better fit for country music. While it is not required, fiddlers might use a flatter bridge, where the top of the arch is trimmed off a little bit, making it easier and smoother to play double or even triple stops without struggling too much because the curve of the bridge is flattened. 

Also, fiddlers might prefer steel strings over gut or synthetic strings, which are used in classical and baroque music. 

All these modifications aren’t a requirement, only a performer’s choice, so technically, there is no difference between fiddle and violin. As far as the instruments’ bodies, there is absolutely no difference other than the style of playing.

Our perception of a fiddle

The words fiddle and violin are interchangeable. Many professional violinists may refer to a violin as a fiddle. It’s not uncommon to hear at a symphony orchestra rehearsal something like –” Hey, let me try your fiddle” or, “What’s wrong with your fiddle today?” or, “Your fiddle sounds bright today”.

Differences in music and playing style


The significant distinction between fiddle and violin originates from the style of music: what you play and how you perform it. Fiddlers interpret music very individually and often with notable deviations from the original song.

While playing, fiddlers can dance, move their bodies, nod their heads, and even walk around. Overall, they bring their own interpretation to the music, sometimes even making a melody unrecognizable to the original, and they also often interact with listeners and people in the audience.

Playability and technique: violin vs fiddle

Fiddling usually does not require professional technical training in comparison with the classical violin. Classical music is the most difficult to play, which often includes various types of strokes, different kinds of vibrato, and high positions. 

Going a bit deeper, it is worth saying that in fiddling vibrato is slower and broader and rather uncomplicated.

Fiddling excludes the variation of hand, wrist, and finger vibrato types, resulting in a more uniform, generalized or mixed type of vibrato.

On the other hand, a non-trained classical violinist will not be able to fiddle without practice because it is essential to know and feel the style of music while fiddling, which can include country, cajun, bluegrass styles, and Irish fiddle music.

Classical vs. Folk music

In contrast to fiddling, it is harder to improvise while playing classical music, and it requires the performer to be precise and follow the composer’s notations.

Mainly, Classical music requires a concert hall or at least a stage while fiddling is more informal, more like popular music.

Here you can find examples of fiddling and violin playing.




What truly makes the difference in both instruments is the music itself (folk, country, cajun, and bluegrass vs. Western European classical music), the style, the individual player’s technique, and their training.

Physical modifications can hardly be considered a significant part of fiddling. Folk and Classical music are two very separate styles and ways of playing, although both are very rich and bring diversity to the musical world and heritage.

If you have more questions, you are a student or a parent, and want to improve your violin playing, or looking for a violin tutor, you can schedule an online violin lesson with me clicking on the link below.

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