I have heard so many people talking about buying a fiddle, not violin, but aren’t they the same thing? Just played for different types of music? It is not wrong to summarize in such way, but if you take a look at fiddlers’ instruments and violinsts’ instruments, you may be able to notice some differences that better answer the question.
While the body of the instrument is the same whether it’s a violin or a fiddle, the set-up of the instrument can vary between violins and fiddles. Many fiddlers prefer a different set-up than many violinists. The set-up includes the strings, the bridge, and any shoulder rests, chin rests, or pick-ups that a player may choose to use.
Most classical violinists use gut and synthetic strings , while steel core strings typically chosen by fiddlers (and electric violinists) who prefer the sharp, crisp sound those strings lend to the music.
A major set-up difference can often be easily found on the bridge of the instrument. A fiddler player often used a bridge that is carved flatter than standard violin bridge, the flatter bridge lessens the angles between the strings, which allows the player to play two and even three notes at a time… a thing that desired in many acoustic fiddle genres. But bear in mind that this is a matter of preference, exceptions may exist in the choice of bridge, but generally speaking, fiddler has a flatter bridge than violin.
Violin players hold their instrument between their jaw and shoulder, so for the level of comfortness, they usually will need to use shoulder rest, however, fiddlers often need to use their voice during performances, and therefore prefer to hold the instrument down on their arm to keep their jaws free, so no shoulder rest will be used for fiddlers.
Apart from those obvious differences, it is all how you play it. There is no deviation from the music as it was written by the composer. It’s a more “technical” way of playing. Fiddlers, on the other hand, have much more freedom in how they interpret a piece of music and in creating their own playing style, so fiddle music is often improvised by the player.
So, let’s go back to the original question, are you able to buy a fiddle? Not really, because fiddle and violin are essentially the same thing, it may be easier to buy a standard violin and customized the setup a bit so as to better fiddling.
Photo credit: https://www.fiddlehangout.com/photo/10450
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