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What Is The Difference Between The Violin & The Fiddle?

Chances are you’ve heard of a violin and a fiddle (especially if you’re into blues or folk music.) But do you actually know the difference between a violin and a fiddle? Although it may be obvious to some, the answer might actually surprise you! Read on to learn the differences between a violin and a fiddle.

Two violins

Violin vs. fiddle

So, what is the difference between a violin and a fiddle? To sum it up in a few words, the violin and fiddle are the same exact instrument. While this may not come as a shock to some people, many think that the violin and fiddle are totally different instruments! The violin/fiddle is a wooden stringed instrument that you typically play with a bow. The instrument has four (sometimes five) strings and most have hollow, wooden bodies. The history of the modern violin dates back all the way to 16th century Italy. To play a violin, you hold the instrument horizontally and rest the bottom part of the body between your shoulder and chin. In present time, the violin is most frequently associated with classical music but it is frequently used in many other genres where it is known better as a fiddle!

Technically speaking, a fiddle can refer to any stringed instrument played with a bow. But it more commonly is only used to describe a violin. Put plainly, a violin is what the instrument is called when you’re playing classical music and fiddle is the informal term for it. The violin is typically called a fiddle when playing country, folk, blues, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, etc. While some people may disagree, playing classical music on the violin is more complex because they have to move through different positions with their fingers. When playing the more casual music, most fiddle players never leave first position. However, as many fiddle players will tell you, you do have to learn to keep up with a very fast pace when playing folk and bluegrass which can add a certain level of necessary skill to the instrument.


A violinist

In addition to the type of music played on the instrument, some fiddle players do prefer to modify their violin to make it more suitable to their preferred genre. Some fiddle players will switch out the type of strings on the instrument, bridges, and tuners. So, while some fiddles may look a bit different than the violins you’re used to seeing, they are still the same body and can produce the same sound overall.


5 Interesting facts about violins and fiddles

Now that you understand the differences between violins and fiddles, check out these interesting facts you may not know about the instrument!


Making a violin can take a very long time

If you didn’t already know, making a violin is incredibly complex. It actually takes over 70 different pieces of wood to come together to make one! In fact, it can take 120-150 hours for an experienced violin maker to build one violin! Talk about dedication to the craft.


Violin strings can be made out of several different materials

The first known violin strings were actually made out of sheep intestines! They did this by stretching out the intensities, drying them out, and twisting them to make the strings. Today, strings are more commonly made with steel or synthetic materials however, some professional musicians do still prefer to use sheep and cow guts as the base of their strings. These strings produce light and supple sounds however they can be finicky to figure out.

Online violin lesson

Violinists are smarter!

It is most likely well-known by now that learning how to play an instrument has a major impact on your mental, physical, social, and emotional skills. But more specifically, it has been found that playing the violin early on in someone’s lifetime can actually improve their memory and cognitive processing speeds. In addition, violinists are known to have better control of their hands as well as hand-eye coordination overall.


Violinists were the original conductors

If you’ve ever seen an orchestra play, then you’ve probably seen the person who stands at the front of the group keeping everyone on time and at the right pace. However, there wasn’t always a set role for a separate conductor in the orchestra. In fact, violinists used to be looked at as the head of the group to keep people in order before the modern day conductor came along!


What makes up the modern day bow

Up until the 19th century, a violin bow was actually shaped like a normal hunting bow! Today, bows are typically made from a mixture of nylon and horsehair. Each bow requires 150-200 hairs to be completed and all of these hairs must be perfectly straight for the bow to work properly. If there are any horse hairs that are thick, kinked, or knotted, they must be removed. While wood and horsehair is the more traditional way to make violin bows, today they are more typically made from a mixture of synthetic and natural materials to be more cost effective and to cater to vegans!

An in-home violin lesson in Toronto

Violin lessons in Toronto

Whether you’re interested in classical, country, folk, or more, we can help you achieve your music goals here at Greater Toronto Music School! We offer violin lessons in Toronto that are flexible to your busy schedule. We’re currently offering fully virtual lessons online or in-person private lessons right from the comfort of your own home. Call us today to learn more about how you can sign up for violin lessons in Toronto! And if violins aren’t your thing, we also offer a wide range of music lessons from the guitar to drums to brass instruments and even singing!



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