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Fiddle vs. Violin: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 7, 2023
The fiddle and violin are essentially the same instrument; the difference lies in how they're played and in what kind of music genres.

Key Differences

Fiddle is colloquially used to denote a violin when it is used to play folk or country music. Violin, while physically identical, is associated more with classical, jazz, and rock music. Their structural sameness facilitates versatile musical expression in varied contexts.
The playing style differentiates a fiddle from a violin. Fiddling often employs alternative tunings, a lively and rhythmic bowing style, and may focus on dance tunes. Violin playing, conversely, often adheres to classical techniques and music theory.
A musician’s choice of terms between fiddle and violin may hint at their musical training or genre preferences. Fiddlers might be self-taught, learning by ear, while violinists might have formal training, often reading sheet music proficiently.
Both fiddle and violin are utilized in educational contexts. Students may learn "violin" in school orchestras, whereas community or cultural gatherings might favor the term “fiddle” for its local and traditional implications.
Cultural and geographical variances influence the choice between fiddle and violin. In some locales, "fiddle" may be more prevalent due to the popularity of folk traditions, while "violin" might dominate in areas with strong classical music scenes.

Comparison Chart

Musical Genre

Often used in folk & country
Common in classical & jazz

Playing Style

Lively, rhythmic bowing
Structured, classical technique


Alternative tunings possible
Standard tuning common

Learning Method

Often by ear
Often through sheet music

Cultural Connotation

Informal, traditional
Formal, classical

Fiddle and Violin Definitions


A stringed instrument, especially used in folk music.
She played a lively tune on the fiddle.


A stringed musical instrument of treble pitch, played with a horsehair bow.
The first chair violin played a beautiful solo.


To make minor manual adjustments to something.
Stop fiddling with your pen and pay attention.


An instrument commonly found in classical orchestras.
The violin section gives the orchestra a rich, melodic layer.


To manipulate something fraudulently.
He was convicted for fiddling the accounts.


An instrument capable of carrying a musical performance.
She captivated the audience with her violin performance.


A reference to an activity or item of little consequence.
Learning to knit is not my fiddle.


An instrument often learned in formal music education.
He took violin lessons for several years at the conservatory.


Something often utilized in traditional cultural expressions.
The old fiddle on the wall had been in the family for generations.


An object crafted with a wooden body, four strings, and a bow.
The violin sounded warm and full after being adjusted by the luthier.


A violin, especially one used to play folk or country music.


A stringed instrument played with a bow, having four strings tuned at intervals of a fifth, an unfretted fingerboard, and a shallower body than the viol and capable of great flexibility in range, tone, and dynamics.


(Nautical) A guardrail used on a table during rough weather to prevent things from slipping off.


A small unfretted stringed instrument with four strings tuned (lowest to highest) G-D-A-E, usually held against the chin and played with a bow.
When I play it like this, it's a fiddle; when I play it like this, it's a violin.


(Informal) Nonsensical, trifling matters
"There are things that are important / beyond all this fiddle" (Marianne Moore).


Any instrument of the violin family, always inclusive of violins, violas, and cellos and sometimes further including the double bass.
The string quartet, one of the most popular groupings in chamber music, is composed entirely of violins: two violins proper, one viola, and one cello.


Is "fiddle" used in a particular music genre?

Yes, "fiddle" is commonly associated with folk, bluegrass, and country music.

Can "fiddle" refer to other instruments?

Sometimes, it may colloquially refer to similar string instruments like the viola, cello, or double bass.

Is the maintenance for a fiddle different from a violin?

No, maintenance involving string replacement, bow re-hairing, and keeping the instrument clean applies to both.

Can a violinist be considered a fiddler and vice versa?

Yes, though they may have to adapt their playing technique to suit different musical styles.

Is reading sheet music necessary for fiddlers?

Not always. Fiddling is often learned by ear, though sheet music can be used.

Is a fiddle a specific instrument?

No, "fiddle" refers to a bowed string instrument, typically the violin, but is also colloquially used for similar instruments like the viola.

Is the violin always played with a bow?

No, it can also be plucked, a technique known as "pizzicato."

Why are both terms, fiddle and violin, used?

It often comes down to tradition and the style of music being played.

What is "fiddling around"?

It means wasting time or being unproductive.

Is the playing technique different for fiddle and violin?

Yes, fiddling often employs different bowing and fingering techniques compared to classical violin playing.

Are the strings for fiddles and violins different?

They can be identical. However, some fiddlers may prefer steel strings for a brighter, crisper sound.

Does a violin/fiddle have frets?

No, violins and fiddles do not have frets, unlike guitars.

What are fiddle strings made of?

They can be made from steel, synthetic core, or gut.

What is the smallest string instrument in the violin family?

The violin is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in its family.

Are the fiddle and violin physically different?

No, they are essentially the same instrument but might be set up or played differently depending on the genre.

Is the learning curve similar for both fiddle and violin playing?

Fundamentally, yes. However, the specific styles and nuances of different musical genres can affect the learning curve.

How many strings does a violin have?

A violin typically has four strings.

Are there electric versions of violins and fiddles?

Yes, electric violins, which can also be used for fiddling, are available and used in various music genres.

Is the violin a classical instrument?

Yes, the violin is prominently featured in classical music, but it's used in various genres.

Is the violin made of a specific wood?

Violins are commonly made from spruce (for the top plate) and maple (for the back plate, ribs, and neck).
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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