The answer is: Nothing!  Wasn’t that an exciting blog post?

Just kidding!  Well, nowadays there really isn’t a physical difference between a “violin” and a “fiddle”.  The difference is in how the instrument is played.

So how is Fiddle Music played, and how is Violin Music played?

The violin technique and sound we know from Joshua Bell and Itzak Perlman are in the classical tradition.  This is the sound you’d think of when you hear that someone is “classically trained”.  The violin sits up on the shoulder under the chin.  The vibrato is intense and variable.  The bow technique ranges from heavy and throaty on the G string (lowest string) to light and peppy, almost bird-call-like on the E string (highest string).  The tuning from lowest to highest is G-D-A-E.  Classical violinists almost always learn music from reading it off the page, and of course can listen to lots of other violinists’ interpretations of repertoire from recordings.


Fiddle music is a departure from this sort of classical music style.  This is music you can tap your foot to, even dance to!  Each “tune” has at least two parts that repeat over and over.  Most fiddle players learn the music from picking it up by ear from other players, or are taught by rote (by ear, nothing written down to look at).  The fiddle might be tuned like a violin, or it may employ other tunings like G-D-G-D or other tunings to create certain patterns in the fingered notes.  Often, two strings are played at a time: one to play the melody and one to drone.  Violins used for fiddle music may have had a lower, flatter bridge installed to accommodate this.  Fiddlers also tend to hold the bow a little further away from the frog, like how baseball players “choke up” on a bat.




Tuned G-D-A-E

Uses violin tuning and/or other tunings


Irish, Old Time, Appalachian, Bluegrass, Scottish, Cape Breton…

Learn from sheet music and other violinists’ interpretations

Learn by rote, pick it up by ear

Plays strong melody on one string at a time

Plays strong repetitive melody on one string while droning on a second open string

Higher, more deeply curved bridge

Lower, flatter bridge

Specific bow hold

Can “choke up” on the bow for endurance

Intense, variable vibrato

Sometimes no vibrato used at all

Joshua Bell, Itzak Perlman, Ann Akiko Meyers, Anne-Sophie Mutter

Darol Anger, Jeremy Kittel, Alasdair Fraser, Hanneke Cassel


I hope you enjoyed learning the difference between a violin and a fiddle!  Here at Music Lab Woodland Hills, we teach both classical violin and all fiddle styles, to any and all ages and levels.  If you or your child are interested in learning violin and/or fiddle, don’t hesitate to sign up online for your free trial lesson!