The violin and fiddle are pretty much the same stringed musical instrument. It's generally called a fiddle when used to play folk music and violin when playing classical music.

Comparison chart

Fiddle versus Violin comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartFiddleViolin
Clef Treble Clef Treble clef
Range G3 - A7 G3 - A7
Strings Synthetic or Steel core E A D G. Synthetic preferred over steel core.
Playing style Bluegrass, folk, country, jazz, electric fiddle Folk, classical, jazz, country
What is it? 4 (or 5) Stringed bowed instrument 4 (or 5) Stringed bowed instrument
Purpose Express the performers' musical interpretation, improvisation and individual interpretation, not always a written form. Vastly played. Express the performers' musical interpretation, adhere to composer's interpretation. Also expresses clearer notes and treble reading.
Bridge May be more flat (less of an arc) to allow for double and triple stop bowing More arched for cleaner single noting.

What is a Fiddle?

The violin is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola and cello. A violin is called a fiddle when playing folk music. A "fiddle" is also a colloquial term for instruments used by players in all genres, including classical music. Fiddle playing, or fiddling, is a style of music.

Differences in Playing Style and Technique

When played in a folk style, it is said to be a fiddle and when played in classical tones it's called a violin. In fact, the playing style is the main criteria that differs the fiddle from the violin.

The violinist reproduces the composer’s music with exacting accuracy, down to the loudness of individual notes. A well-performed violin piece will not deviate in the slightest degree from the composer's notation of the music. This is also how a symphony can pull off having 50 or more musicians performing in exact unison.

Fiddlers on the other hand, bring their own interpretation to every piece, sometimes varying so far from the original melody, as to make it almost unrecognizable.

This cannot be interpreted to indicate either style of play derives any less intensity or greatness from the talent of the performers, indeed, both violin and fiddle style benefit greatly from the talent of the performer.

Some untrained fiddlers may not hold the instrument firmly between the chin and shoulder, and instead rest the instrument on their chest. This greatly reduces the playability of the instrument and is never seen in violin performance.


The violin almost always appears in orchestral, symphonic or chamber settings with other violins, violas, cellos, and double basses or symphonic horns.

The fiddle, on the other hand, may be accompanied by a wide range of instruments, including mandolin, guitar, drums, mountain dulcimer, banjo, and electronic keyboard.


Bowed string instruments are among the most difficult instruments to learn because the tone quality will degrade quickly in unpracticed hands. While it may be said that violinist have a higher need for professional training due to the exacting nature of excellent performance, this cannot, by any means, be interpreted to infer that the either style is more or less difficult to play.

Physical Structure

Both a fiddle and a violin are alike in physical appearance. Indeed, the exact same instrument may be played as a violin or fiddle, it is almost completely an issue of style and intent.

A very recent development in modern instruments is the introduction of the 5-string Fiddle. It includes a lower 5th (Viola) C-String, left and below the G string. This change has not been reproduced for the violin.

Another common difference may be the preference of synthetic polymer strings by most classical violinists, whereas some fiddle players like the newer steel core strings for the sharper, crisper sound.


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"Fiddle vs Violin." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 9 Aug 2020. < >