What’s in a name? The ‘fiddle’ and the ‘violin’ are (physically speaking), exactly the same instrument. The difference is all to do with style. In fact, it says a lot about just how adaptable this instrument is that it’s equally at home in your local bluegrass venue as it is in Carnegie Hall.

Maybe you’re picking up the violin/fiddle for the first time? Perhaps you’re thinking of introducing your child to the instrument? The chances are you’ve got a very definite idea about what style is going to be played. That’s completely fine. All we’re saying is that you might want to give both traditions a chance rather than concentrating on one or the other. Why restrict yourself? There are a number of myths surrounding both styles. Here are the reasons why you should put those myths out of your mind.

Myth 1: The violin is the most annoying instrument to listen to when there’s a beginner in the house!
This probably applies to the fiddle also – but is more commonly leveled at the violin. It’s a total cliché and totally unfair – on both the instrument and the person learning it – especially if it’s a kid! A word of advice: a good music teacher will always ensure that the practice pieces given to a beginner are matched perfectly to his ability. Assaults to the senses (hopefully at least!) should be kept to a minimum.

Myth 2: The fiddle is easier than the violin
This kind of suggests that there are no virtuoso fiddlers comparable to great violinists. It also suggests that you don’t need as much skill to be a great fiddler as you do to become a great violinist. Musicians from both traditions will tell you this is totally false!

Myth 3. You need to be in an orchestra to get the most out of the violin
Chamber group music, sonatas for violin and piano, arrangements of popular tunes, solo pieces… just check out the range of violin music we’ve got in stock and you’ll see that there’s much more to the instrument than orchestral works

Myth 4. I want my child to read music. I should stay clear of the fiddle.
It’s true that all types of folk music are based around what’s often called the oral tradition – i.e. people basically learning from each other. What they’re passing on (and more often than not, adding to themselves) are variations on a theme. In a way this is very similar to the jazz tradition. We’ve all got to start somewhere though and there’s plenty of published fiddle music out there. You definitely need someone to guide you in person with the fiddle though. Luckily there are plenty of teachers out there who are equally at home with being able to give you a grounding in theory at the same time as equipping you with the ability to take your place in a jamming session – eventually!

Myth 5. All I want is folk. Strictly fiddle for me!
Almost all classical music is rooted in folk. Where do you think the composers got their melodies? Check out Copland’s Appalachian Spring for pure Americana, Ralph Vaughan Williams for old- English folk tunes or composers such as Bela Bartok who essentially collected and arranged folk melodies from all over Eastern Europe.

The playing style of classical violin compared to must folk styles differs a lot. That’s not to say that the two traditions are totally separate. Take a look at both and see what you think.

Gary Smith