Which Came First the Fiddle or the Violin?

If you’ve been reading about the difference between a violin and a fiddle, you’re probably curious to know which instrument came first. As the ancestor of today’s modern violins, the fiddle has been bringing color and happiness to olden villages way before the first violins appeared on the scene.

Today, we will be enriching your minds with a little history lesson on fiddles and violins. We will also be tackling some of the similarities and differences between these two instruments. That way, you’ll know exactly which is which before deciding what to pursue.

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The Origins of the Fiddle

The word “fiddle” is a term that was already common in ancient history. In ancient Rome, it was used to refer to an instrument very different from the one we know of today. There were even stories about the ruthless Emperor Nero fiddling as Rome burned to the ground. Then again, such is to be expected with historical references, as they’re hardly ever of the pleasant variety.

Then, there was the time between this and the birth of the classical violin, when an earlier version of the modern violin, called the fiddle, thrived. So, yes, the fiddle does predate its more serious counterpart. It came at a time when fiddling was used to encourage dance and celebration. It produced the kind of music that celebrated loved ones reuniting, fathers and brothers coming home from war, and unions between men and women.

It was during the tail-end of the middle ages in Europe that the very first violins started to make an appearance. Elsewhere, in the East, Asian versions of this instrument called the Chinese morin khur and erhu began making themselves known, as well. While not exactly violin-like in features, they descended from the rabab, which was the Asian cousin of the fiddle.

How the Violin Came To Be

When the violin first appeared on the scene, most people thought it was a class on its own. That remains true to this day, with no similar instrument being able to rival it in terms of completeness. Even the less-complete version of the instrument back then already far exceeded its contemporaries in many aspects.

Of course, these pioneering generations of violins are nothing like their cousins today. And unless you visit a museum or get the opportunity to view paintings from that era, you won’t be able to witness anything close to the earliest violins in today’s world.

Gasparo di Bertolotti and Andre Amati are two of the best-known violin craftsmen in recorded history. Their unrivaled talent in the craft was what helped the violin to emerge from a mere legend to a legend in the “flesh.” You can still find violins made by these two artisans today.

Is a Fiddle a Violin and Vice Versa?

You may have encountered violinists and fiddlers alike referring to their instruments as a fiddle and a violin, respectively. This could have led to you asking a couple of questions. Is a violin and a fiddle the same instrument? Can you play a violin like a fiddle and vice versa? The answers to these questions are what we’ll be exploring in this section.

Their Similarities

Most of the time, it isn’t a mistake to call a violin a fiddle or a fiddle a violin. That’s because most makes and models of these instruments share exactly the same features. Sure, there are certain instruments that have either violin- or fiddle-specific traits, but even these distinctions aren’t consequential enough to warrant interchanging names a mistake.

Their Differences

Structure aside, a fiddle and a violin do have some slight differences. Though it’s important to note that even these minute differences put together still don’t hold as much weight or importance as design and structure.

Musical Setting

A violin is usually referred to as a “violin” in an orchestral setting. That means that in any scenario where your instrument is used to play classical pieces, it should almost always be called a violin. Though calling it a fiddle wouldn’t be wrong, it might paint an inaccurate portrayal of a player’s relationship with the instrument.

In the country music setting, a violin typically becomes a fiddle. Historically, fiddles were played to the tune of dance celebration music, which is mainly what’s used to describe country or pop music. These instruments were associated with upbeat tempos and fun beats. In contrast, their counterparts were linked more fittingly to sounds of the formal and sophisticated variety.

How the Violin and the Fiddle Fare Today

It’s safe to say that both these instruments sit right next to each other at the top in terms of musicality. And although they are practically the same instrument, it also helps to point out their differences, especially where fiddle-specific and violin-specific models are concerned. In that way, you can get an instrument tailored exactly to the genre you want to pursue.