I was much distressed by next door people who had twin babies and played the violin; but one of the twins died, and the other has eaten the fiddle, so all is peace. - Edward Lear
There are concepts in music that are still unknown and beyond the understanding of many. Some of these concepts include the playing styles of the musical instruments, their physical features, and their uses. Many musical instruments have a lot of things in common, giving rise to confusion about their identity. The fiddle and violin are two such instruments, and beginners have a hard time telling one from the other. Let us try to understand the two instruments individually as well as try to trace the differences between them.
Terminology: A fiddle is a broad term that can relate to any stringed musical instrument that is played using a horsehair bow. It is mostly used for instruments like the Byzantine lyra, Chinese erhu, Welsh crwth, Hardanger fiddle, and others. The cello, also, is referred to as a fiddle. The violin, on the other hand, is considered to be in the primary category of fiddles. The word 'violin' comes from Italian cultures, whereas the word 'fiddle' comes from German traditions.
Style of Music: A fiddle is traditionally used in folk dances and enjoyment purposes, whereas a violin is used for cultural purposes. The fiddle is used in folk and bluegrass music, whereas the violin is used to create cultural and classical music. Fiddle music relates to an up-beat tempo and folk-dance music type, and the music produced by violins may relate to soft and slow music. However, you won't be able to determine if it's a fiddle or a violin, just by looking at the instrument.
Physical Characteristics: Apart from the differences in terminology and musical style, there aren't many differences in the appearance or physical characteristics of the two instruments. The fiddle generally comes with strings made out of steel or metal, whereas violin strings are usually made out of gut or other synthetic substances. In a fiddle, the bridge is set lower and flatter than that in a violin. This bridge adjustment enables a fiddler to use double-stops and chord techniques on his instrument. It also allows the musician to quickly change notes on the strings.
Another minor difference is the price, with a violin being more expensive than a fiddle. Since there are not many notable differences between the two instruments, nowadays musicians don't shy from using the terms fiddle and violin interchangeably.