Instrument Characteristics of a Fiddle

The medieval fiddle was used in Europe in the 10th century.

Fiddle is a term used to describe any string instrument. Most commonly, fiddle means the violin, especially when the violin is playing folk music. A medieval instrument called the fiddle also has the same basic characteristics as the violin. String players will often refer to their violin casually as a fiddle, regardless of their preferred style of playing.


The fiddle bow is a stick used to play the violin and consists of several smaller parts. Horsehair is the preferred material for the threads on the bow. Depending on the size of the instrument, the strings will have a wider girth. The tip of the bow is the point on the opposite end of where the violinist holds the bow. The long wooden part is the stick. The base of the bow where the violinist places his hand is the frog. The bottom of the bow has a screw that tightens the hairs.


Fiddles typically have four strings, with the exception of the bass. The bass sometimes has a low C extension to allow it to play lower. The strings on the violin, viola, and the cello appear in fifths. The bass is set in fourths with the exception of the low C string. Violin strings start on G, while viola and cello starts on C. The thicker and lower strings provide a grainy and rough texture while the middle strings are suppler; the highest strings are generally powerful but thin.


The body of a fiddle has several components that work together to produce sound. Ribs that run along the side of the violin hold the top and the bottom of the fiddle together. Near the middle of the violin is a waist that arches inward. The body itself has a pear shape with an upper bout, a middle bout that curves in and a lower bout at the bottom. The body also has F-holes that help to create the fiddle timbre and a soundboard inside the instrument that transmits the vibrations from the strings to the internal chamber.


The neck of the fiddle houses several components. The violinist holds the neck with her left hand. The most important characteristics of the neck are the tuning pegs located at the top of the neck. These pegs turn to adjust the pitch of individual strings by adjusting tension. The scroll, at the top, serves mainly a decorative function and doesn't contribute to the sound. The violinist places her fingers on the fingerboard. The bridge appears on the body and acts to suspend the strings and transmit vibrations to the soundboard. At the bottom of the strings are the fine tuners that make minute adjustments in intonation.


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