How to Play Folk Fiddle

Playing folk fiddle requires a mastery of fiddle technique and knowledge of folk music. Fiddle and violin playing both use the same instrument. The technique for playing classical violin and fiddle consist of significantly different techniques. Fiddle playing requires an ability to improvise and play in a quasi-swing style that places the notes slightly behind the beat. Playing the folk fiddle requires proper technique, posture and an understanding of the instrument.

Step 1 Hold the fiddle between your chin and shoulder. You shouldn't need your hands at all if you do this correctly. Use good posture, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed to prevent tension.

Step 2 Develop proficiency playing in first position. To do this, place your left hand on any string at the top of the neck. Your index finger is positioned about an inch from the edge of the finger board. The second finger plays the next note down the string, about an inch from the first finger. The third and fourth fingers play the remaining two notes. Since the actual placement of the fingers varies, you must use your ear and a tuner to play the correct notes. For instance; on the G string, the first main notes in first position are A, B, C and D.

Step 3 Learn the appropriate bowing rhythm for the fiddle. On the violin, unless otherwise notated in the score, the violinist alternates between up-bow and down-bow. The fiddle works somewhat more erratically. Learn to bow a jig by using two down-bows followed by an up-bow. Repeat this pattern throughout, to follow the rhythm of folk fiddle music.

Step 4 Analyze the music to determine which notes get the most emphasis. Folk fiddle playing and violin playing have several similarities. The main difference involves the use of the bow. Create your own fiddle bowings by analyzing the music and using a forceful down-bow on hard accents and downbeats, while using an up-bow on lighter up-beats.


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