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Fiddle vs. Banjo – Which One is Right for YOU? (And Which to Learn First!)

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Playing StyleGenerally, banjo players perform by using a pick or their fingertips to strike the chords. To make music, it can also be strung like an acoustic guitar.Most violin musicians use a fiddle bow to bow the chord, but some also use their fingertips to produce other tones. In fiddle melodies, bowing is more frequently utilized in classical music.
AppearanceThe banjo has deeper hardwood bodies and a more complex design than the fiddle.A fiddle’s body usually has a more elegant form.
SoundFiddles seem more calm and gentle than banjos, which typically have sharper tones. There is no actual “better” item, simply various genres, and many individuals like the music of the banjo over that of the fiddle and vice versa.Fiddle playing is typically heard in classical-style songs, although banjos are more frequently utilized in folk songs and provide good sound.

A Banjo

A banjo is a percussion instrument with a long, narrow neck and a traditionally rounded body. Depending on the kind, different banjos may include as many as six strings, whereas a traditional banjo only has four or five. 

Although it may be heard in other musical genres, the instrument’s tone is frequently linked to mandolin and classic country music from the United States.

The banjo is a predominant model among artists because of its unique character and sound, and players continually modify it to meet their requirements. 

The History Of Banjo

A stringed instrument with African roots is the banjo. The use of a flexible membrane—originally an animal skin—to intensify the sound of the banjo’s strings is its defining feature.

This configuration gives the banjo its distinct sound and sets it apart from other instruments of European ancestry that are popular in the Americas. 

The banjo’s culture, heritage, and role in the development of racial relations in America might be among musical instruments’ most significant cultural histories.

The instrument’s creation and the accompanying music may be seen as a blend of African and European cultures.

The Caribbean and Africa

The first written accounts of banjo-like instruments come from visitors reaching Africa and the American continent in the seventeenth century.

These articles describe musical instruments from East Africa, North America, and the Caribbean, with a gourd body covered in animal skin and a fretless wooden neck as their defining features. 

Although the quantity and make-up of the threads varied, 3 to 4 strings were frequently utilized. Richard Jobson initially noted the invention of such a device.

In 1620, he wrote of an instrument “formed of a large gourd as well as a neck thereunto were affixed strings” when investigating the Gambra River throughout Africa. 

In his book Histoire des Antilles, released in 1678, Adrien Dessalles mentions the “banza” used by Martinique’s slave population.

The multiple “merry whang” is a “rustic guitar” built from a “calabash” and coated in “a dried bladder, or skin,” according to Jamaican historian Edward Long. Like the “banshaw” in Barbados, the “bangil” was reported in St. Kitts.

Playing styles

The precise mechanics of how ancient banjos have been performed are unknown. The first banjo teachers were produced in response to minstrelsy’s rise in popularity. Briggs Banjo Instructor, published in 1855, is one such guide. 

The right-hand technique mentioned in Briggs’ teacher most probably represents an uninterrupted lineage dating back to the early plantation banjo up until his time.

 The player must use downward pressure to hammer the strings with their fingertips. Depending on the place and time, this fundamental right-hand motion has been given many names.

Contemporary players use the words “clawhammer” and “frailing,” among others.

The Parlor

The banjo gained popularity as a parlor instrument through the late nineteenth century. Classical pianists of a new social class, including women from the high and middle classes, began to emerge.

To meet demand, banjo producers started creating more fragile, elaborate instruments with features like ebony fingerboards with mother-of-pearl engraving and carved floral motifs on the necks.

 The 1860 publication of Buckley’s New Banjo Technique gave players training in “classical” banjo.

The right-hand method used in the classical style was akin to that used in classical guitar when the fingertips are used to stroke the notes upward.

Melodic Design

Scruggs’ innovative work was quickly modified. A younger breed of bluegrass musicians emerged over the following two decades, some of whom were born and raised in urban areas.

One of these players who helped establish the “melodic” way of playing was Bill Keith. 

The melodic approach differs from Scruggs’ method in that it relies less on rolling sequences. It goes directly for the melody, especially on songs with many melodies, like fiddle songs. 

When Keith joined Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys for a performance, Monroe observed with delight that Keith had proven the banjo’s potential.

A discussion of contemporary banjo music would be incomplete without referencing Bela Fleck’s impact. 

Fleck mastered the Scruggs and harmonic genres at a young age. Later, he developed five-string banjo jazz genres.


Old-time musicians noticed talented youngsters during the folk explosion of the 1950s and the 1960s. Urban musicians embraced a path that was virtually identical to country instrument technique. 

This period saw the emergence of several banjos playing genres, including a claw hammer, bluegrass, and the methods of Pete Seeger as well as George Grove of Kingston Trio, on records and in stage concerts like the Newport Folk Festival.


The lira, a Byzantine adaptation of the rabab, an Arab bowed instrument, may have been the source of the medieval fiddle, a predecessor of the violin, which first appeared in Europe in the 10th century. 

The size and design of medieval fiddles varied, but they all featured three to five strings pitched in fifths (as in c-g-d, etc.), front or rear adjusting hooks placed in a flat, round, or heart-shaped peg disc. The body frequently had a waist. 

Any bowed acoustic equipment with such a neck is referred to simply as a “fiddle,” including the violin. The instrument is known as a spike fiddle if the neck gives the impression of skewering the body.

History Of Fiddle

The fiddle is a slightly curved musical instrument recognized for leading the melody on melodies and supplying rhythm through different bowing techniques.

The Middle Eastern lack of a reliable group of stretched treats a variety of conditions, which dates to the seventh century, including early ancestors of the violin. 

The distinctive cultures of each location molded the violin as it migrated across shipping routes, mostly from the Middle East through North Africa, Europe, and then Asia. 

The violin as we know it today was created in Cremona, Italy, in the fourteenth century. It features a thin hardwood frame with tiny f-shaped hearing perforations, strings tuned in fifths, and a horsehair bow for playing. 

Bowed devices like the Chinese erhu emerged from many of the same equipment ancestors further east.

The Americas first received fiddles in the late 1700s. The South’s violin competitions, or conventions, were first documented in writing in the middle of the eighteenth century. 

Although the earliest fiddles were brought by European immigrants who performed dances and reels, Appalachia’s African American music heritage also embraced the fiddle, especially in dance situations. 

Fiddles are frequently set to various cross-tunings in old-time dancing music (for instance, the G and D chords being fixed up near AE for a “cross-A” tuning of AEAE), producing a soundscape with reverberation and drone.

Standard tuning is usually used for bluegrass fiddling, distinguished by strong rhythmic patterns frequently played on it during a solo. Additionally, there is less variety in bending techniques.

Is There A Difference Between A Fiddle And A Violin?

The response is a startling “no.” The same four-string instrument, known as a fiddle or violin, is often tuned with a stick, guitar strumming, or plucked. Their physical characteristics are the same.

The kind of music played on the instrument—and how people play whatever it is- sets a violin apart from a fiddle.

The word “violin” is most frequently related to string quartets, symphonies, operas, and traditional music. Contrarily, the fiddle is connected to a broad range of musical genres, such as Cajun, bluegrass, and folk, in the country.

There Are Several Minor Differences In The Player Preferences

Generally speaking, fiddling is just another playing. While fiddlers play more freely, classical violinists carefully follow written music. 

Fiddlers frequently employ alternate methods, such as string bending and prolonged double stops and triple stops, in contrast to the more technical character of violin music, where two or three strings are bowed simultaneously.

Additionally, fiddlers occasionally handle their instruments in unusual ways to suit their way of playing.

Fiddle players frequently place their left hand’s palm on their neck while playing. Sometimes they aim the arrow toward the stick a little bit rather than the frog. 

Typically, violin music is significantly more intricate and formal. At the same time, a fiddle melody appears to be simpler on paper fiddlers frequently rarely leave the first position, and fiddling material is typically louder and played considerably quicker than the violin. 

Fiddling requires a lot of talent in terms of melody and rhythm, even though it may be as complex and challenging as violin music.

Simply put, a talented violinist and a proficient fiddler are two different types of performers. If you will, it comes down to a technical style of play vs. a more unplanned, natural method of playing. Kirk is the fiddle, if Spock is the violin.

Physical Variations

The violin and fiddle occasionally have observable and measurable distinctions, yet the main distinction is in playing style.

Fiddle players employ steel strings because of their crisper sound, whereas classical violinists normally utilize gut or synthesized strings. It is possible for fiddlers to alter their instruments physically. 

Some people reduce the bridge’s height or flatten the bridge’s curvature to perform double stops simpler since a flattened bridge reduces the angle between the strings.

Due to the fast-paced nature of fiddle music, this facilitates the playing of two or more notes simultaneously by fiddlers. The five-string violin has just lately entered the market. A bottom fifth C-string is added to this musician.

Music Style

The fundamental distinction between the violin and the fiddle is the type of music that may be performed on both instruments.

The distinction between violinists and fiddlers should be clear if you are in a nation with a sizable folk music culture. Fiddling is very popular in Scotland and Ireland, where folk music is a significant part of the culture. 

Due to the instrument’s compatibility with country and bluegrass song genres, fiddling is also common among these performers. In contrast hand, the violin is used by classical artists. 

Many classical pieces originate from romantic nations, including France and Italy. As a result of linguistic growth, it is why professional musicians refer to the violin rather than the fiddle.


Fiddlers and violinists receive quite distinct types of training. Because I first started to play the violin and then took traditional music classes, I am knowledgeable about this portion. 

I was taught to use the bows practically as soon as I started training to play the violin. On the other hand, classical educators typically start by teaching their pupils how and where to pluck the strings. 

Additionally, they impart to their pupils the art of aural violin tuning. The “proper method” is taught to classical musicians, while the “easy way” is allegedly given to fiddle players. 

Fiddlers pick things up far more quickly, but classical students pick things up more thoroughly and, most likely, become better musicians in general.

That is a bold statement, but since I am also a fiddler, I might as well be open about it.

Nock Tension

The tension of the bow is another significant distinction between classical violinists and fiddlers that I have observed.

Fiddlers desire more flexibility, but violinists maintain their bows firm. Although there is not much of a distinction, the instrument’s tone is altered.

Playing Method

The playing styles of violinists and fiddlers differ significantly. Fiddlers frequently add their own flare, while violinists generally stick to what is given in the musical score. Every player has a unique sound, and so does a song.

Bridge Form

The little piece of wood in the center of the violin’s body that supports the strings is known as the bridge.

Because of that, the strings are separated, and you may play one string while accidentally striking another using bow. The majority of the time, traditional violinists only play one string at a time.

Fiddlists, in contrast, hand, are everywhere in the store. They simultaneously pluck two strings and do bizarre leaps from the low to the higher chords. Because of this, some faddlists favor using a flatter bridge.

In this method, the height separation between the strings is lessened, making it much simpler to play chords.

The Fiddler Ray

The triangle design behind the eyes makes the species Eastern Fiddler Ray easy to identify. It has two pronounced triangular pectoral fins and a thin tail. The species may reach lengths of 1.2 m.


Currently, Australia is home to at least seven recognized Fiddler Ray species. Trygonorrhina dumerillii, sometimes known as the Southern Fiddler Ray, is found between Victoria and southwest Western Australia in the southern Australian seas.


It inhabits rocky reefs and small sandy beaches along the coast that are no deeper than 120 meters. Explorers frequently encounter the species in the seas around New South Wales.

Fiddler Ray Vs. Banjo Shark

The jawed cartilaginous fish Trygonorrhina fasciata is also known as the eastern fiddler ray. Their geographic range primarily covers eastern Australia, from the New South Wales coastline to Western Australia’s coastal regions. 

The banjo shark, magpie musician, southern fiddler, fiddler ray, green skate, and southern fiddler ray are among the other frequent titles for this fish. 

Their rather oval-shaped, brownish body has dark greyish striates that set them distinct from other species, including Trygonorrhina dumerilii.

The southern fiddler, like other Chondrichthyes, belongs to the Elasmobranchii subclass and has two dorsal fins as well as a single long caudal fin. 

Their appearance is enhanced by the colorful triangle patterns that attractively around their little eyes.

Their diaphanous semi-circular short snout split into two nostrils at the back with such an internasal meaty membrane. These bottom-dwelling fiddler rays feed on lower invertebrates like crabs. 

These rays occasionally fall into traps in quest of prey, which their strong jaws then smash. They lack barbs but have thorn-like tissue remodeling throughout their mid-dorsal line instead of barbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How similar are a violin and a fiddle?

Most of the time, violins and fiddles are identical instruments performed in various genres. Some instruments, however, are made specifically for fiddling rather than for orchestral music.

The strings on these instruments frequently have such a flatter bridge that moves them nearer to the fingerboard.

Where does an eastern fiddler ray reside?

Trygonorrhina fasciata, known as the eastern fiddler ray, is frequently spotted on eastern Australia’s coasts, mostly around the coast of New South Wales.

This species’ range includes Perth and other areas of Western Australia. Australia’s southern regions are also home to the southern fiddler.

How difficult is learning the fiddle?

One of the most tricky musical instruments to master is the violin. Some contend that learning the traditional violin is more difficult than learning the fiddle, but it depends on the musician. Fiddlists are mostly social musicians who pick up the instrument to jam with their pals or join bands.

However, do not consider the choice too seriously if you are attempting to determine whether to understand to play the violin or the fiddle. The music they perform is really the only genuine distinction between the two. 

Therefore, you may always alter your mind, listen to some folk music if you begin classical instruction, and completely detest it. I started off learning the violin before realizing that I would need some further training if I wished to attend an orchestra.

I must admit that I appreciated the challenge. As a result, you may always switch between the two. No restrictions apply to music.  However, I believe fiddlists enjoy themselves more.