Resources: Instruments: FiddleThe fiddle is a violin (a violin by any name would sound as sweet). The only substantial difference between a fiddle and a violin is the way the bridge ( a carved piece of wood that supports the strings) is shaped and the way that musicians play. The fiddle/violin is a bowed, stringed instrument, that emerged in Italy in the early 1500s and has the highest pitch of any member of the violin family (the other members of the violin family are the viola, cello, and double bass). The first known maker of the violin was Andreas Amati, (the founder of the Italian violin-making school in Cremona where Stradivari studied).
Fine violins (and fiddles) are made from solid spruce (for the front), maple (for the back, sides and neck), and ebony, boxwood or rosewood (for the fingerboard, tailpiece, and tuning pegs). The front and back of the instrument are carved into a shallow bowl-like shape that conforms to exacting thicknesses in various locations.
Some student instruments have solid wood only in the top of the instrument, with a high-grade plywood for the back and sides. These instruments have some of the tonal character of an 'all-carved' instrument, and are less expensive, since only the top has required the time of a skilled maker, and the rest is molded.
Still other, even less expensive instruments have little of the tonal quality of a solid wood or a carved top violin, but are much less expensive because they are made entirely from high-grade plywood that is molded rather than carved.
The violin has four strings that can be gut, gut wound with aluminum or silver, steel, or a polymer known as perlon. The type of string that is best depends on the kind of playing the musician intends to do. The original strings were all gut, but were not cat gut as widely thought. The early string makers promoted that belief as a way to mislead would-be competitiors for their market. The strings, numbered 1 to 4 starting with the string farthest from the palyer, are tuned to E, A, D, and G. The violin and fiddle are sometimes plucked for special effect, but are usually bowed.
The violin/fiddle bow is a narrow, slightly curved stick about 30 inches long, with a band of horsehair stretched from end to end. The best bows are made from pernambucco; good quality bows are also made from brazil wood; others are made from fiberglass. Some bows have artifical hair.