How to improve your fiddle tone

Fiddle lessons in Edinburgh - working on tone on the fiddle

Techniques for improving fiddle tone

Tonight we spent most of the class working on creating a clear tone on the fiddle. We started off by learning the tune I See Mull (Chi Mi Muile). Once we had the notes under our fingers, we moved onto thinking about ways we could improve our tone on the fiddle while playing.

We practiced playing an open A string, concentrating on keeping the bow perpendicular to the strings throughout the full bow stroke. We worked in pairs so we could get feedback from the other person. It can be very difficult to tell if your own bow is perpendicular to the strings or not! It’s important to keep the wrist flexible, and the hand, arm shoulders and neck relaxed, throughout the complete bow stroke. A flexible wrist helps us to keep the bow in a straight straight line at the beginning at end of the bow stroke.

We tried out playing the tune again thinking about keeping the bow at right angles to the fiddle strings. It made a noticeable difference to the sound we created.

Next we moved on to thinking about whereabouts on the fiddle we were placing the bow. Keeping the bow fairly close to the bridge throughout the bow stroke helps to create a fuller sound and a mellow tone. We split into pairs again to give each other feedback on this.

After that, we tried playing more from our subconscious. As we were quite familiar with the tune, we stood in a circle, and tried playing the whole tune down an octave. We focused on thinking about the tune itself rather than where our fingers were going. Once we’d done that, we tried out alternating round the circle, with one person playing down an octave and the next person playing up the octave.

Fiddle lessons in Edinburgh  - working on tone on the fiddle
©Ros Gasson


We briefly looked at how to add vibrato to notes.The left hand needs to be very relaxed to achieve this. We started out by placing the 3rd finger on the A string. Using the wrist, we are aiming to rock the hand backwards and forwards. We’ll come back to this again later on in the term. Here’s some more detailed¬† information on learning to play with vibrato.


We finished off the evening by playing through the march and 2 reels we have learnt so far in the class, as a single set of tunes. The B part of Ramnee Ceilidh is quite a challenge to play at speed. We went back over this, slowing it down a bit to remind ourselves of the notes. We also looked at how to play the triplet, which is a bit awkward as it appears on an upbeat in the tune.