Basic techniques

Basic fiddle techniques

There are some basic fiddle techniques which are worth focusing on in the early stages, if you want to progress with your playing beyond being able to scrape your way through a few tunes. When you pick up your fiddle for the first time, it can be hard to know where to put your attention! Holding the bow and fiddle is likely to feel pretty unnatural in the beginning, and when it comes to making your first bow strokes, it may well seem as if you’re fighting to prevent both the instrument and the bow from falling. The bow may also feel somewhat unwieldy, and rather out of control.

It’s very common for players to be keen to start playing tunes as soon as they pick up the instrument. Doing this without having a good understanding of how to hold both the bow and the fiddle is likely to lead to problems later on. Many fiddlers develop a tense hold, which will hinder the ability to learn to play fluidly. Tension in the hands, arms, shoulders or neck, will also affect the tone of your playing, and can lead to physical difficulties with playing many years down the line.

So how can you develop a relaxed style? It’s much easier to learn how create an effective hold of both the fiddle and bow in the early stages than to correct problems once they have become ingrained habits. Taking time early on to learn how to position the hand on the bow will help develop your confidence that you are in control of where the bow is going. This speeds up the process of learning how to play with a full tone, and solid timing.

Follow the links to find out more about some of the basics:

The bowing hand

Bow hold
The bowing hand
How to keep the bow straight
How to create a full tone on the fiddle
Playing single strings or chords

How to control the volume

The other hand

How to play in tune
How to learn to play with vibrato

Reading Music

Reading music
Finding the notes

Playing by ear

Learning to play tunes by ear
How to slow down a YouTube video

Photo of a fiddler's bow hold
Photo ©Ros Gasson