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date: 24 February 2020


  • Chris Goertzen


Fiddling refers to the playing of traditional folk music on the violin , generally without the aid of written music (although many fiddlers are musically literate to some degree). Wherever the versatile violin has traveled, from Italy to Scotland to South India, fiddling practices have likewise followed. Today in North America, just as in Great Britain, Ireland, and throughout Scandinavia, fiddling constitutes one of the most thriving forms of folk music. Fiddling is differentiated from formal violin performance by customary functions, venues, and repertoires. Playing techniques are also generally distinctive, as are uses of the scordaturas that American fiddlers call cross-tunings (tunings other than the usual Gda-e’; for example, A-e-a-e’, which allows easy double-stops and maximum overall resonance in the key of A major). Compared to the violin, the fiddle is more loosely defined in relation to its construction of materials, idiosyncratic playing techniques, and, especially, in its range of desirable timbres. In fact, in many times and places, the relatively nasal and penetrating timbres of fiddles have been favored because they pierce through the clatter of dancers’ feet....

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