View Full Version : Fiddles

05-14-2009, 08:36 PM
For all you folks who can play the fiddle and do so at reenactments, can you tell me what is the best kind to have that stays in tune the best through out the ups and downs in weather conditions. I had one that was horrible in staying in tune and I'm looking to get another in the future (maybe). Any suggestions?

Company Fiddler
05-19-2009, 12:29 PM
Although not period correct, any fiddle with a modern set up will stay in tune better than one that is authentic( gut strings & no fine tuners). By modern set up I mean steel strings and a tail piece with fine tuners. Although still subject to temp & humidity, steel strings will not be as drasticly effected and the fine tuners will make it easy to quickly re-tune.

I will add that once you become used to tuning by fifths, it is quick and easy to keep your fiddle in tune when using a tradtional set up. By using the tuning pegs on a regular basis, they become very smooth and easy to use.

This is one of those cases where you have to choose between function and authenticity.

eric marten
05-20-2009, 08:15 AM


Tim's suggestions should be helpful. I would just like to add, violins do not really have brand names per se, (the internal labels are not reliable), but the country is literally filled with period instruments. Try a local violin shop (rather than one of the music store chains) - German made instruments (turn of the century and earlier) are available, and not always very expensive. For reenactments, you don't need a Stradivarius, simply a run of the mill "clunker". As far as keeping them in tune, violin shops sell a solution that can be applied to to pegs which make them easier to turn. I think its called "peg dope" - its like a lubricant, but like Tim says, the more often you use the pegs, the easier they are to manage. You might even be able to get a tailpiece with real tailgut still on it. I have been using Pirastro Chorda gut strings for about thirty years now, on several different instruments, and they are extremely reliable and tune well. I've used them in all kinds of weather and am very satisfied. In my opinion, the mellow, non-metallic sound is authentic and worth the extra effort. Of course, with the gut strings, 20th century fine tuners would not be necessary.

Good luck!

Eric Marten

Bruce Schultz
05-20-2009, 09:24 AM
If you're going to be truly authentic, a chin rest and shoulder rest should not be used. If you want to be truly old style, hold the fiddle up against your arm just above the elbow.
But in the interest of full disclosure, I violate all the authenticity rules and even use a carbon fiber bow. Once the sun goes down and everyone has had a snort or 2, I figure it makes little difference.
I have gotten used to playing without a shoulder rest, somewhat and it's a relief sometimes to play the fiddle on the arm.
Maybe I should buy another old fiddle to set it up with gut strings.

05-31-2009, 03:14 PM
For reenactments, you don't need a Stradivarius, simply a run of the mill "clunker".
Some years ago I spoke with an appraiser who did a courtesy appraisal for me. In our conversation, he mentioned that there have been plenty of *bad* violins and fiddles throughout the instrument's history (the implication being that an old instrument is not necessarily a good one). In the case of camp fiddlin', a soldier might likely have had one of the "bad" instruments. As far as staying in tune, playing outdoors with an acoustic wooden instrument presents its own set of problems. I have fiddled a lot outdoors with even a good instrument, and often I have had to re-tune between every number. And as the pitch changes slightly even during a piece, one may have to compensate with the fingers.

Murray Therrell