What’s the Difference Between a Violin and a Fiddle?

If a man with a goatee gave up the banjo to start playing one, then it’s a fiddle.

     I interrupted the Man I Married while he fondled and stroked his recently-acquired fiddle, producing any number of fantastic sounds that have a supernatural way of carrying no matter how far away I am in the house (or down the block) and no matter how many closed doors separate us. I’m reading The Haunting of Hill House to a perfect screeching soundtrack. And here I thought I would have until the Little Monster’s teenaged years to look forward to this.

     Since MIM caresses and cajoles his fiddle into vaguely-recognizable hints of melodies more or less constantly, I must interrupt him no matter what I have to say or when I need to say it. He set his new lover down patiently, as he always does, when he finally heard me unsuccessfully trying to yell over the moans and false protestations of the curved (but rather dry) beauty in his arms.

     “Can you believe I can already play a few Christmas songs although I just started learning the fiddle a few weeks ago?” he asked me, beaming with pride.

     “Gee, has it really been only a few weeks?” I said. “Seems like it’s been a lot longer than that.”

A Man Uniquely Tuned


     Next day as MIM practiced, I sighed, “So now you’re learning that Eight Tiny Reindeer hip-hop song that LM is constantly humming?” Venison for dinner began to sound appealing.

      “Actually,” he said, “that was an Irish jig.”


     Last week I drove MIM to the violin store to buy him a new violin bow for Christmas. He needed a slight repair on his junk-store fiddle before he could begin the delicate procedure of deciding how much I should plunk down on my charge card for a bunch of horse hair (he’d make a fortune stringing the hair he leaves on his own hairbrush). After the kind repairman finished the minor fix and re-strung the instrument, he laid out a dazzling array of stunningly-priced bows for MIM to choose from. MIM selected one and brought it confidently up to the strings, producing…interesting sounds that perplexed even MIM. “But something’s wrong with my fiddle now,” he declared. “I can no longer play it. What have you done to it?” he asked the repairman.

      “I tuned it.”

      “Well, shoot! And I was actually getting pretty good at it just the way it was!” Then MIM added, “Well, huh, I guess I need to start over on the lessons I’ve been giving LM, ’cause his is tuned the same way.”

I'd love you more if that was a fiddle and not a violin

     Tonight at dinner MIM confessed to me, “Now that my fiddle is tuned like a fiddle and not like a guitar, the self-teaching websites make a lot more sense. Now I’m really getting somewhere.”

     All teasing aside, I admire MIM for his willingness to try new things, to experiment boldly in his confident, self-taught manner, and for his lack of pride during the learning process, even when it turns out he made a gaff. I might have slunk out of the violin shop, too embarrassed to admit my error, but he laughs easily at himself while rarely judging others (except when he’s in the passenger seat while I attempt to park the car). That’s a lesson that all of us could use. Also, he’s not half bad at the durned thing, much better than I could ever hope to be. And while I can’t tell whether he’s playing Eminem or Enya, it’s easy to recognize the sound of contentment.

     Plus, I always know where he is and what he’s up to. If he’s not on a ladder releasing bees, I can relax (with a pair of earplugs).

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