The Fiddle is different from the other instruments on this site for several reasons. The first, and the one that is important for this article, is the neck of the fiddle. Unlike most stringed instruments, there are no frets or markings on the neck of a violin that allow players to quickly know where they are!
The next of course is the fact that instead of being picked, a Fiddle is played by being ‘bowed’.
The fact that the fiddle doesn’t have any frets makes learning the notes and hand placement for the neck of your fiddle very difficult. In this article, we will be mostly concerned with the 1st position, or high on the neck near the pegs.
What is the Neck of the Fiddle?
The neck of the fiddle is the space between the body of the instrument and the pegbox. Often a headstock and a neck will be one piece of wood for this instrument which makes it different from many stringed instruments that have a separate headpiece, but it definitely doesn’t have to be. On top of the neck of the fiddle rests the fingerboard. This piece is often black or a dark brown and your strings run over it.
The bottom part of the neck of the fiddle is referred to as the saddle. The saddle helps connect the neck to the body of the instrument and while rarely seen, is vital to the quality of the instrument and the sound it produces.
Something that often confuses beginners is that the neck of the fiddle is actually one of the farthest areas on the instrument away from your neck! The chin piece is a wooden block on the base of the body where your neck will rest, while your bowing hand will have the closest contact with the actual neck of the instrument!
Notes on the Neck of the Fiddle
The challenge with the neck of the fiddle, Violin, or Viola is the fact that all three are fretless. When playing the guitar I know that holding down the 3rd fret on either of the E strings will produce a G note. The fiddle is much more nuanced in your finger placement.
The fiddle really requires time and dedication to develop the habits to place your fingers in the correct places, even more so than the guitar, banjo, or ukulele. While the violin and fiddle may require a little more time and dedication to learn, I’ve always thought the effort was worth it in the end as you can play some of the most amazing music ever written!
You can find the complete fingerboard (with notes and playable sounds) at ViolinOnline. For a beginner, we recommend that you start with the 1st position. Once you have these notes mastered you can work your way down the neck learning more and more notes and finger positions!
Learning the Neck of the Fiddle
Once you know the notes of the neck, and their approximate locations, there some things that will help lessen the learning curve. By applying each of these you’ll learn faster and be able to progress.
Tips for Learning the Neck of the Fiddle
- Start with 1st Position before moving lower on the neck
- Have mp3 sound files (or something similar) of each note so you can check as you play
- Use thin strips on colored tape as temporary fret markers. Make sure these are placed in the perfect location to help develop your ear for the perfect sounding note
- Review and practice with your notes every time you pick up your Fiddle.
Just like any other instrument we cover here on StringVibe, learning the fiddle can be difficult. To find out more about the notes, and especially the fingering, check out this great resource over at FretlessFingerGuides.
The Final Note
While this is just a quick guide to learning the neck of the violin and fiddle, it does give you a great starting point for this extremely complex topic! The best way to practice finding the different note locations is by using a tuner while you practice bowing in different locations. This will help you familiarize yourself with the neck!
For more fiddle resources, check out the section on our site dedicated to the fiddle!