the violinist in this video holds the violin in a really peculiar way, I'm wondering if there is a name for the way he holds the violin?

  • 7
    At this point, it ceases to be a violin. It's now a fiddle!
    – Tim
    Dec 31, 2018 at 15:50
  • I highly recommend watching this film if you haven't already. It's excerpted from The Last Waltz, which is an excellent Scorsese-directed part-documentary of The Band's eponymous farewell concert and part-biopic of the group. You may observe some more unusual playing styles within! Jan 1, 2019 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


I think this way is called "holding the fiddle at the chest" or against the chest or "low down on the chest" (Chris Haig, The Fiddle Handbook).

This hold is sometimes used for genres which usually refer to the violin as fiddle and playing it is called fiddling. E.g. in country or bluegrass.

While this position has obvious disadvantages e.g. vibrato (especially fast) is more difficult and playing in higher positions is much more difficult as well as changing the positions. These are techniques that are in general rarely used in fiddling.

Advantages of these positions are that it is stylistic typical to do so which adds to the mood of the presentation but also that its easier to sing while playing (I don't have an overview how many fiddlers do so, but there are some doing so.). It's easier to move on stage and keep contact with your fellows. At least they say so, but this claim seems quite plausible. Drew Beisswenger mentions (North American Fiddle Music - A Research and Information Guide, 20011, Routledge) that the positions used by fiddlers also "make it possible for them to play for six or eight hours straight".

This way of holding the violin was also applied in the early days of playing violin. For reference see the following drawing by the Dutch painter Frans Hals (about 1630s):

enter image description here

  • So, fiddling would in fact be a pretty accurate term for doing this. Jan 1, 2019 at 0:46
  • 1
    I disagree. Fiddling is so much more than holding the fiddle in this special way and in fact many (or most?) fiddlers use standard position or something close to standard position.
    – DrSvanHay
    Jan 1, 2019 at 1:58
  • So what defines fiddling? There's a contradiction here.
    – Tim
    Jan 1, 2019 at 9:38
  • 2
    @Tim it's quite common for baroque violinists to hold the instrument this way, too. Another effect is to make the downbow and upbow less even. The meaning of "fiddle" is not so clearly defined as you seem to want it to be. Even if we agree that the video clearly shows "fiddling," that doesn't mean that the way the instrument is held defines fiddling or that it is contradictory to say that fiddling can also be done in "standard" position.
    – phoog
    Jan 1, 2019 at 10:15
  • 1
    Yeah, every time I imagine a stereotypical fiddler, s/he is always holding the violin in standard position.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 1, 2019 at 11:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.