How Difficult is it to Play the Fiddle/ Violin? 

Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus! instruction book by Wayne Erbsen
Marcus Martin
Marcus Martin

Among the many stringed instruments, the fiddle or violin has long been revered but also feared. Somewhere along the line, it got the reputation of being the most difficult instrument to play. Let’s look this question right in the eye and answer it right here and now, once and for all.

What do I say when someone says that the fiddle is the most difficult instrument to learn? “Hogwash.

A more detailed answer would go like this. “It depends on several things.

  1.  Talent. Some people have more natural ability to learn musical instruments more than others. However, after teaching people to play for over fifty years, I still feel that determination is more important than natural talent. In fact, if I had to choose between having talent vs having drive, I’d pick drive every time. People with talent sometimes don’t appreciate their gift and often squander it. On the other hand, people with drive tend to succeed at whatever they’re working on, be it the fiddle, or pinochle. If you’ve got the will to learn to play the fiddle, and the drive and determination to focus and apply yourself, I have no doubt you’ll be successful.
  1. Confidence. To me, self-confidence is one of the key factors in determining whether a person can play a fiddle or a xylophone.
  1. Instruction. Your success at learning to play the fiddle will have a lot to do with your learning style. If you can match the way you learn with the proper materials or people, you’ll be in business!

Different Ways of Learning to Play the Fiddle:

YouTube: There’s a ton of free videos on YouTube which teach everything from cutting down a tree, baking a cake and playing the fiddle. If you search long enough, you may find someone you can learn things from.  I even have some  instructional videos up on YouTube… check them out HERE.

Private Instructor: For many people, taking private fiddle lessons is the way to go. Your local music store is probably a good place to try to find an instructor. Of course, you’ll need to decide if your preference is to learn classical violin or if you’re more interested in Celtic, old-time, or bluegrass fiddle styles.  Group classes are also a good way to go if you want to save some money. If you are in the Asheville area, feel free to check out my group classes.

Playing by music or ear. Classical violinists always use standard musical notation. Fiddlers often shun written music and prefer to play strictly by ear. Depending on your learning style, you’ll need to discuss this with your fiddle instructor.

Bluegrass-Jamming-on-FiddleBooks. If want a more structured way of learning but don’t want to pay a teacher, you can certainly teach yourself to play the fiddle from a book.  There must be a ton of fiddle instruction books out there, and there is probably some good material in them. However, the only book that I really know anything about is one I wrote, Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus!, available on our website as a paperback or downloadable PDF, and now on Amazon Kindle as well. If you already know your way around the fiddle but need help taking the next step, check out my other fiddle book, Bluegrass Jamming on Fiddle.


Fiddle-For-Complete-IgnoramusLet me tell you what my ‘Ignoramus’ book consists of:

  1.  Friendly, informal, funny writing style
  2.  Simple, clear, straightforward instruction
  3.  Large font size to make reading the book easier
  4.   Simple, great-sounding arrangements of 37 old-time tunes
  5.   Vintage photographs of old fiddlers
  6.  Standard musical notation plus a unique easy tab system
  7.  Tips on everything from tuning, to patting your foot to improvising
  8.  A CD that plays the 37 tunes slow and fast

Going it alone. It’s quite possible for you to learn to play the fiddle without books, internet, instruction, outside help, but I wouldn’t advise it. A good instructor or book can set you on the right path without getting into a lot of bad habits.

Any way you look at it, the fiddle is a fun instrument to play, so I expect you can be a fine fiddler, without hardly breaking a sweat.

11 thoughts on “How Difficult is it to Play the Fiddle/ Violin? 

  1. Hi Wayne, I have your book, Old Time Fiddle for the Complete….oh, yeah, Ignoramus. I picked up a fiddle a while back and am building the courage to start. Actually, I broke the “G” string and am building the courage to string in up. I don’t expect to get that good, but a band is waiting on me whenever I am ready. They don’t know it, yet, but anyway, they are looking for a fiddle player and are good friends. I’m not waiting to become as good as, say, Roger Howell, Bobby Hicks, Arvil Freeman, George Giddens, or even the Buckner kids, but kinda for my own enjoyment. The band might fire me the first night, but I won’t be getting paid anyway. That’ll make me a ful-fledged musician for sure, no pay. But that’s a year away, I am sure. Thanks for the great book (love the spiral) and encouragement. Headin’ for the video on replacing the “G” string, then finding where I laid it down. See ya sometime. John

  2. 8/25/2016
    Hello Wayne…..
    I’m interested in the fiddle…but I’m 71 years old….never played an instrument and cannot read music. I’m employed full time, but want to learn an instrument (wanted the piano, but don’t think I can afford it…)

    What are the chances of learning to play the fiddle or any instrument well enough to enjoy it myself….and to be able to recognize the tune I’d try to play? 🙂
    Many thanks, Enjoyed info on your site. I’m in another state or would love to work with you…
    thanks again…

  3. So anyone can Play a Fiddle or violin if he or she has the Determination to Learn!

  4. How can I get your book I don’t have a lot of money but a ton of drive

    1. You can buy ‘Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus’ from our website at or from Amazon at In addition to the spiral bound paperback version, for a lower prices it is available digitally, as a PDF on our website(there is a link to the PDF in the first link), and on Amazon Kindle.

  5. Hi Wayne,

    I always wanted to learn to play the fiddle, so I finally took the leap at age 63. I got a fiddle and your book about 10 months ago. It’s proving to be every bit as much of a challenge as I ever dreamed it might be, but I’m actually getting better and having a great time. I tried going it alone for about the first month before getting a real teacher. Definitely the best move I made. Some tunes actually don’t sound half bad now. I’m thoroughly enjoying your book and am using it daily along with a couple of others.


  6. I’m 69 never played an instrument in my life and on finding I’m half Irish and wanting to embrace my ethnicity I’m looking to learn to play the fiddle My children live in Ireland and I want to surprise them at Christmas with at least a simple irish tune. I will work hard but need to find the simplest way to learn as I usually learn hands on and not good learning from a book. Can you please help me.
    Thank you.
    Lin ☘️

  7. Hi Wayne,
    I purchased your book “Fiddle Playing for the complete Ignoramus” in February of 2018. I’m 44 years old and just started playing fiddle in February of 2018. Your book has introduced me to a lot of songs I’d never heard before but have now fallen in love with. I have learned every song up to “Cotton Eyed Joe” plus “Groundhog”. I play through the cd which is immensely helpful at least once a day. The cd really helps me try to match the notes. My shuffles are coming along nicely. I have purposely been staying away from double stops, vibrato or any extras until I feel that my tone and notes are as close as possible to the way they should sound. When I finish this book I will purchasing your other two fiddle books. I have also been listening to your “Front Porch Favorites” off of “Amazon Music”. Thank you for putting together such a top notch instructional Fiddle book.

    1. Hi Jay I would love to hear about how you are coming along???? I am keen to learn the fiddle also at 32 years old I am worried I may lose patience so I need to improve my patience and not set the bar so high for myself, I realise this wont happen overnight but would love to hear your feedback from your experiences both pros and cons.

      All the best


  8. The difference between a fiddle and a violin?
    You can spill beer on a fiddle!

  9. Another version….the difference between a violin and a fiddle:

    A violin has strings, a fiddle has strangs!

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