Recommended Fiddle Gear
These are the main strings I use.
I use these on my electric violin.
I recommend FiddlerShop for buying violins and bows online. They make good, affordable instruments and have a generous return policy. The fiddles are made overseas and then “set up” by hand at their workshop in Florida. And they are a family-run business.
Here’s an entry-level fiddle to get you going.
Here’s a more expensive violin. It’s a worthy investment if you can afford to spend a little more.
My general advice for buying a fiddle…
Get something good that is also affordable. If you spend $100 on a violin, you’ll pay for it in frustration. It will be harder to learn. You may even give up and miss out having this gift of music in your life.
On the other hand, too many people obsess over which violin to buy. They miss a big point: you have to play the thing. If you have a $10,000 violin but barely pick it up, then it may as well be a $100 violin.
If you’re on a budget, I recommend something in the $300-400 range. Think of it as an investment. You’re investing in the peace and happiness that comes with music. You also might see some financial return. If you get into fiddling, you won’t waste money on other meaningless stuff.
A good inexpensive option at $68.79.
Pernambuco wood is the standard for professional violinists. If you can afford this at $199.99, then I think it would be a worthy investment.
I currently use this classic rosin.
Very cool and fun rosins, created to be visually interesting.
The Bonmusica is a high tech shoulder rest. Especially recommended if you have back, neck or shoulder pain after playing.
A Practice Mute is helpful if you want to play without disturbing your roommates or family. A lot of beginning fiddlers are self-conscious about their sound (even if no one else cares). A mute can ease this anxiety. But I recommend that you don’t use it all the time because it will become a crutch. Your tone won’t develop properly.
You can make better quality audio and video recordings if you use an external microphone. These recordings give you immediate feedback on your playing. If the audio quality is bad, you won’t continue to record. Another benefit of a good mic is that it makes for a better experience when playing with others online, whether it’s taking a one-on-one lesson, or playing with a student group.
Whatever mic you pick, make sure it’s compatible with the device you’ll use for recording. If you’re using a laptop, I recommend a usb mic. See my suggestions below:
I use the Elgato Wave 3 ($140) when recording direct to my computer during group lessons and sometimes even for play-along tracks. It comes with a software mixer. It might be more than you need, but I find it useful.
I use a little Zoom mic ($80) when recording directly to my iPhone. This can be the best solution if I want to use my laptop for something else (like lesson or practice notes) and don’t want to be switching windows on my computer (focus, baby, focus).
A few FiddleHeds got the Yeti ($100) and are content with it.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can buy this Fifine USB mic for less than $30 on Amazon.
This helps with the right-hand position on the bow. It may also be a good tool if you are recovering or dealing with a physical obstacle like carpal tunnel surgery or arthritis.
This trains you to bow parallel to the bridge (perpendicular to the strings).
This aids your left-hand position and helps you play with less tension.
Fiddlehed Jim W. had this to say about it:
“Just wanted to check in and update you on my left wrist issues and my experience with the wonder thumb device.
Remove resistance to practicing by keeping your fiddle accessible. Another solution would be a floor stand:
I use this drone box when I need a break from my computer and phone. It’s made in India, a bit weird but also loveable little device.
This protects the violin from shrinkage in dry climates.
Books On Practice
Here are two great books to help you understand how habits work. Establish good ones and stop the bad ones.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Peak by Anders Ericsson
Fiddler’s Fakebook, by David Brody
If you buy just one book, this is the one to get. I love it.
The Fiddle Book, by Marion Thede
A great book of old-time tunes and stories. It also is a great resource if you want to play in altered tunings.
The Celtic Fiddler, by Edward Huws Jones
I love this tune selection. It contains tunes from places you didn’t know had Clectic fiddling, like Brittany in France and Galicia in Spain.
This book has very simple versions arranged in sets of three tunes.
Klezmer Collection, by Stacey Phillips
The Cajun Fiddle Tune Book, by Deborah Greenblatt
Another great book with a nice range of skill levels.
I use Reason to record the play-along tracks on the site.
Other fun instruments
I use this for backing tracks and just creating cool sounds.
Here is a Youtube playlist of some songs that I teach:
Here are some fiddle albums I love:
I just love the way this album sounds. Nuff said.
Listening to this album I realized that you can re-invent traditional music in beautiful new ways.
Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935: Blues, Jazz, Stomps, Shuffles & Rags
This was a huge influence on me. It’s still refreshing to hear recordings in which the spirit of the performance is valued over perfected audio.