Where did the fiddle originate from?

Where did the fiddle originate from?

I hope this does not seem like a very stupid question but……where does the fiddle actually originate from and how far can it be traced back? How did it make its way into ITM?

Since learning to play the tenor banjo ( self taught) for the last four years I have become very fond of the sound of the fiddle especially in ITM.

Its an amazing instrument small in size but in the hands of a good player can sound so powerful and yet so graceful what ever the music or player calls for. Playing my banjo in the Irish tuning i.e GDAE an octave below a fiddle, its great to be able to pick up some fiddle books and learn the tunes with the same fingering…and in a way get into the minds and expression of how a fiddle player would play in ITM

Thanks

Dave

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

It came from China, i think?
Anyway, there’s been fiddles around at least since the middle ages.

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

Well, the actual fiddle evolved from a medieval instrument called "fidula"; the name itself is an originally French word deriving from the latin "fidula".
It’s very interesting the fact that the folk tradition, which is strongly linked to medieval, renaissance and baroque music, preserved the name of the ancient instrument.

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

This can be a hot topic, I don’t have any concrete evidence of anything I’m about to say - but it’s just stuff I’ve pieced together. Bowed instruments are ancient, they are in almost every culture & to decide exactly which culture introduced it to Ireland is far beyond me to decide. Rebecs which came from Arabic culture may have been introduced to Europe through the crusades - these may have been the basis for the french fiddles - or maybe the french just came up with it on their own. At any rate, the fiddle that we all know was pretty much the violin which was perfected by the Italians in Cremona. How & when Italian luthiers started to change rebecs into viols then later into our modern violin has been forgotten over time. What I do know is that the Violin was the "peoples" instrument of choice throughout the late 1600’s right up until the early 1900’s when guitars took on the role. I think the violin coming into Irish music was a natural, gradual process - as the harp tradition died out (or was killed off) cheaper more portable (perhaps hide-able) fiddles fit the bill. Along with pipes, fiddles probably played marches & other pipe tunes as well as the airs for the sean nos singing. This was probably around the late 1700’s - but the music was probably far from what we hear today. When the Irish started playing scottish reels around the mid 1800’s that’s probably when the music started to take on more of a shape that we know today. As I said I’m just using common sense & the facts I do have to piece everything together.

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

I think Brad’s "common sence & facts" are correct. I have no idea of exactly when and how the fiddle was introduced into Irish Music, but Brad’s guesses makes sence. B T W, the way Irish music is based around one (or two) basic scales and their modal equivalents, suggests that the music was "built" for instruments with fixed scales like old harps, pipes, flutes and whistles. If the music would have been built around the fiddle and its predecessors, than the two most natural minor scales would have been D minor and G minor, but you never find them in ITM (but in other European traditions like the scandinavian).
Now for the origin of the fiddle:
Two medieval instruments have been mentioned here as ancestors for the modern violin/fiddle. 1) The fidula, fyddle or simply ‘fiddle’ and 2) the Rebec.
The fidula was a pretty large instrument, larger than the alto viola. It often had five strings and was often fretted. It was held vertically from the knee (like a small "lap violoncello"). The older fidulas where carved out of one wooden block with a soundboard added as top. Later on they started to make them with ribs, bottom and top like a modern instrument.
The rebec originated (at least to the name) from the Arabian ‘rabab’. The Rabab was built of a dried gourd with a skin over it as "soundboard". (So it must have been the anestor for the banjo as well!)
When the instrument was introuduced into Europe, they started to make body and neck in one piece of wood that was hollowed out in the body. The top or soundboard was made of thin wood instead of skin. I believe that the European Rebec was born when the idea of the Arabian Rabab was combined with the building techique of European Lyres.
Anyhow, the Rebec was usually a three stringed instrument and usually without frets. It was held like a modern fiddle under the chin or at the shoulder. It was tuned in fifths whereas the fidula had other tunings more fitted for drones. The rebec had a curved fingerboard allowing for playing one note at a time while I believe (though I’m not shure) that the fidula had a more guitar-like fingerboard, which meant that all or most of the strings where sounding simultaneously).
When the modern violin was born in Cremona some three hundred years ago it was built upon principles from the fidula, the rebec, the viola da gamba etc. But the instrument that resembles the violin most in tuning, pitch and playing technique is by far the rebec. And there are still simpler fiddles around the world called rebecs. I read about a Brasilian instrument called rebac in an article about brasilian folk music just a few days ago!
Here’s a link to a wonderful and comprehensive page about the rebec:
http://www.crab.rutgers.edu/~pbutler/rebec.html
Yours
Lars

Posted by .

Brasilian instrument?

Can’t be rebac. We do have the word "rabeca", which corresponds, roughly, to "fiddle" as a way to both demean and endear the violin. I guess a rabeca could be a home-made violin, but this doesn’t really happen anymore.

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

Sorry Glauber!
I didn’t check the magazine before writing my post. I remembered that one of the e’s where changed into an a, and messed it up the wrong way. Anyway the article was about an old man called Mestre Salustiano, who is supposed to be a legendar in Brazilian folk music (he lives in Recife). Also his son Marciel Salustiano plays the rabeca in ‘DJ Dolores and Orchestra Santa Massa’. And that band plays contemporary music. So it can’t be all dead!
Of course I don’t mean that the brazilian rabeca is the same instrument as the medievel rebec, but that the name has survived and is still used for describing simpler kinds of fiddles.

Posted by .

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

Definitely, and i know the name Mestre Salustiano. I don’t think there are a lot of people making fiddles, but it’s good to know that there are at least still a few! I should have said "it doesn’t happen *much* anymore. Thanks for the info.

Re: Where did the fiddle originate from?

There is mention of "an fhideal cham" (described on page 18, by Mickey Byrne) in Ciaran Carson’s Pocket guide to Irish Traditional Music, which he says…. there is some evidence to suggest that there was a precursor to the modern violin…..

There was also references made to