online fiddle lessons

The fiddle, known to those outside of the Irish music tradition as the violin,  is truly the father of folk music. We have a really exciting range of fiddle courses to suit different levels and tastes. For beginners, Fiddle Basics by Niamh Dunne, has the essentials to get you started. Majella Bartley will then expand your repertoire with her Fleadh Tunes for the Fiddle. After that you can decide to study the relaxed music of Co. Clare under the guidance of Tola Custy or let Aidan O’Donnell lead you through the fiery fiddle music of Co. Donegal. If you’re classically trained you’ll want to head on over to Niamh Dunne’s amazing course just for you, Irish Music for Violinists. So, whatever stage you are at, if you love the fiddle, you couldn’t be in better company.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What fiddle would you recommended for Beginners?
For a beginner fiddle the tutor recommends the Stentor Student 1 or 2 which comes in at around €150-€200. They have a nice tone and good strings. There is also the Hidersine range from €100-€150 if you want to go a little lower in price. Also make sure to buy a shoulder rest.

When starting the fiddle, what are the most important aspects to work on?
1. Bow Hold

First of all when using the bow you must tighten it by turning the screw at the bottom of the bow clockwise. Don’t tighten it too tight just enough for there to be approximately 6-8 mm between the hair and stick. Also make sure to loosen bow when finished playing.

When learning to properly place your right hand, hold the bow stick with your left hand. Be careful to not touch the bow hair with your fingers. Oil from your hands can get onto the bow hairs and this will make them loose the friction needed when connecting with the strings to make sound. It is also important to keep the bow well rosined. Place your thumb on the underside of the bow stick, next to where the frog ends. Usually, there will be a small space between the frog and the leather or wire finger grip. That’s the spot where you want to place your thumb.

Next, the middle finger is placed opposite the thumb on the bow stick, with the ring finger placed right next to it. Let your middle and ring finger relax so that they curve over the top of the bow and rest on the frog. Then, place the tip of your little finger on top of the bow stick, slightly away from the ring finger. It’s very important that the little finger is curved so that it points down onto the top of the bow stick. If it is held straight, you will loose a lot of control of the bow.

Finally, place your first finger on the finger grip, contacting the bow close to the middle knuckle. Keep the first finger curved and pointing slightly back toward the other fingers on the bow.

As an exercise, hold the fiddle bow vertically in your right hand, start to crawl your fingers up to the tip of the bow and back down without the help of your left hand. This exercise will help strengthen and improve flexibility in your fingers.

2. Fiddle Hold

The fiddle is held horizontally (parallel with the floor) and is angled to the left of a straightforward position. Place the fiddle on your left collarbone and rest the left side of your jaw on the chin rest. Shoulder rests are very helpful to hold up the fiddle.

The elbow should be under the center of the fiddle. Keep the wrist gently rounded. Avoid resting the wrist against the fiddle neck. The thumb should be opposite the first or second finger. Maintain a curved, open space between the thumb and index finger.

If you stand when playing, stand straight with feet shoulder width apart, and with relaxed knees. If you prefer to sit, use a chair with a firm base, and sit up straight and sit towards the front of the chair.

3. Bowing

It is very important at the start to bow correctly as this may hinder your ability to play faster tunes and do bow ornamentation later in your playing. When bowing you must use your wrist and not your arm. When practicing, do long bow strokes starting with the bottom of the bow on a string, your wrist should be high here. Then bringing the bow down slowly with your elbow facing directly at the ground, it should not move backwards at all. When the bow is being pulled slowly down, your wrist gradually moves in and make sure you are bowing straight across the string and not sideways. Do this over and over and getting faster and faster. The swing, lift, interpretation, ornamentation and rhythm comes from the bowing and the bow wrist.

Any other advice starting out?
Don’t be put off by people saying that the fiddle is a difficult instrument. Ignore them! If you want to learn the fiddle, you can and you will absolutely love it. Enjoy each new thing you learn on the fiddle, rather than thinking about what you don’t know yet. Even just bowing a string has a calming, relaxing effect, so enjoy that. With each lesson and practice session you will build confidence. If you want to make progress more quickly, set an alarm on your phone for a daily practise session. Even 15/20 minutes a day will make all the difference.

Don’t move onto a new lesson before mastering the skills taught in a previous lesson. Particularly, take your time in learning to bow the strings initially without hitting off the other strings. By staying with the basics until you have perfected them, you will have created a great foundation for making faster progress later on.

If you are completely new to music, simply download a free app tuner and set it up beside you when you are bowing the strings, this way you will be able to get visual feedback that you are playing the string correctly. Plus it gives the added advantage of letting you know if your string is in tune. Over time, you will become familiar with the notes and how they should sound (i.e., the tone.) Check in with the Community Forum regularly to connect with other students and get support.

Can one learn the fiddle at any age?
Yes, is the simple answer. It’s all down to the time and dedication you give it. These lessons are broken into very manageable tutorials, with very clear step by step instructions. Don’t put pressure on yourself to progress quickly, take your time and enjoy the learning. We have students of all ages, actually quite a lot who never played any musical instrument before and then decided to pick up the fiddle. It is possible, it’s all down to your attitude in the end.

How do you know what size fiddle to get?

The best way to be sized for a fiddle is to ask a professional/teacher for help. If this is not possible the next best way to size a child for an instrument is to place a fiddle under the child’s neck. If their fingers can reach just over the head of the fiddle it is a good size. If their fingers do not reach the top of the head it is too big and if they fall far over the neck the instrument is too small.

Another way to measure for a fiddle if you don’t have access to an instrument, use a measuring tape. Lift the left arm and extend it fully to the side, palm facing upward, fingers flat and straight out. Place the measuring tape under the chin, touching the neck to the center of the palm. Don’t allow for any slack. Once you have the size in inches, use the size chart, below, to determine the child’s size:

Violin Sizes Arm Length Measurements (inches) Approximate Age
1/16 14″ to 15 3/8” 3-5 years
1/10 15 3/8” to 16 7/8” 3-5 years
1/8 16 7/8” to 18 1/2” 3-5 years
1/4 18 1/2” to 20 3/8” 4-7 years
1/2 20 3/8” to 22 1/4” 6-10 years
3/4 22 1/4” to 23 5/8” 9-11 years
4/4 (Full Size) 23 5/8” + up 12 years to Adult

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Irish Fiddle Courses

Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

Learn Irish Fiddle Online

Donegal Fiddle Styles

with Aidan O’Donnell

  • Advanced

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Easy Fiddle Favourites

with Neil Fitzgibbon

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Fiddle Online

Fiddle Basics

with Niamh Dunne

  • Basic

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Irish Fiddle for Violinists

with Niamh Dunne

  • Intermediate

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Learn Irish Fiddle Online

Clare Fiddle Styles

with Tola Custy

  • Intermediate

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Learn Irish Fiddle Online

Fleadh Tunes For The Fiddle ...

with Majella Bartley

  • Intermediate

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