Other fiddle gear

In addition to your instrument, bow, chinrest, shoulder rest, strings and rosin, there are a few other utility-related items that will make it a little more convenient to be a fiddler. These include a case, tuning device, mute, tuning pegs, and a humidifier.

Cases: Tired of carrying around your fiddle in that old pillowcase? It’s time to upgrade. There are a variety of cases out there that are very sturdy, comfortable, and handy. Of course, a strong case that protects your precious cargo is most important. A lot of folks want something that is lightweight, especially for toting it around festivals, to gigs, and anywhere else. Most new cases also have handy little compartments for holding your accessories, sheet music, etc. I have a Bobelock Half Moon case with compartments, hygrometer, and zip-up outer lining. If you are a frequent flyer or career road dog you will want to invest in a good flight-quality case, though most fiddle cases are small enough to keep as a carry-on.

Tuners: Ok, I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here. I do not own an electronic tuner. I don’t think they are really necessary, especially for instruments in the violin family- fretted instruments are another story, however. The only time I ever use an electronic tuner is in the studio. I believe they hinder the ear’s ability to develop a natural sense of pitch and intonation; which helps the player get in tune with the rest of the band, whose instruments are also fluctuating in pitch from playing (or banging) and changes in room temperature. (I have found that moonshine can also have an effect on the band’s tuning.) If you can’t tune your fiddle by ear, how do you expect to be able to play with good intonation? But if you must have one there are lots to choose from. I would suggest instead going with a pitch pipe or tuning fork.

Mutes: Some kind of mute may come in handy at times, especially when your three-hour practice sessions might get you evicted, divorced, or a noise ordinance violation. I do not recommend using one unless you have to, because your ear might get used to the sound of the mute, and not the ‘true’ tone of the fiddle. There are two basic types: the kind that slips over the top of the bridge, and the kind that clips on your strings between the bridge and the tailpiece, and slides up to dampen the top of the bridge. I personally prefer the second kind, because they are lightweight and you can keep it clipped in your strings ready to go- minimizing the risk of losing it. I don’t recommend the big heavy metal ones- I knocked over my bridge once when I bumped it because it was too top heavy.
Tuning pegs and fine tuners: These are fairly straightforward, as long as they’re installed and fit properly. Some folks who like to play in different tunings prefer geared tuning pegs- really nifty gizmos that have planetary gears inside, but look almost exactly like a traditional violin peg. These let you easily tune and re-tune to incredible accuracy, but without friction or peg slippage issues. I had a set of Perfection pegs (about $100) on one of my older fiddles and loved them. I would definitely get a skilled violinmaker or repairperson to install them though. As far as fine tuners, I recommend the kind that allows the end of the string the most contact to the tailpiece- allowing the string vibrations to transfer better through to the end pin.

Humidifiers: If you live in a dry climate or an area with cold, dry winters you should consider getting an instrument humidifier. I have a little Humitron ($9.00) that fits through the f-hole. This will help prevent cracking or other dry climate-related damage