A fiddle is any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music. Fiddle playing, orfiddling, refers to various styles of music.
Common distinctions between violins and fiddles reflect the differences in the instruments used to play folk and classical music. However, it is not uncommon for classically trained violinists to play folk music, and today many fiddle players have classical training. Many traditional (folk) styles are aural traditions, so are taught 'by ear' rather than with written music.
The medieval fiddle emerged in 10th-century Europe, deriving from the Byzantine lira (Greek:λύρα, Latin:lira, English:lyre), a bowed string instrument of the Byzantine Empire and ancestor of most European bowed instruments. The first recorded reference to the bowed lira was in the 9th century by the Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911); in his lexicographical discussion of instruments he cited the lira (lūrā) as a typical instrument of the Byzantines and equivalent to therabāb played in the Islamic Empires.
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