I hope the violinists won't throw things at me, but I play fiddle.
(In truth, though, I still tend to refer to myself as "a recovering violinist" rather than as a "fiddler".)
The story is that I played fiddle back in school, from age 9 until age 18. I was pretty good, but really not conservatory material. When I went of to college, I threw myself into my studies, and set my violin aside.
In grad school, I started contra dancing. If you don't know what it is, it may be worth your while to find out. My wife and I, who got to know each other on the dance floor, stopped dancing during the early child-rearing years, but started again about six years ago.
About a year after that - five years ago this very month - I pulled out my violin, called it a fiddle, and started learning dance tunes. I now play for contra dances on a regular basis, in two different bands.
Even though I currently live in the American South (in the Piedmont), I don't play a lot of old time music (that is, the traditional music of Southern Appalachia). Contra dance started in New England, and New England tunes suit it best . . . though Quebecois and Celtic tunes work, too. There's also a growing repertoire of new tunes in traditional (and less-traditional) styles, written specifically for contra dance.
I can read music, but I generally do that only long enough to learn the tune; then, I set the music aside and just play. I can also learn by ear . . . sometimes on the fly. I also aspire to improvise more freely . . . something that's developing only slowly. I think I've given up on my dream of playing like Stuff Smith, though.
I've taken up mandolin very recently, mostly just in order to learn chords. It's part of my recovery program, you see . . .
I've also recently acquired a (really) cheap (but pretty good) electric fiddle - it's blue! - mostly so I can practice quietly at night, using headphones. One of these days, though, I'm going to get a small amp and some effects pedals . . . and my journey to the dark side will be complete.
P.S. If you want to see what modern urban contra dance looks like, check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ycFs...eature=related
I'm in the background of this video, but not in the band . . . I'm not nearly this good. The band is an amazing duo who combine traditional music with electronica, especially live looping; nothing in the music you hear is pre-recorded or sampled. The tune is actually a contemporary tune called "The Flying Tent." Note that this video was taken at a weekend-long dance festival, and that this particular dance sequence is really intended for experienced dancers; most contra dances are much, much more accessible than this.