The UOTF operates and manages the Utah State Fiddle Contest, and our various chapters often operate their own contests as well. The Salt Lake chapter, in particular, has one every year. In general, we try to stay close to the way things are done in the National Contest at Weiser Idaho. We do have just a few minor differences however, so for the sake of ease the rules are outlined here. The files for the Salt Lake City contest can be downloaded from their contest page.

The specifics of the rules are sometimes subject to change. When a conflict occurs, the rules presented at the contest supersede anything found on this page. This page should be considered a guideline only, and represents the usual conditions found at our contests.


Fiddle Divisions
Please note: only violins are admitted to this division. Other bowed instruments should consider competing in the miscellaneous or jukebox divisions.

A round consists of three tunes: a hoe-down, a waltz, and a tune of choice. The tune of choice may NOT be a hoe-down or a waltz. A round lasts 4 minutes for all three tunes combined, and a penalty may be assessed if the contestant exceeds the allotted time. A contestant may play a tune only once during the contest.

Sheet music may not be displayed on stage. Any tune that can be danced to and is in the old-time style is acceptable. If the contestant has any doubts as to the suitability of a given tune, the judges should be consulted. Trick and fancy fiddling techniques are prohibited. A contestant may have up to three accompanists, but only acoustic instruments are permitted.

If a string breaks, the elapsed time will be halted while repairs are made. The contestant has the option to continue the tune from the point where the string broke, or to begin the tune again.

Judging criteria are: old time fiddling style, dance-ability, rhythm, timing, and tone quality.

– Small fry contestants are ages 0-8 years
– Jr. Junior contestants range ages 9-13 years
– Junior contestants are ages 14-17
– Adult contestants are ages 18-49
– Senior division contestants are ages 50-69
– Sr. Senior division covers contestants older than 70
– Hot Fiddle division is open to all age brackets
– Jim Shupe Memorial Championship division is open to all age brackets

Note that the Salt Lake City contest (Fiddlin’ and Pickin’) does not have the Senior-Senior and Championship categories. The Hot Fiddle division has special rules.

Picking Divisions
The picker’s division includes guitar, mandolin, harmonica and banjo, divided by age groups. A contestant may play only one of the listed instruments when competing, but may compete in more than one category. A round consists of two tunes, a fast tune and a slow tune. The time limit is 3 minutes. A penalty will be assessed for contestants who go over the time limit. As with the fiddle contest, written music may not be displayed on stage. Up to three accompanists may be used, but only acoustic instruments will be allowed. If a string breaks, the contest elapsed time will be suspended while repairs are made. The contestant then has the option to begin the tune over, or continue from the point of the tune where the string broke.

– Adult guitar, contestants 18 years and older
– Adult mandolin, contestants 18 years and older
– Adult banjo, contestants 18 years and older
– Junior guitar, contestants under 18 years of age
– Junior mandolin, contestants under 18
– Junior banjo, contestants under 18
– Harmonica, open to all ages.

Tips and Hints
A hoedown should be played with a strong, driving beat and no swing. Hoedowns are usually written in either 4/4 or 2/4 time. Many tunes with the word “reel” in the title are actually hoedowns as are square dances. Examples are: Cripple Creek, Boil Them Cabbage Down, Old Joe Clark, Road to Boston, St. Anne’s Reel, Bill Cheatham, Finnegan’s Wake, and Soldier’s Joy.

A waltz should be played with smooth tone and little to no vibrato. Waltzes are always in 3/4 time. Examples are: Alison’s Waltz, La Valse des Juenes Filles, and Westphalia Waltz.

The tune of choice cannot be a hoedown or a waltz but must be something that can be danced to. Polkas, rags and two-steps are good selections for tunes of choice. Examples are: Flowers of Edinburgh, I’s the B’y, and Kesh Jig.

Songs are played inside a four minute time limit. You should allot 1 minute per tune with no stopping and no applause. Tune format should be ABA, AABB, or ABA. If you need to alter the tune, cut whole sections and not just parts.

Do not use a long kick off or ending.

Judging is blind, with the exception of the Hot Fiddle division.

Backup is usually a guitar; sometimes a mandolin, a bass, or two guitars. Contestants do not have to hire a backup. Guitar players will be available, but it is advisable for contestants to be early so they can practice with their accompanists. Contestants should know what key all of their tunes are in. Changing keys is permissible if the accompanist is aware of it and can make a smooth transition.