Same, and I am a little offended after DL first calls me late and then says I don't play the violin. Well, obviously, you don't know enough about me, Duo.
Why на here rather than в? Is it as simple as в for sports and на for instruments?
Yes, that's it. "В" is used with any games, not just sports - e.g., computer games.
Is this different from "I can't play the violin"? That is, does "Я не играю на скрипке" mean 'I have no ability to play the violin' (my answer), or 'I have the ability to play the violin but I choose not to' (DuoLingo's answer)?
Interesting, but I don't believe so. Certainly where I'm from, they're exactly the same. A "fiddle" is usually used for folk music whereas a "violin" is used for more classical music.
Professional and amateur violinists, at least in America, not infrequently refer to their instruments as "fiddles". It's a way of down-playing the stuffy image some people attach to classical violin music.
However, if you want to get really technical, there can be a difference in the way that fiddles and violins are set up. Fiddles often have lower, flatter bridges (the wooden piece supporting the strings, placed between the two s-shaped holes in the top of the instrument). That shape makes it easier to play double-stops (two strings at once) and easier to play lower notes. With a "violin", you need a higher bridge to help with playing higher up on the neck, and the higher arch helps keep notes separate and clean - making double-stops less easy, but not that far a reach.
It even says "fiddle" when you hover over "скрипке", but it still won't accept it.
Actually, if you play classical music, then you don't play the fiddle. If you play folk music, then you do play the fiddle. Lindsey Sterling plays violin, and not the fiddle, so it's possible that it is in fact, a violin, and not a fiddle. It comes down to what music they play.
I've heard Itzhak Perlman refer to his instrument as a "fiddle". We're talking about Strad or Guarneri "fiddles".
Can this also mean, "I am not playing the violin"? E.g., "I am not playing the violin in this session; I am playing the bass."
Firstly, "to play the violin" is a standard British way of saying it, whereas you frequently hear "to play violin" in the US. You can check the opinions of some native speakers e.g. here: http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/play-the-piano-play-piano.1564241/
Secondly, there is nothing grammatically wrong with "to play a violin". This expression would merely refer to some violin - e.g., an actual thing rather than the type of a musical instrument. For obvious reasons such usage is much less common.
If you want to have some fun with it, check the title of this book (seemingly written by a native speaker): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/learn-to-play-a-piano-robert-masterson/1112100183
It does not. The standard variations are:
- to play violin (US)
- to play the violin (GB)
In the latter case the violin is treated the same way the animal species are treated in English: the lion, the tiger etc. - it's the name of the species, not an individual animal: