Who knew there were so many violin sizes?!
So, you’ve decided that you or your child want violin lessons and you need to get a violin.
The first thing you’ll notice is all the different sizes. Which one do you need?
Don’t worry, it’s actually not that difficult to pick the appropriate violin size.
Whether you are buying a beginner violin or a more advanced instrument, there are only three factors that come into play when picking the correct size.
I have condensed all the information you need on violin sizes below, in order to help you make a good decision. There is also a selection of frequently asked questions available towards the end of the article.
Violin Sizes Explained
The size of a violin increases in fractions, as you will see below. As you might expect, full size is the largest, while 1/32 is the smallest. Adults should use a full-sized instument. For children, you need to determin the right size.
How To Measure Violin Size For A Child
What size you need depends on the two factors below and comfort, which is actually the most important consideration.
1. The violin player’s age
The table below offers a suggestion of what size violin you need depending on the age range. Naturally, some children are exceptions to the rule, due to factors such as early or late growth spurts.
If you are unsure, then remember that comfort is the most important factor of all and it overrides both the age and the arm length.
Can the violinist comfortably play the violin in tune? Is he or she struggling to reach the lower notes? Age will give you a good indication of what size you will need, but comfort with the instrument will be the deciding factor.
2. The player’s arm length
There are two ways to figure out what size you need depending on arm length.
- Neck to palm: Run a measuring tape from the left side of your neck to the palm of your outstretched left hand. Make sure your hand is at around 45 degrees to your body, which is the natural position of your arm when playing a violin. Make sure your palm is facing upwards. This measurement indicates the largest size that would be appropriate.
- Neck to wrist: Run a measuring tape from the left side of your neck to the wrist of your outstretched arm. Again, make sure your hand is at around 45 degrees to your body. This measurement indicates a comfortable size.
Check out this video, which shows you exactly how to measure your arm length.
Here are the different sized violins and the ages and arm length of a violinist for whom each size is best. Check both the age and the arm length before settling on a size. And don’t forget that comfort is the most important factor of all.
|Violin Size||Age||Arm Length|
|1/32||1 - 3||under 14" (35.5 cm)|
|1/16||3 - 5||14" (35.5 cm)|
|1/10||4 - 5||15" (38 cm)|
|1/8||4 - 6||16.5" (42 cm)|
|1/4||5 - 7||18" - 18.5" (45.7 - 47 cm)|
|1/2||7 - 9||20" (50.8 cm)|
|3/4||9 - 12||21.5" - 22" (54.6 - 56 cm)|
|7/8||small teen - adult||22" (56 cm) with small hands|
|4/4 (Full Size)||11 years - adult||23" (58 cm) and longer|
Violin Sizes FAQ
Why is it important to choose the correct size?
If your violin is too big, you could be causing yourself damage. The bigger the violin, the heavier it is.
For children especially, holding violins that are too big and too heavy for a prolonged amount of time can cause damage to their wrists, neck and back.
It will of course also affect their ability to play to a high level, as they may not be able to reach the lower notes on a violin that is too big.
Is it OK to skip a size?
Many parents will skip a size when buying their child a new violin, as they don’t want to be buying another one in 6 months when their child has outgrown their current one.
This is perfectly fine.
The only risk would be that it is difficult to adjust to a new, bigger instrument, especially if your child does not have the right arm length yet for that particular size. Discuss it with your child and see how they feel with the new size.
Remember, it’s about being comfortable above anything else. If your child can reach the notes perfectly well on a full-sized violin, despite being 9 or 10 years old, then go ahead and buy them a full-size. Everyone has a different level of comfort.
How can I determine the size of a violin?
If you are buying or renting a violin, the size will always be indicated. If you have a violin and you don’t know the size, you can measure it. Here is a good guide to follow when measuring the size of a violin.
If I buy a bigger violin, will I also need a new bow and case?
Yes and yes. Obviously you will need a new case. Your old one was made to fit the smaller instrument. A larger instrument will require a larger case. The good news is that most violins are sold with a case.
The same goes for the bow. When you buy a violin, it usually comes with a bow. The bow is proportionate to the violin. A larger instrument has a larger bow.
What about my shoulder rest?
Shoulder rests also come in various sizes. The only difference is that 1 shoulder rest size will usually accommodate 2 violin sizes. Check with your teacher before purchasing a new size. You can also play the violin without a shoulder rest altogether. For some people, this is more comfortable. It really depends and it is worth giving both ways a try.
Should I buy a better quality violin when I need a bigger size?
It all depends on the progress of you or your child.
If you have been playing for a number of years and you are progressing well, it would be advisable to purchase a better brand of violin when picking your next size. An 11 year old who is working toward their grade 5 exam will need a better instrument than another 11 year old who is just starting out and would be fine on a beginner violin.
Here is a brilliant video below that shows the difference in quality and sound between a $62 violin and a $285,000 violin.
Choosing the right violin size is crucial not only to your or your child’s progress as a violinist, but also to making sure your or their body is protected from injury. So when you are picking a size, remember these factors:
- The violinist’s age
- The arm length
If this article was useful in helping you decide what violin size you needed, let us know below, or share the article with friends and family.
Still have unanswered questions? Ask away in the comments below!