Choosing the right size violin is crucial, especially for younger players.
Unfortunately, working out which one is best for you or your child is far from easy, as there are many sizes to choose from.
In fact, violins come in nine different sizes: (from smallest to biggest): 1/32, 1/16, 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4.
So which is right for you or your loved one? That’s what you’re about to find out.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
How To Measure Up
To work out which size best suits you or your child, you first need to measure from the neck to the middle of your palm.
Follow these steps:
- Stretch your arm out straight parallel to the floor with your palm facing upwards.
- Measure from the base of your neck to the middle of the palm.
- Take note of how many inches or centimeters it is.
Now, take the measurement and compare it the chart below.
Hint: Look down the ‘Players Arm Length’ (the middle column) to find the size you measured above and double-check the recommended Age of Player (second column).
Violin Sizing Chart
|Violin Size||Age of Player||Players Arm Length (Inch / cm)||Violin Measurements: Length: Body AND Total (Inch / cm)||Bow Length (Inch / cm)|
|1/32 size||1-3 years||Under 14″
|7.5″ AND 13″-13.5″”
19cm AND 32cm
|1/16 size||3-5 years||14″
|8″ AND 14.5″
20.3cm AND 36.8cm
|1/10 size||4-5 years||15″
|9″ AND 16″
22.9cm AND 40.6cm
|1/8 size||4-6 years||16.5″
|10″ AND 17″
25cm AND 43 cm
|1/4 size||5-7 year||18″ – 18.5″
45.7cm – 47cm
|11″ AND 18.5″-19″
28cm AND 48.25cm
|1/2 size||7-9 years||20″
|12.5″ AND 20.5″
31.75cm AND 52cm
|3/4 size||9-12 years||21.5″ – 22″
54.6cm – 56cm
|13″ AND 21″
33cm AND 53.3cm
|7/8 size||Small Teen / Adult||22″ and small hands
56cm and small hands
|approx 13.5″ AND 22.5″
approx 34.3cm AND 57.2cm
|4/4 or Full size||11 years to Adult||23″ and larger
58cm and larger
|14″ AND 23″-23.5″
35.5cm AND 60cm
|29.5″ / 75cm|
So know you should which size is right for you. Here’s a brief explanation of each, with some tips:
Looking to get your toddler started early? Then go with the 1/32 size, which are ideal for children as young as one all the way up to the age of three (or slightly older if the child is petite).
These models measure around 13 ½ inches in terms of length, so are usually a comfortable option for infants with arm lengths of just under 14 inches. Due to its diminutive size, the 1/32 size is often the lightest of all the types of violin which helps young kid’s smaller arm muscles to lift and play the instrument for longer.
The second smallest size on the market is the 1/16, which are around an inch or so larger than the 1/32 models. Due to their comfort and playability, these instruments are actually the most popular option among early learners and work best between the age of 3-5-year olds.
In terms of length, 1/16 violins measure in at an average of 14 ½ inches and feel most comfortable to players with arm lengths of 14-15 ½ inches. Just remember that some size guides use a child’s age to match up the correct size violin, however, this doesn’t always work out for taller kids, so make sure they try out the instrument before going by any age-size recommendations.
We previously mentioned that age doesn’t always define the correct size when it comes to size charts, especially when considering children seem to grow at different rates. So, here’s where the 1/10 comes in handy… These models are usually an inch longer than 1/16s, with a total length of around 16 inches, making them a great choice for those taller 4-5 year-olds.
For example, perhaps your son or daughter has a tight angle between their forearm and shoulder while they hold a 1/16? If so, the extra length a 1/10 version offers is likely to give them a little more space and maneuverability.
The 1/8 size measures in at around 17 inches in length and have a body length of 10 inches, so are most suitable for children aged between 4-6 years old. Make sure to check their arm length is around 16.5 inches, to ensure that this model the most comfortable option for them to handle and lift.
It’s worth mentioning, that some larger three-year-olds have been able to take this size on too, so don’t be surprised if your tall son or daughter matches up to a 1/8 slightly early! Just remember the bow size will also increase in relation to the body length of the violin, so make sure to get younger than average children to test the feel of this as they play as well.
The 1/4 is usually two inches larger than the 1/8 sized models we mentioned above, with a total length of 18.5-19 inches (see chart above for centimeters). Because these instruments are most suitable for children with arm spans of 18-18.5 inches, they are the most popular option among 5-7-year olds.
Just remember that a 1/4 has a body length of around 11 inches, making them likely to be heavier than all the models we’ve mentioned so far. For this reason, if you think your 5-year old matches up to this larger size instrument, make sure their arms feel strong enough to support the extra weight, as you may need to invest in a lighter-bodied model.
The next model on our list is the 1/2. These instruments usually have a total length of 20.5 inches and a body length of 12.5 inches, making them best suited to children between 7-9 years of age.
You should make sure your child’s arm length is close to 20 inches, from neck to wrist before you buy one this size. If your son or daughter measures a little under this mark, you’d be best to opt for the 1/4 design, so they don’t have to strain to reach the end of the fingerboard whilst playing.
The next on our list is the 3/4, which is 13 inches in length and a total length that measures around 21 inches. This one usually works well with older primary school kids that are 9-12 years old. For this reason, children that have arm spans of 21.5- 22 inches are most likely to find this instrument most comfortable to play.
Just remember, if you have a slightly younger child that’s outgrown the smaller 4/4 model, they’ll need to feel confident handling the 3/4’s 27-inch bow too.
The 7/8 is the closest model to the full-sized 4/4 version, with a total length of 22.5 inches and a body length of 13.5 inches. Because these instruments are a sort of niche variety of 4/4 violins in terms of design, they are not as widely available in stores. However, they can be a great choice for smaller adults or teens, with petite hands and arm spans that measure around 22 inches.
Just remember that because these models aren’t as easy to find in shops, you may have to look online, or ask a music teacher to order one for you. As well as this, it’s important to purchase a 4/4 sized bow, with a length of 29.5 inches, in order to play a 7/8 properly.
Finally, we’re going to talk about at the largest of all the models out there, the 4/4. These are most commonly used by adults or tall teenagers, with arm lengths of 23 inches or more. In terms of age, most of the time these instruments will feel comfortable when used by anyone of 11 years or older, or those that are taller than five feet in height.
Just remember that 4/4s have a total length that ranges between 23-23.5 inches and a body length of 14 inches, so if you’re someone with small hands or shorter arms, you might be better off with a 7/8 version.
It’s also worth pointing out that 4/4s are often referred to as ‘full-sized violins’ in shops and by music teachers, so if someone recommends one of these instruments, you know what to look out for.
How to Double-Check the Size is Right
If you’re buying online and you don’t have the instrument in front of you, you’ll have to trust the chart above to get the right size. If however, you’re looking to buy one in a shop or second-hand and you want to check that it’s the correct dimensions, then there’s a good way to double-check:
- Extend your left arm out, with your palm facing up (same as above when we were measuring)
- Hold the violin under your chin, as though you are about to play it
- Try to wrap your fingers around the scroll (the scroll is the ‘swirly’ part of a violin at the very end). If you’ve got the right fit, the scroll should sit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
- Your fingertips should just be able to touch the peg-box. If your fingers are unable to reach the pegbox, then the instrument is too big for you.
If the violin is too small, your arm will bend (in other words, there’s too much slack) like in the picture below. Your arm should always be able to bend a little while in its playing position, even when your fingers are at the furthest point down the fingerboard next to the scroll, but not too much.
Other Things to Consider
We’re not quite done! There are a few more things that are worth considering before you take the plunge.
Length and Size of Fingers
While length of arm is the most important factor to consider when measuring up. it’s not the only thing. There’s also finger length. If your child is taller than average for their age or has particularly long fingers, you might want to try a larger size model despite it being for older ages. Larger violins have slightly longer necks which create larger gaps between the notes along the fingerboard, thus giving more space to play without their fingers being cramped together.
The opposite goes for those of you that are on the petite side: a large violin will make it harder for your fingers to reach the right notes as they stretch to play them, and also take a bit more work to polish etc.
Width of Left-Hand Palm
Perhaps you’re an adult with a wide handspan? If so, then many violins are going to feel very squashed when you try and play intricate pieces. But don’t worry, there’s a way around this problem… this is to go for a model with a wider fingerboard and larger string spacing.
Additionally, you can ask your local music shop for varieties that have a tapered neck, to account for your build. This can help prevent your fingers from overlapping and can make vibratos far easier to play.
If this still doesn’t help, you could try to learn the viola. This instrument plays and sounds very similar to a violin, but comes as a larger build, so it may feel more comfortable for folks with wide palms.
Length of Neck
If you or your child has a longer neck than the average person, this too can affect how the violin feels to play. Often having a taller neck can result in the musician having to lower their head whilst support the instrument, creating tension which can result in back pain and poor playing technique.
To get around this issue, you should use a tall, padded shoulder rest with extra height, to prevent muscle strain. If you struggle to find the correct shoulder rest, try attaching some sponge padding to your current version or replacing the feet with taller versions to add a little height. Some musicians find sponge shoulder rests have a muting effect on the violin, so prefer to use wooden or bar versions for better tone.
Shape of Jaw
Just like everything else, the shape of our jaw varies from person to person, so it’s important to make sure you’re equipped with the right type of chinrest to enhance your technique and posture.
Ultimately, you’ll want to invest in one that feels comfortable and aligns your jaw so it counterbalances the weight of your bow arm whilst it is extended. Folks with rounded jaws are best off going for flat chinrests, whereas people with thinner faces tend to feel more comfortable with high-ridged chinrests.
Overall, it’s worth trying out several different versions before you buy and make sure you are able to place one finger between your jaw and the chinrest without having to lower your head.