How to Choose the Right Size of the Violin: Complete Guide

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The violin is a lifetime instrument. Meaning that it can be started at a very young age and that it will take a lifetime to master! If you’re starting a child or your kid out on the violin or want to know what size you need if you’re taking it up yourself, this page will help.

We have put together a complete beginners guide to violin sizing. We cover the different sizes available and their approximate age range and arm length, why there are different violin sizes, the factors that influence the size violin you play and how to measure your arm and the violin to ensure you get the right instrument for your needs.

We use our many years’ of experience with the violin and working with beginners to break everything down into bitesize pieces to give you the information you need to buy the right instrument for you.

Violin Size Chart

Below is a simple Violin size chart to get a good idea of what violin sizing you need to get.

Age Arm length Size
3-5 14” or 35.5cm 1/16
4-7 15” – 17” or 38-43.2cm 1/10
5-7 17” or 43.2cm 1/8
6-9 18”-20” or 47-51cm 1/4
8-10 20”-22” or 54-56cm 1/2
9-12 21.5”+ or 56cm 3/4
10 -12+ 22” or 57cm 7/8
12+ 23”+ or 58cm 4/4

Violin sizes are measured in fractions. The table above offers an idea of the approximate age or arm length that would be suitably matched to a violin size. You will see some crossover the ages and arm lengths. This is to include the widest possible range of violinists and can be used as a guideline depending on where the violinist is in terms of physical and musical growth.

Different manufacturers will have slightly different measurements for their instruments. This can vary by up to 2cm in some cases so it’s worth using a combination of age, arm length and expected size when calculating the violin size you need.

The smallest commonly available violin is the 1/16. It measures just 36.8cm in length and would be suitable for musicians aged 3 and up. There is a smaller size, a 1/32 but these are not commonly available. Students as young as 1 or 2 years old could theoretically be playing with a 1/32 but this is very rare.

Typically a child would begin with the 1/16 and work their way up to the full size 4/4. Bows will vary in length from 42.5cm up to 75cm across the size range.

The chart gives you an idea of what sizes will work in what situation but nothing beats trying one for real. Only once you get a violin in your hands will you know whether it fits or not. Therefore, this page acts as a guide only and not specific buying advice.

Why do Violins Come in Different Sizes?

We alluded to the reason earlier. Violins come in different sizes to reflect the different ages, or sizes of students. The younger the student, the smaller the violin needed for a comfortable fit. As the student is going to be spending many, many hours with their violin practising, comfort is key. That means buying the right size violin is also key.

There is enough variance in these different sized violins to provide a comfortable fit for any musician of any age or size. Those with longer or shorter arms are also accommodated with no compromise in comfort, aesthetics or sound.

Factors Affecting Violin Size

There are several physical factors that govern a required violin size. They include:

  1. Age of the student
  2. The student’s arm length
  3. Violin dimensions
  4. Oversized violins
  5. Bows

Let’s take a quick look at each of those.

Age of the student

The younger the student, the smaller the required violin. Comfort plays a crucial part in how accepting a student is to a violin. Therefore using the correct size for the arm length or age can influence how much practice a student is willing to invest and how comfortable they are during practice.

The student’s arm length

We are all different shapes and sizes and this is one reason why we wanted to make it clear that the size guide at the top of this page is just that, a guide. Some students will have shorter or longer arms than usual. Some students are just smaller. While we have provided an approximate age range for each, this isn’t set in stone and can be adapted to specific needs as required.

Violin dimensions

There is quite a difference between a 1/16 violin at 36.8cm and a 4/4 at 60cm in length. The difference between the various sizes are designed to reflect differences in arm length and the average age of younger violinists. As we said above, this also takes into account students with longer or shorter arms.

Oversized violins

If you’re planning a violin purchase for a child, do you buy a cheaper violin more often and replace it as they grow or skip a size occasionally and pay a little more? There is no perfect answer but in our experience skipping a size and going for a slightly oversized violin usually pays off.

As long as the student can comfortably use the fourth finger, or can almost use the fourth finger, an oversized violin will be fine. At the rate most children grow it will only be a couple of months where the instrument will feel slightly too large. As a result, you have extended the useful life of the violin considerably.

Bows

As the violin grows in length, so does the bow. A 1/16 violin bow is 38cm in length while a 1/4 is 57.1cm. This goes all the way to 75cm with a full-size bow. The bow length, while important, is not as important to the student’s development as the size of the violin.

There is no issue with a slightly longer bow as the student can use the bow in the most comfortable way as they grow into it.

Violin Sizes at a Glance

We have covered a couple of different violin sizes already so why don’t we go through the entire list of sizes so you have all the facts at your fingertips?

1/32 Violins

The smallest violin common available is the 1/32 violin. This is for the very youngest or smallest violinist. It measures approximately 34.2cm in length. Not every violin manufacturer produces 1/32 instruments but a good violin shop or e-tailer should be able to acquire one for you.

1/16 Violins

The smallest common violin is the 1/16. It is ideally for students aged between 3 and 5 years old with an arm length of around 35.5cm. The violin itself will be approximately 36.8cm in length.

1/10 Violins

Next is the 1/10 violin, suitable for students aged between 4 and 7 with arm lengths of around 38 to 43.2cm in length. The instrument measures around 41cm in length.

1/8 Violins

The 1/8 violin is slightly larger than the 1/10 and is designed for students aged between 5 and 7 with an arm length of around 43.2cm. The instrument is around 43cm long.

1/4 Violins

The quarter size, or 1/4 length violin is ideally suited to students aged between 6 and 9 with arms of around 47 to 51cm in length. The violin will measure approximately 47cm to 48.3cm.

1/2 Violins

Half-size violins, 1/2 instruments are designed to suit students aged between 8 and 10 with arm lengths or around 54cm to 56cm. The violin will measure approximately 53cm in length.

3/4 Violins

Three quarter, 3/4 violins are for violinists aged between 9 and 12 with arms measuring around 56cm in length. The violin will measure some 53.3cm in length.

7/8 Violins

This size violin is rare but is available if the jump between 3/4 and 4/4 is too much. They are ideal for anyone between 10 and adult with arms measuring around 59cm. The violin itself measures around 57cm in length.

4/4 Violins

This is the full-size violin, the 4/4 and is playable by anyone from around age 12 upwards with arm lengths of 58cm and over. The violin will measure around 58.5cm to 59.7cm depending on the manufacturer.

How to Measure Yourself for a Violin

You can measure yourself for a violin but it’s better to have someone help.

It is also useful to try out a couple of different manufacturer’s violin in any given size so you can see the variation in sizes within the given range.

To measure yourself for a violin, do this:

Note the position of the ruler from the neck to the end of the wrist.

  • Stand against a wall with your left arm our horizontally with palm upwards.
  • Use a metal tape measure to measure from the left of your neck to the end of the wrist where it meets the hand.

Try to maintain a straight arm and upright posture when measuring for the most accurate measure. You may find it easier to have someone else do the measuring while you maintain posture.

Some violin teachers prefer to err on the side of caution and measure to the palm of the hand. There is nothing wrong with this but may produce a measurement that gives the shortest usable lifetime for the instrument. Measuring to the wrist gives the student a little more time to grow into it before they need the next size up.

As a rule of thumb, as long as you can curve your left wrist up and around the scroll, the violin is, or will be a good fit. Your left arm should be able to maintain the playing position for long periods of time while being comfortable. If the arms is stretched or compressed too much, you may need to look again at sizing.

A Certain age Doesn’t Mean a Certain Size Violin

As we alluded to earlier, the table of violin sizes as compared to age is just an approximation. Just because a student is of a certain age does not mean they have to play a certain size of instrument. Violin depends on arm length, hand size, neck size, and the shape of the jaw as well as approximate age.

As with clothes, bicycles, shoes, and anything else, you have to buy the right size for the person and not pay too much attention to averages.

Use the above section on measuring for a violin to come up with the correct size. Better still, have the student’s music teacher or music shop measure them to make double sure.

All Violins Should be Sized Correctly

Any student serious about the violin is going to be spending many hundreds, if not thousands of hours with their instrument. We cannot overstate enough how important good fit is to the enjoyment of that time. It isn’t all about the violin either.

While the violin size is key, the appropriately sized bow is also important. While more flexible in terms of length than the violin, it needs to be an appropriate size for the student in question. The same for the shoulder rest and chin rest if you’re using them. When it comes time to size the violin up, it is also time to size up the entire outfit.

Most violin outfits will come with a matching bow, case, chin, and shoulder rest.

Don’t rely on the manufacturer to get it right.

Make sure to try everything out first to make sure the proportions of the outfit match the proportions of the student. When they all fit, you’re good to go. When it’s time to move to a bigger size you have to move everything up to a larger size and not just the violin.

Not all violins come with a shoulder or chin rest as they are sometimes considered a customisable option. The student will eventually find a type, size, shape, and material that fits them and will likely stick with that for the rest of their playing career.

When is a Good Time to Move to a Bigger Size?

Knowing when to size up a violin is another important aspect of encouraging prolonged play. As soon as the student hits another growth spurt or begins having to bend their left arm more to support the violin, it’s a good time to check out a larger size. Music teachers may also offer advice on when to increase the size of the instrument.

As long as the next size up is a good fit or it won’t take long for the student to grow into it, it’s a good time to change. If you follow the advice of the teacher or try the next size up before you buy, you should be fine. Like many things violin, much depends on the individual.

Some children seem to stay the same size for months before hitting a growth spurt. Others continually grow at a predictable rate. Adapt as you need and allow yourself to be guided by the student and teacher as necessary.

Is it Okay to Skip a Violin Size?

Yes, it is! There is no rule that says a student must have x size violin at x age. As you will have learned by now, it is entirely down to the violinist, their age, size, arm length, size of their hands and stage of development. It’s a truly personal thing and something you will all have to get used to as the student grows. Once using a 4/4, the violin sizing debate issue changes so it isn’t forever!

Many violin teachers are happy to skip a size as long as the new size fits comfortably and doesn’t detract from practice. It is also okay to expect a student to grow into a violin as long as the size difference is a sensible one. Children adapt very quickly and can still work on form and intonation even if they are having to stretch for that fourth finger.

Rent or Buy a Violin?

There are two practical options for violinists still growing into their instrument. You could rent or you could buy. There is no right answer here.

It all depends on personal preference. Buying means the instrument is yours to do with what you will, play how you want and dispose of how you want. It will have a resale value which you can recoup when it comes time to go up a size.

Renting a violin is also a viable option during growth. The overall cost may be slightly higher but the upfront cost will be much lower. You don’t own the violin, so will have to be very careful with it but you won’t have to worry about selling it or trading it in afterwards.

Most good violin shops will offer both violin sales and rentals for younger students.

Conclusion

One of the many fantastic things about playing such an established instrument like the violin is that many thousands of students have had the same sizing challenges you are now facing. The industry has also had plenty of time to adapt their products to meet those challenges.

As well as the products to meet your needs, music teachers and music schools should be well versed in sizing violins so should also be able to help. As long as you realise that comfort is so much more important than meeting some arbitrary criteria for violin size and you take advice when unsure and listen to the student when they tell you they are uncomfortable, the road ahead should be a positive one!

There are many different opinions out there on buying a violin. Some say your student will hate practicing, and never succeed if you don’t buy the perfect instrument in the perfect size. While trying to match the needs of your student to the instrument is important, I truly believe that above all, a passion and love for playing the violin will supersede any good or bad instrument when it comes to the success of the student.

Choose what is right for you. Some students like bigger violins because they are easier to get a nice full sound from. Some students like a smaller more comfortable instrument.

A lot of rental places will let you trade in sizes without a problem (this is something you will want to check with the rental shop you are working with). If you are purchasing an instrument, and you feel like your student is growing quickly it would probably be a good idea to go a little bit bigger. Some violin shops will also buy back violins and put that amount towards a bigger violin.

When possible ask your private violin teacher his/her opinion. Ideally we want to get a violin that has a great sound but is also comfortable, and affordable. The most bang for your buck!

FAQ for Violin Sizes Choose

What is the difference between violin sizes?

Violins can be classified by the size of their body, the number of strings, and the overall length. Violin sizes are usually measured by their body size in inches. A violin’s body size may also be classified by its depth or width. The length of a violin is measured in inches or centimeters.

What is the difference between a student and professional violin?

When it comes to the violin, there is a big difference between a student and professional one. The student violin is smaller and has fewer strings. It is also less expensive than the professional one.

Student violins are often used by beginners because they are easier to play on and they can be found in many schools and music stores. Professional violins are more expensive than student ones, but they have a better quality sound.

How do I choose a violin suitable for my body type and height?

There are many types of violins including the violin, viola, and cello. While choosing a violin, it’s important to consider your body type and height so that you can choose the best size for you.

The most important thing when purchasing a violin is to find one that feels comfortable in your hands. If you are playing classical pieces, it is important to find one with a good sound quality as well.

It’s also important to consider what size would be best for your height if you’re under 5’2″ or over 6’2″.

What are the different violin sizes?

The violin’s size is measured in different ways. The most common way is by the length of the body (measured from the bottom to top of the scroll). It can also be measured from the bottom of one side to the other, or from one end of a scroll to another.

There are many different sizes for violins. The most common size is about 4 feet long and 1.2 feet wide. This is called a full-size violin and it has been used since around 1710. There are also smaller violins that are about 2 feet long, but they are not as popular as full-size ones because they don’t sound as well.

Which size of violin should I choose for my playing style?

As a beginner, it is important to know what size of violin you should choose. There are three different sizes of violin –

A) Violin with a body length of 18.5 inches or less

B) Violin with a body length between 18.5 and 26 inches

C) Violin with a body length between 26 and 31 inches

How do I find a violin that fits me well?

It is important for violin players to find the right violin for them. They should find a violin that is not too heavy, has the right tension, and has a good sound.

The following are some tips to help you find a violin that fits you well.

  • Find a reputable seller who sells used violins or has been in business for many years.
  • Look for violins made by famous makers like Stradivari, Guarneri, or Amati.
  • Check the condition of the violins before buying it. If it looks like someone tried to sell it as new then it might be worth considering whether or not you would use it often enough to justify buying it new.

How do I know which size violin to buy for my child?

It is important to know what size violin to buy for your child. This will help them find the right instrument and make sure that they are able to use it easily.

The first step in buying a violin is knowing what size you need. If your child has a smaller frame, then they might be better off with a smaller violin. On the other hand, if your child has a larger frame, then they might be better off with a larger violin. It all depends on what size of instrument will fit your child best and how much room they have on their body to hold it comfortably.

When buying an instrument for children, it is important to consider the age of the player as well as the skill level of the player when purchasing an instrument. Some instruments are designed for beginners and some are designed for professional musicians.

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