Violin Size Chart: choose the right size violin
Did you know that violins come in a variety of sizes?
Selecting the correct size for you (or your child) is absolutely vital for fostering a happy and healthy violin journey.
Playing on a violin that is too big forces the player to contort their body into unnatural positions, possibly leading to injury (namely carpal tunnel and tendonitis); and playing on a violin that is too small can cause the player to feel very cramped and limited in their bowings and finger placements. Keep reading this article to discover what violin size is best for you or your child.
How do I know what violin size I need?!
The size of violin you need is based on your height and arm length. Age is also taken into consideration, however, all children grow at different rates, so when in doubt, choose a violin compatible with the child’s size rather than their age. If you find that you or your child are right on the cusp between two sizes, choose the smaller size to prevent any risk of injury.
There are nine different violin sizes to choose from
Full size 4/4 violin
A full-size violin is 59 centimeters (or 23 inches) long, from scroll to endpin. If you are an adult learner, you will more than likely need a full-size violin (with the exception of shorter adults, under five feet). Children typically graduate to a full-size instrument around 11 or 12 years old. In order to comfortably play a full size, your left arm should be 58.5 centimeters (or 23 inches) long, from the base of your neck to the middle of your palm.
⅞ size violin
A ⅞ size violin is 57 centimeters (or 22 inches) long and is geared towards those with an arm length of 57.5 centimeters (or 22 inches). ⅞ violins are sometimes referred to as the “lady’s violin” because they are just ever so slightly smaller than the full size and therefore thought to be more suited towards women (but men can use them too!). Adults may choose to try a ⅞ size instrument if they experience any pain or discomfort when playing a full size, and children who are too big for a ¾ but not quite ready for a full size may also benefit from using a ⅞. ⅞ violins are not very common, so you may have to look a little harder to find one.
Important note: fractional violins (which are any size violin beside a full size) will not sound as full (or loud) as a full size.
¾ size violin
A ¾ size violin is 55 centimeters (or 22 inches) long. To comfortably fit a ¾ size violin, your arm should be about 56 centimeters (or 22 inches) long. Students around ages 9-11 typically use a ¾ size violin, but they can also be used by small adults.
½ size violin
A ½ size violin is 52 centimeters (or 20 inches) long and best suited for players with an arm’s length of 51 centimeters (or 20 inches). Children around ages 7-9 typically use half-size violins. In my experience, the jump from ¼ to ½ size is typically the biggest of the fractional sizes, so air on the side of caution when bridging this gap. Remember: it’s far worse to play on a violin that is too big than one that’s too small!
¼ size violin
A ¼ size violin is 48 centimeters (or 19 inches) long. To use a ¼ size violin, a child’s arm should be around 47 centimeters (or 18 inches) long, and they will most likely be around 6-7 years old.
⅛ size violin
A ⅛ size violin is 43 centimeters (or 17 inches) long and is best suited for children with an arm’s length of 42 centimeters (or 16 inches). This is usually around 5-6 years of age.
1/10 size violin
A 1/10 size violin is 39 centimeters (or 15 inches) long. Children around ages 4-5 typically use this size, and their arm’s length should be about 38 centimeters (or 15 inches) long.
1/16 size violin
A 1/16 size violin is 36 centimeters (or 14 inches long). 1/16 size violins are typically best suited for children with an arm’s length of 35.5 centimeters (or 14 inches), generally under the age of 5.
1/32 size violin
A 1/32 size violin is 33 centimeters (or 13 inches long). These are meant for extremely young children (between the ages of 2-5). Their arms-length should be 35 inches (or 14 inches) or under.
What violin bow size do I need?
The violin bow corresponds in size to the violin size. Smaller violins come with shorter bows. This is all related to your arm length: with a bow that’s too long, you wouldn’t be able to bow at the tip. Also a longer bow is heavier and difficult to handle for small children.
The only exception to this is that with a 7/8 violin, adults usually choose for a 4/4 bow.
How do I measure myself to see which size violin I should get?
Great question! There are two ways of measuring yourself (or your child) to see which violin size would work best. The first is to just take a tape measure, place it at the nape of your neck, and extend it to the middle of your left palm. When doing this, your arm should be held out so that it’s parallel to the ground. Once you have your measurement, you can use the chart here to determine which size would fit best. This method works great if you’re just starting out and don’t have an instrument to compare your arm’s length to.
The second way works best if you already have an instrument and are trying to figure out if it’s too big or too small. Place your violin in playing position (on your shoulder) and extend your left arm out so that it is straight. Notice where the violin makes contact with your arm. Ideally, the tip of the violin scroll should sit at your wrist. If you notice that the scroll is in your palm, you need to size down, and if the scroll stops anytime before your wrist, you need to size up.
If you’re feeling uncertain about choosing the right size, many shops will size you or your child for you. It never hurts to ask!
How to handle sizing up: changing to a bigger violin size for kids
Changing the size of your violin can throw everything out of whack! When switching to a bigger instrument, the spacing between your fingers will feel bigger, your bow will feel longer and more unwieldy, and the instrument may feel heavier as well. For at least the first week of playing on a bigger size, stick to pieces that you know well so that you just need to focus on getting used to how this new instrument feels and sounds!
What about the viola?
What size violin do you play?
I hope this article has given you some clarity about all the different violin sizes. Make sure to bookmark this page, so you’ll always have this handy violin size chart at hand.
What size violin do you currently play? Let me know in the comments!