Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Size Violin Does My Child Need?

Written by Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
& Angela Newgren

Sizing an instrument to its player is important. A correctly sized violin will allow for correct posture and ability to play. There are a few ways to tell what size instrument is best for the player.

A person only needs to size a violin for young players. All adults and children over about 5 feet tall use full-sized violins.

Here are some tips for choosing the correctly sized violin for young players:

Put the student (or yourself) in playing position. The player should be able to take his or her's left hand and gently cup their hand around the scroll from the bottom with their fingers pointing towards their face.
The player's elbow should be bent a bit. If the player has to stretch their left arm all the way out with no bend in the elbow, then the instrument is too big. If the player is stretching his or her arm towards the scroll and it's not reaching, then try a smaller size.
If two violins (each a different size) seem to fit the player, choose the smaller size. It will be easier to hold up in playing position. This is especially important for a beginning player.

Here are some photos of Angela Newgren holding differently sized violins. Can you tell which sizes are correct for this player?

This size is perfect.

This size is slightly too small, but good for a beginner.

This size is too small.

This size is too big.

This size is too big.

Violin Sizes: Measuring from the bottom of the violin to the scroll
4/4-A full-sized violin- about 23.5 inches
3/4- about 21.75 inches
1/2- about 20.5 inches
1/4- about 18.25 inches
1/8- about 17.25 inches
1/10- about 16 inches
1/16- about 14.5 inches

There is also a 7/8 sized violin. This violin is typically used by players who need a full-sized violin sound but have smaller hands. A violin maker would make this type of violin specifically for one who asks.

Another way to size a violin to its player is by measuring the player's arm length. Arm length is measured from the neck, directly under the jaw bone, to the left hand's mid-palm length. Be sure the arm is extended fully when measuring.

Here are some photos of Angela showing the correct way to measure by arm length:


Once you have your measurements, this description will show you what size violin correctly fits.

24 inches in arm length~ 4/4 size violin (full-sized)
22.5 inches in arm length~ 3/4 size violin
21 inches in arm length~ 1/2 size violin
19 inches in arm length~ 1/4 size violin
18 inches in arm length~ 1/8 size violin
16.5 inches in arm length~ 1/10 size violin
15 inches in arm length~ 1/16 size violin

If you have ever wondered about the mathematical relationship between the size designations and the actual size of the instruments - don't bother. There isn't any.
However, each body size (measured from alongside the button to the bottom edge near the chinrest) goes down about one inch. The body lengths are shown below.
Full-size violin - about 14 inches
3/4 size violin - about 13 inches
1/2 size violin - about 12 inches
1/4 size violin - about 11 inches
1/8 size violin - about 10 inches
1/10 size violin - about 9 inches
1/16 size violin - about 8 inches

Here are the small size violins that we sell in our shop and online.
If you're in the St.Paul/Minneapolis area, we also RENT small size violins, violas, and cellos 


  1. Thank You for the great information! It was very understandable and very to-the-point. I'm planning on buying my niece one, but I don't know her arm length yet. In the pictures above, do you recall what sizes each violin was?

  2. Wonderful guidance (especially the photos with instruments that are just right, too small, and too large). It is very helpful to an aspiring violist such as myself who is trying to decide whether I can play a 17" instrument... (without the opportunity to try one, as there aren't many here in the outskirts of nowhere).
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!