Thursday, August 4, 2011

7/8 Size Violins and Cellos. The Right Size?

Written by Andy Fein, Violin Maker, Fein Violins, Ltd.

The 7/8 size for violins and cellos is a somewhat rare and odd creature. Not quite a full size and definitely larger than a 3/4 size. If you feel, for any reason, that a full size instrument is too big for you, then you might consider a 7/8 size.

Generally, if you are at about 5 feet tall, you are right in the range of the person that might need a 7/8 size. There are also other factors: your age, the length of your arm, the length of you fingers, arthritis, and muscle or tendon injuries.

This is the right size!


For violins, take a look at our blog on "What Size Violin Does My Child Need?". If you are stretched out too far on a full size and too cramped up on a 3/4 size, then the 7/8 size violin might be right for you.

The body of a 7/8 size violin is about 13 3/4" (348mm) and the overall length is about 22 1/2" (575mm). So, if your arm length is about 23" (585 mm) to a bit under 24" (610mm) , the 7/8 size violin could be the right match for you.


Even if your arm is the right length for a full size, you might find that your fingers are too short for a full size string length. That shows up most noticeably with the fourth finger in first position. If, after hard work and patient stretching (Patience! Don't hurt yourself!), you can not make that stretch, consider the 7/8 size. The string length on a 7/8 size is slightly smaller, so your stretches between notes will be slightly smaller as well.

As we age, our muscles and tendons tighten up. Arthritis and other bone, joint, muscle and tendon problems become more common. If you have trouble holding a full size instrument in playing position or if it hurts any part of your body to stretch to a full size, then consider going to a smaller instrument such as a 7/8 size.

All of this is generally true for cellos as well. Unfortunately, we don't have as easy a way to define what size is right for you. I try to match the size of a cello to a player by looking at many factors- seat height, endpin length, width of the cello (you don't want to feel like your legs are wrapped around Babe the Blue Ox!) and your hand placement in first position. If you feel that a full size cello is just too big, then consider a 7/8 size.

Do 7/8 size instruments sound as good as full size instruments? Generally, no, but a very good quality 7/8 size instrument will sound better than a mediocre full size any day. And if it comes down to playing a 7/8 size instrument versus not playing, any sound is better than no sound!

Many of the great violins from Stradivarius, Guarnerius, and other Cremonese makers are slightly smaller than what we consider a full size today. That is, a standard full size violin is about 14 inches or 356 mm. Most of the Cremonese instruments are about 352 mm.

Historically, for cellos, there was an instrument in the cello family called a "Quint" that was a smaller bodied (about 7/8 size) cello with a fifth string. Think how much easier playing the Bach suites would be with a E string a fifth above the A!  Most of these cellos have been converted into standard four string cellos. They sound very, very nice!

I make and sell several models of 7/8 size instruments. You can see the violins at www.FineViolins.com and the cellos at www.Fine-Cellos.com.

If you need an instrument that is smaller than a full size, don't struggle or injure yourself with a full size. Find a small model full size or a 7/8 size instrument that will work for you. You will be a much happier player!

1 comment:

  1. Basically, it's like this: anything with a body length of 13 7/8 inches (352.5mm) to 13 9/16ths inches (344.5mm) is a 7/8ths size, called a "ladies violin" because it was seen as the ideal size for women. The truth is that this size is typical of del Gesu violins and those are never called 7/8ths sized.
    Any violin which is 13 1/2 inches down to 12.75 inches is a 3/4ths size, so the break off point is 13 1/2 inches.

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