What Size Violin Does My Child Need?

August 29, 2023, 5:25 PM · It's fall, and that means students are starting violin lessons for the first time - or coming back to their violin studies after summer, possibly after a summer growth spurt!

So what size violin does your child need? It's important to answer this question correctly. A properly-fitting violin will help ease a student's studies, making the innately awkward instrument easier to handle and hold.

We're actually lucky that violins come in various sizes! For example, an octave on a piano is always an octave, no matter how small the hands attempting to play it. There are seven typical "fractional" sizes for violins, from smallest to largest: 1/16, 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full-size. I'm going to give you instructions on how to measure your child, and then a little chart to determine what size instrument you need.

First, you need to measure the child's arm, from his or her neck to the line on the wrist where his or her hand starts. One of my formerly-young students, Mason, who was 5 at the time we took these pictures, will help demonstrate how to measure for violin size:

Measuring Mason

WristHave your young student stand upright, holding out his or her left arm, palm facing up. Gently measure the distance from the left side of the neck out to the line where his or her wrist meets the hand (in inches or centimeters). At left is a picture of that natural line at the wrist, which have I darkened with pen, so that you can see what I mean. You can use a tape measure or a yardstick; I use my home-made "Fiddle Stick," a yardstick on which I've marked all the measurements.

Fiddle stickThe chart below will tell you what size violin is appropriate. I find these measurements to be extremely accurate -- more so than the old trick of having the child attempt to grasp the scroll. If you are a private teacher or a school teacher, you easily can make your own "Fiddle Stick," with a yardstick (or meterstick) and some permanent markers. (If you are feeling like collecting some goodwill karma, make one for your local overworked and underpaid public school teacher!)

Measurements in Inches:

1/16 size: 13 1/4 inches or less
1/10 size: 14 1/4 inches
1/8 size: 15 1/4 inches
1/4 size: 17 1/4 inches
1/2 size: 19 inches
3/4 size: 20 1/2 inches
Full size: 21 1/4 inches

Measurements in centimeters:

1/16 size: 33 1/2 cm or less
1/10 size: 36 cm
1/8 size: 38 1/2 cm
1/4 size: 44 cm
1/2 size: 48 1/2 cm
3/4 size: 52 cm
Full size: 54 cm

GUIDELINES: Always err on the side of getting the smaller violin. It is tempting to get the bigger size, figuring, "Oh, (s)he'll grow into it," but it is extremely frustrating for a child to work with an unwieldy violin that is too big, and importantly, too heavy! You want the child to feel in control of the violin. A too-big violin may actually hurt to hold because of its weight, and it may throw off the mechanics of playing because of its size.

If you are getting a violin for the first time, all the best on your new musical journey! If you are up-sizing, enjoy the new (likely improved) sound of a bigger fiddle!

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August 30, 2023 at 03:08 PM · The fiddle stick. What a wonderful idea.

August 30, 2023 at 06:32 PM · The photo is precious and absolutely made my day!

August 31, 2023 at 08:37 AM · What about 7/8? Does that not count as a fractional size? As a small adult, I find 3/4 size too small and full-size too big. 7/8 size is just right.

August 31, 2023 at 03:01 PM · Hi Pamela, sure, that is a great option for small adults! I don't happen to have an official measurement for that size, but it would likely be between 20 1/2 inches and 21 1/4 inches (or 52-54 cm).

August 31, 2023 at 04:08 PM · I think your "Fiddle Stick" is brilliant. Most good ideas are simple; you hit your head and say "why didn't I think of that".

The 7/8 size should probably be used more often. Violinists with, how should label it, a petite stature, will struggle with the 4/4 before trying the 7/8.

The method should also apply to violists, with the added complication that there are different sizes of Violas. My opinion is that a young violinist should not try the Viola until they are big enough to handle the 15 1/2 inch Viola. There are exceptions of course; Lionel Tertis and Lillian Fuchs were small people playing big violas.

Two more factors to consider when choosing the next size larger; the spread of the hand; the 1--4 perfect fourth should be comfortable. 2) Fingertips wider than the 1/2 step in first position make chromatic passages harder to tune. But, that didn't stop Ishtak Perlman.

August 31, 2023 at 07:21 PM · I wish for a 7/8.

August 31, 2023 at 10:44 PM · Great advise on sizing! Marge Aber always taught the same thing--scroll to the crease in the wrist!

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