If you, or your child has decided to take up the violin, there are many things to consider. For example, should you buy or rent the violin? And, is a half size violin or a full size violin right for you?
In fact, determining the correct size violin for you or your child is one of the first things to do when you get ready for your initial violin lessons. The violin actually comes in 8 different sizes ranging from 1/16 to a full size which is 4/4. As a child, I started to play the violin as a three year old on a 1/16 size.
So, what does this mean and why are there so many sizes?
The violin is an instrument that is played by adults and children alike. Obviously children continue to grow until they reach adulthood so are likely to need to change up a size every now and then. This is when renting usually is the better option. If you buy a new violin every time the child has a growth spurt then the dollars will soon add up.
The size actually refers to the body of the violin and does not include the neck and scroll. The 1/16 I referred to is about 9 inches long. There are steady increments all the way to full size, or 4/4, which is about 14 inches long.
How do you know which size is right for you or your child?
It is safe to assume that adults and some children over 10 years of age will need a full size. If your child is younger, then you will have to determine the best size that is comfortable for them at this time.
Here’s how your violin should fit your body:
1. You should be able to keep your arm slightly bent
Remember, the violin shouldn’t feel heavy or cumbersome, and you should be able to reach the end of the fingerboard with your arm still slightly bent. In fact, if you can reach all the way around the scroll with still a slight bend in your arm, then this is likely a perfect fit.
2. Measure your arm for greater accuracy
You may want to take an actual physical measurement of your child for greater accuracy. Ask the child to stand up with arm stretched out and palm facing up. Then measure from their wrist to the left side of the neck. Measuring from the wrist will give a slightly smaller reading than measuring from the palm and therefore a slightly smaller violin. It is always best to err on the smaller side so the violin feels comfortable.
Why is it important to have the correct size violin?
A violin that is too big will likely feel heavy and may lead to problems with sore arms and necks. It may also cause back problems and bad posture. If the measurement is 21 inches or greater, then a full size will be needed. If the measurement is 20 inches then a 3/4 will likely be the best fit. 19 inches will equate to a half size and so on.
Is it okay for growing children to skip a size?
I have often been asked if it is ok to skip a size. In general, the answer is yes, especially if the child is growing quickly. Bear in mind that when moving up a size or two, the instrument will obviously feel larger and heavier so a period of adjustment will be necessary. The teacher should also be aware of this and watch carefully for any bad habits of posture creeping in. Because of this period of adjustment, it’s not advisable to change violins close to exams or a concert performance.
Is renting an option if I’m just about to take my first lesson?
When you buy or rent a larger violin, you will also need a larger bow and a larger case. If you are in the habit of using a shoulder rest then that will need to be bigger too. This is really why renting is usually the best option at this point. Most stores rent a violin “kit” which will include the bow and case although the shoulder rest is usually not included. Take heart from the fact that when you move up in size you will also get a higher quality violin with better tone quality.
There really is a violin out there for everyone – regardless of age, shape or height. When you go to the store try several to find the one that fits best. After all, when you buy a new pair of shoes you will most likely try on several pairs before settling on the most comfortable. Unlike shoes though, if you are in between sizes, opt for the slightly smaller size. This will help avoid those bad habits as well as the sore necks and bad backs I referred to earlier.
Good luck with finding the perfect size and keep up the good work.