Why Are There Different Violin Sizes, and Why Does it Matter?

Guide To The Differences In Violin SizesOne of the main concerns that violin students and their parents typically have is purchasing the right-sized violin. Obviously you can’t give a five-year-old a full-size violin and expect him or her to be able to handle the instrument. And once kids are in their teenage years, trying to keep up with growth spurts can be extremely difficult, especially considering how much violins cost. Even adults can run into problems when selecting the right size. Fortunately, after a little research, selecting the right violin and knowing when it is time for a new one is not as difficult as it sounds.

Why Are There Different Violin Sizes?

Many parents are eager to get their children into music lessons, and the violin is a very common instrument to start with – especially through methods of teaching such as the Suzuki Method, which encourages musical exposure early on in a child’s life. For these younger children, starting with a smaller violin is crucial.

To play the violin, students need to be able to comfortably move their hands and fingers along the entire neck of the violin. And to fully maneuver between all four strings, the student’s left arm must be mobile. If your child is unable to bend the left arm at the elbow and hold the instrument properly, he or she won’t be able to play the notes correctly.

It’s also just as important to have a bow that is an appropriate size for his or her right arm. If the bow is too big, your child may be tempted to to bow incorrectly or play with poor posture, which can even lead to injuries. These habits learned the wrong way can take a long time to unlearn!

With all of this in mind, getting the correct violin size for the individual student is incredibly important. Here’s a rough guide to finding the right size:

  • The 1/16 violin is typically the starting point for very young children (3-5 years old)
  • The 1/2 violin is typical for students in early elementary school (7-9 years old)
  • The 3/4 is common for students toward the end of elementary or first year of middle school (9-12 years old)
  • The 7/8 violin is just shy of a full-length violin and is used by teens as well as some adults
  • Most students will eventually require a full-sized violin

Keep in mind, however, that this is just a rough guide; if you or your child are larger- or smaller-framed, you may need to try out different violin sizes.

Finding the Right Fit

Understanding violin sizes and determining which is right for you or your child means paying attention to the student’s arms, both for the violin and the bow. Selecting your size based solely on age won’t work, so make sure you visit a music shop to try out several sizes and get fitted by a professional.

To find the right size, the student should place their chin on the chin rest and stretch out their left arm. The left hand should comfortably wrap around the scroll. If the student is unable to reach the scroll or their elbow is locked, the violin is too big. If the student can easily wrap their hand around the scroll and their elbow is bent 90 degrees or less, the violin is too small.

Start Shopping

For a child who is still growing, it might be best to look into renting an instrument. Take your child’s commitment level into account, as well; if you worry that he or she might lose interest after a while, renting the violin may be the smarter option. Learn more about buying a violin here.

As you’re shopping for your violin – whether you’re planning on purchasing or renting – just make sure that the student has a chance to try it out before any money changes hands, and take additional precautions if you’re buying a violin online.

Knowing When It’s Time for a Bigger Violin

Playing a violin that is the wrong size can result in bad habits and overall frustration, especially for younger children learning to play. Your violin teacher should be periodically checking the student’s posture and positioning, to make sure they’re working with the correct size.

Violin sizes may seem intimidating at first because of the cost and time investments. Ensuring you or your student has the best fit will mean the focus can be on learning how to play instead of compensating for the wrong size. Good luck!


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