Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Select the Right Size of Violin

(From Left to Right: 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and a full size. More pictures below)

Many times the parents will ask me: Lingling, what is the right size of the violin for my child? Should we get him/her a new violin?

I have been teaching violin lessons to my daughter since she was four years old. It felt like yesterday but now she's playing on a 1/2 size violin - her third one - after she outgrew the 1/8 and 1/4 size violin in the past five years.

So let me share with you one article that I found helpful and a few pictures of her violins and mine here.

Hopefully it could give you as the parent a better idea of how to pick the right size of the violin for your child.

The best way, of course, is always consulting with his or her violin teacher to determine which one is the best since every child is unique.


Courtesy of

Violin comes in 8 different sizes: 4/4 (also called full size), 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, 1/16. 4/4 size being the biggest and 1/16 size being the smallest. All adults, regardless of their size, use the 4/4 violin. There is another uncommon size, 7/8, usually used by female professional violinist who wants a full-size violin sound but whose hand might be a little small for the full size violin. So violin makers would make violins just a little smaller than full size to accommodate these players.

To measure what size violin best suits you, you need to know the length between your neck and the middle of your left-hand palm (when your hand is fully extended and raised perpendicular to your body, just like holding a violin). About 50% of the teachers prefer students to use the length from the neck to the wrist for measurement instead of the neck to mid-palm approach. The violin size determined by the neck/wrist approach would be the size that is more comfortable for students to hold. The violin size determined by the neck/mid-palm approach would be the biggest size students should use.

If you have a teacher, you should ask for your teacher's recommendation. If you don't have a teacher, we would recommend using the neck/wrist approach for students not using full size. For students who are deciding whether to used 3/4 or 4/4 size, use the neck/mid-palm approach. This is because it is always better that students feel comfortable holding and playing the violin. However, while deciding between 3/4 or 4/4, if neck/mid-palm approach allows for 4/4 size, then buying a 4/4 size is more economical since you don't have to buy another bigger size violin later. This is completely based on economical consideration. You should still decide what best suits your need.

The following chart lists the length of each violin size. Find your length using the your preferred approach and use that to determine the size of violin to get.

Violin Size vs Length (in inches)
  • 4/4 (Full Size): 23
  • 3/4 : 22
  • 1/2: 20
  • 1/4: 18 1/2
  • 1/8: 16 1/2
  • 1/10: 15
  • 1/16: 14
Another more general way of determining the size is by age. If the above, arm length information, is available, it is the more accurate way to determine size. Otherwise, you can use the age chart below to make the determination.

Violin Size vs Age (Notes to parents: this is just a reference and it varies from child to child).
  • 4/4 (Full Size): 12 year and older
  • 3/4: 10-11
  • 1/2: 8-9
  • 1/4: 6-7
  • 1/8: 5-6
  • 1/10: 4-5
  • 1/16: 3 and below
****** More Pictures of Various Size of Violins ********

From Left to Right: 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and a full size.

A closer look at a 1/4 size violin.