Choosing the Right Size Violin: 8 main violin sizes

Purchasing a violin can be a big investment, so it’s important for beginners and experienced players alike to understand the variety of sizes available in order to choose the best instrument for their skill level and stature.  Below, you’ll find a quick guide to the sizes and measurements, the fitting process for players of all ages, and the answers to other frequently asked questions regarding how to choose the right size violin.  Let’s dive in.

Violin sizes

Violin sizes

First, there are eight main sizes of violins, offering players of all heights and sizes the ability to play this age-old instrument.  The smallest violin size is 1/16, which measures 9 inches long (just the body of the violin, not including the neck and scroll); the largest or “full size” played by most professional adult players is 4/4, or 14 inches long; and the transitional sizes between them are 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 7/8. Generally, younger players who are smaller should start with a smaller violin and progressively buy bigger size instruments as they grow.

This is because the length of the violin should correspond proportionately to the length of the player’s arm.  In order to find your arm length, you’ll need to take your wrist-neck measurement: Hold your left arm out to the side with palm facing up and measure the distance between your wrist (base of your thumb) and the side of your neck.  This is best done with a loose tailor’s tape measure as opposed to a builder’s.  Once you have this measurement, consult the table below, which lists the eight principle violin sizes and the corresponding wrist-neck measurements that make a good fit.  This should give you a good preliminary idea of which violin to try first.

Your age

Your arm lenght

Violin size

Violin measurements;
length:body and total

Bow length

11 year to adult

 

Small Teen / Adult

 

 

23″ and larger

58 cm and larger

22″ and small hands

56cm and small hands

 

4/4 or full violin size

 

7/8 violin size 

 

 

14″ and 23″-23.5″

35.5cm and 60 cm

approx 13.5″ and 22.5″approx 34.3 cm and 57.2cm

29.5″

79.5 cm

29.5″


(75cm)

9-12 years

 

7-9 years

 

5-7 years

 

4-6 years

 

4-5 years

 

3-5 years

21.5-22″

54.6-56 cm

20″

51cm

18″ – 18.5″

45 cm – 47cm

16.5″

42 cm

15″

38 cm

14″

35.5 cm

3/4 violin size

 

1-2 violin size

 

1/4 violin size

 

1/8 violin size

 

1/10 violin size

 

1-16 violin size

13″ AND 21″

33 and 53 cm

12.5″ and 20.5″

32 cm and 52 cm

11″ and 19″

28 cm and 48 cm

10″ and 17″

25 cm and 43 cm

9″ and 16″

23 cm and 41 cm

8″ and 14.5″

20 cm and 37 cm

27″

69 cm

24.5″

62 cm

22.5″

57 cm

19″

49 cm

18″

45 cm

16.5″

42.5 cm

Fitting

Once you’ve measured your arm and found the recommended violin size in the chart, the next step is to visit a local violin or general music shop to find a violin in your size and practice holding the instrument and see how it feels in person.  While you will most likely find better prices online, it’s worth taking a quick trip to a shop just to try it out, feel it on your arm, and speak with a professional.  Typically, you will know that a violin is a good fit if you are able to comfortably (without straining) reach all of the notes and strings with your left hand while holding the instrument in its formal playing position, tucked under the chin.  If this is not the case and you feel like you need to stretch your arm unnaturally or uncomfortably in order to reach all of the notes, this is a sign that you may need to try a smaller size.  A violin that is too big will feel heavier and harder to hold, which will result in tired arms, a sore neck, bad posture, and unpleasurable playing.  This physical overexertion, in addition to difficulty reaching all of the notes, can lead to frustration, decreased motivation, and shortened playing time for students, which we definitely don’t want!  It’s important to remember that the difference in pitch and general sound production between the different sizes is very slight and hardly noticeable to most players and listeners, so it’s always in your and all players’ best interest to choose the appropriate size instrument for your specific body style and arm length and not try to play a violin that’s too big.  It should feel comfortable and natural in your arm while holding it, which will allow for the production of higher-quality sound and feeling more in tune with your instrument, which will motivate you to practice as much as possible!

Changing violin sizes

As younger players grow, it’s important for teachers and parents to monitor their physical and musical progression in order to know when it’s appropriate to encourage the student to move up to the next size violin.  This means periodically taking their wrist-neck measurement and consulting the size chart above.  Remember that when changing sizes, most students will need a period of a few weeks to adjust to the larger size.  For this reason, I recommend making this decision at the beginning or end of each semester or term in order to avoid any conflict or awkward, unconfident playing during a concert or exam.  In some cases, though, a teacher may temporarily hold a student back from jumping to the next size because they want him or her to build up their arm strength and skills a bit more and focus for the moment on proper bow technique and left-hand technique.  This circumstance being the exception, it’s generally best to allow and encourage a student to move up a size when he or she is motivated to do so and comfortably able to hold the instrument while playing.



Renting a violin

As all parents must bear the sweet frustration of watching their rapidly-sprouting children outgrow all of the shoes and clothes they just bought them six months prior, so too can be the reality with musical instruments — and violins especially.  For this reason, it may be most economical to look into a rental program offered at your school or local music shop that allows you to rent instruments for one semester or one year at a time, at the end of which you can easily change and swap out sizes and save on the cost of buying a new instrument each time your child hits a growth spurt.  The added benefit of renting a violin is that parents will not have to think about how to sell or otherwise get rid of any outgrown instruments, which can be stressful and time/energy consuming.  Furthermore, once you’ve returned the smaller violin to the pool of instruments available for rental, it can now be rented out by another student with smaller arms, which keeps the cycle going and spreads the wonder of music further.  While some more experienced students may want to feel like a violin is “theirs” and grow an attachment to their instrument, others who are in the developmental stages will be just fine with renting.  When deciding whether to rent or buy your instrument, it’s important to consider the cost, quality, and personal preferences of the player.  There are plenty of services online offering violin rentals including such violin shops as “Sharmusic“, “Fiddlershop“, etc.

Bow and case

I also want to mention that most violin cases are fitted specifically to the size of the instrument it was built for, which means that if you do decide to go the route of buying new instruments at each stage of development, it will also be necessary to buy a new case each time.  Likewise, you will need to buy a new and longer bow to play your larger instrument.  Many violin shops offer packages that include the instrument, case, and bow as a set for one price, but higher-end instruments tend to sell independently of their cases and bows, which have their own price scale depending on the quality, material and craftsmanship.  As a general rule, you should be prepared to buy new accessories for your violin (case, bow, shoulder rest) at each stage of development.

Quality

A word about quality: the old adage “You get what you pay for” is true in most cases and especially with violins.  While a younger, less-serious player may suffice with a low-end, factory-made violin, it’s important to consider a price-quality balance when choosing an instrument for anyone more engaged in their music.  Passionate, serious players will want a violin that produces a truer, richer, fuller, and more colorful range of sound, so a greater investment in quality may be required to meet their needs and aspirations.  As I mentioned previously, the difference in tone, pitch, and sound production is only very slight between violins of different sizes, and while this generally holds true for price and quality as well, more experienced and advanced players who can hear these slight differences will want the best of the best in their pursuit of more complex playing and musical development.  For this, I recommend parents and teachers assess their young player’s level of interest and commitment to violin and music in general when deciding which instrument to buy.



Conclusion

So now that you’re familiar with the different violin sizes, the measurements and fitting process, the pros and cons of renting over buying an instrument, and what quality factors to consider when purchasing your violin, you’re ready to look more in depth at specific violins for sale.  For a more comprehensive list of my personal recommendations, please consider my Violin Buying Guide at the link below and post in the comments or reach out to me directly with any questions about violin sizing and advice.  Happy playing!