A Complete Guide To Violin Sizes [+ Sizing Chart]
The violin is a lifetime instrument. Meaning that it can be started at a very young age and that it will take a lifetime to master! If you’re starting a child out on the violin or want to know what size you need if you’re taking it up yourself, this page will help.
We have put together a complete beginners guide to violin sizing. We cover the different sizes available and their approximate age range and arm length, why there are different violin sizes, the factors that influence the size violin you play and how to measure your arm and the violin to ensure you get the right instrument for your needs.
We use our many years’ of experience with the violin and working with beginners to break everything down into bitesize pieces to give you the information you need to buy the right instrument for you.
- Violin sizing chart
- Why do violins come in different sizes?
- Factors affecting violin size
- Violin sizes at a glance
- How to measure yourself for a violin
- A certain age doesn’t mean a certain size violin
- All violins should be sized correctly
- When is a good time to move to a bigger size?
- Is it okay to skip a violin size?
- Rent or buy a violin?
- Conclusion: there’s a good violin size for everyone
Violin sizing chart
|3-5||14” or 35.5cm||1/16|
|4-7||15” – 17” or 38-43.2cm||1/10|
|5-7||17” or 43.2cm||1/8|
|6-9||18”-20” or 47-51cm||1/4|
|8-10||20”-22” or 54-56cm||1/2|
|9-12||21.5”+ or 56cm||3/4|
|10 -12+||22” or 57cm||7/8|
|12+||23”+ or 58cm||4/4|
Violin sizes are measured in fractions. The table above offers an idea of the approximate age or arm length that would be suitably matched to a violin size. You will see some crossover the ages and arm lengths. This is to include the widest possible range of violinists and can be used as a guideline depending on where the violinist is in terms of physical and musical growth.
Different manufacturers will have slightly different measurements for their instruments. This can vary by up to 2cm in some cases so it’s worth using a combination of age, arm length and expected size when calculating the violin size you need.
The smallest commonly available violin is the 1/16. It measures just 36.8cm in length and would be suitable for musicians aged 3 and up. There is a smaller size, a 1/32 but these are not commonly available. Students as young as 1 or 2 years old could theoretically be playing with a 1/32 but this is very rare.
Typically a child would begin with the 1/16 and work their way up to the full size 4/4. Bows will vary in length from 42.5cm up to 75cm across the size range.
The chart gives you an idea of what sizes will work in what situation but nothing beats trying one for real. Only once you get a violin in your hands will you know whether it fits or not. Therefore, this page acts as a guide only and not specific buying advice.
Why do violins come in different sizes?
We alluded to the reason earlier. Violins come in different sizes to reflect the different ages, or sizes of students. The younger the student, the smaller the violin needed for a comfortable fit. As the student is going to be spending many, many hours with their violin practising, comfort is key. That means buying the right size violin is also key.
There is enough variance in these different sized violins to provide a comfortable fit for any musician of any age or size. Those with longer or shorter arms are also accommodated with no compromise in comfort, aesthetics or sound.
Factors affecting violin size
There are several physical factors that govern a required violin size. They include:
- Age of the student
- The student’s arm length
- Violin dimensions
- Oversized violins
Let’s take a quick look at each of those.
Age of the student
The younger the student, the smaller the required violin. Comfort plays a crucial part in how accepting a student is to a violin. Therefore using the correct size for the arm length or age can influence how much practice a student is willing to invest and how comfortable they are during practice.
The student’s arm length
We are all different shapes and sizes and this is one reason why we wanted to make it clear that the size guide at the top of this page is just that, a guide. Some students will have shorter or longer arms than usual. Some students are just smaller. While we have provided an approximate age range for each, this isn’t set in stone and can be adapted to specific needs as required.
There is quite a difference between a 1/16 violin at 36.8cm and a 4/4 at 60cm in length. The difference between the various sizes are designed to reflect differences in arm length and the average age of younger violinists. As we said above, this also takes into account students with longer or shorter arms.
If you’re planning a violin purchase for a child, do you buy a cheaper violin more often and replace it as they grow or skip a size occasionally and pay a little more? There is no perfect answer but in our experience skipping a size and going for a slightly oversized violin usually pays off.
As long as the student can comfortably use the fourth finger, or can almost use the fourth finger, an oversized violin will be fine. At the rate most children grow it will only be a couple of months where the instrument will feel slightly too large. As a result, you have extended the useful life of the violin considerably.
As the violin grows in length, so does the bow. A 1/16 violin bow is 38cm in length while a 1/4 is 57.1cm. This goes all the way to 75cm with a full-size bow. The bow length, while important, is not as important to the student’s development as the size of the violin.
There is no issue with a slightly longer bow as the student can use the bow in the most comfortable way as they grow into it.
Violin sizes at a glance
We have covered a couple of different violin sizes already so why don’t we go through the entire list of sizes so you have all the facts at your fingertips?
The smallest violin common available is the 1/32 violin. This is for the very youngest or smallest violinist. It measures approximately 34.2cm in length. Not every violin manufacturer produces 1/32 instruments but a good violin shop or e-tailer should be able to acquire one for you.
The smallest common violin is the 1/16. It is ideally for students aged between 3 and 5 years old with an arm length of around 35.5cm. The violin itself will be approximately 36.8cm in length.
Next is the 1/10 violin, suitable for students aged between 4 and 7 with arm lengths of around 38 to 43.2cm in length. The instrument measures around 41cm in length.
The 1/8 violin is slightly larger than the 1/10 and is designed for students aged between 5 and 7 with an arm length of around 43.2cm. The instrument is around 43cm long.
The quarter size, or 1/4 length violin is ideally suited to students aged between 6 and 9 with arms of around 47 to 51cm in length. The violin will measure approximately 47cm to 48.3cm.
Half-size violins, 1/2 instruments are designed to suit students aged between 8 and 10 with arm lengths or around 54cm to 56cm. The violin will measure approximately 53cm in length.
Three quarter, 3/4 violins are for violinists aged between 9 and 12 with arms measuring around 56cm in length. The violin will measure some 53.3cm in length.
This size violin is rare but is available if the jump between 3/4 and 4/4 is too much. They are ideal for anyone between 10 and adult with arms measuring around 59cm. The violin itself measures around 57cm in length
This is the full-size violin, the 4/4 and is playable by anyone from around age 12 upwards with arm lengths of 58cm and over. The violin will measure around 58.5cm to 59.7cm depending on the manufacturer.
How to measure yourself for a violin
You can measure yourself for a violin but it’s better to have someone help.
It is also useful to try out a couple of different manufacturer’s violin in any given size so you can see the variation in sizes within the given range.
To measure yourself for a violin, do this:
- Stand against a wall with your left arm our horizontally with palm upwards.
- Use a metal tape measure to measure from the left of your neck to the end of the wrist where it meets the hand.
Try to maintain a straight arm and upright posture when measuring for the most accurate measure. You may find it easier to have someone else do the measuring while you maintain posture.
Some violin teachers prefer to err on the side of caution and measure to the palm of the hand. There is nothing wrong with this but may produce a measurement that gives the shortest usable lifetime for the instrument. Measuring to the wrist gives the student a little more time to grow into it before they need the next size up.
As a rule of thumb, as long as you can curve your left wrist up and around the scroll, the violin is, or will be a good fit. Your left arm should be able to maintain the playing position for long periods of time while being comfortable. If the arms is stretched or compressed too much, you may need to look again at sizing.
A certain age doesn’t mean a certain size violin
As we alluded to earlier, the table of violin sizes as compared to age is just an approximation. Just because a student is of a certain age does not mean they have to play a certain size of instrument. Violin depends on arm length, hand size, neck size, and the shape of the jaw as well as approximate age.
As with clothes, bicycles, shoes and anything else, you have to buy the right size for the person and not pay too much attention to averages.
Use the above section on measuring for a violin to come up with the correct size. Better still, have the student’s music teacher or music shop measure them to make double sure.
All violins should be sized correctly
Any student serious about the violin is going to be spending many hundreds, if not thousands of hours with their instrument. We cannot overstate enough how important good fit is to the enjoyment of that time. It isn’t all about the violin either.
While the violin size is key, the appropriate sized bow is also important. While more flexible in terms of length than the violin, it needs to be an appropriate size for the student in question. The same for the shoulder rest and chin rest if you’re using them. When it comes time to size the violin up, it is also time to size up the entire outfit.
Most violin outfits will come with matching bow, case, chin and shoulder rest. Don’t rely on the manufacturer to get it right. Make sure to try everything out first to make sure the proportions of the outfit match the proportions of the student. When they all fit, you’re good to go. When it’s time to move to a bigger size you have to move everything up to a larger size and not just the violin.
Not all violins come with a shoulder or chin rest as they are sometimes considered a customisable option. The student will eventually find a type, size, shape, and material that fits them and will likely stick with that for the rest of their playing career.
When is a good time to move to a bigger size?
Knowing when to size up a violin is another important aspect of encouraging prolonged play. As soon as the student hits another growth spurt or begins having to bend their left arm more to support the violin, it’s a good time to check out a larger size. Music teachers may also offer advice on when to increase the size of the instrument.
As long as the next size up is a good fit or it won’t take long for the student to grow into it, it’s a good time to change. If you follow the advice of the teacher or try the next size up before you buy, you should be fine. Like many things violin, much depends on the individual.
Some children seem to stay the same size for months before hitting a growth spurt. Others continually grow at a predictable rate. Adapt as you need and allow yourself to be guided by the student and teacher as necessary.
Is it okay to skip a violin size?
Yes, it is! There is no rule that says a student must have x size violin at x age. As you will have learned by now, it is entirely down to the violinist, their age, size, arm length, size of their hands and stage of development. It’s a truly personal thing and something you will all have to get used to as the student grows. Once using a 4/4, the violin sizing debate issue changes so it isn’t forever!
Many violin teachers are happy to skip a size as long as the new size fits comfortably and doesn’t detract from practice. It is also okay to expect a student to grow into a violin as long as the size difference is a sensible one. Children adapt very quickly and can still work on form and intonation even if they are having to stretch for that fourth finger.
Rent or buy a violin?
There are two practical options for violinists still growing into their instrument. You could rent or you could buy.
There is no right answer here.
It all depends on personal preference. Buying means the instrument is yours to do with what you will, play how you want and dispose of how you want. It will have a resale value which you can recoup when it comes time to go up a size.
Renting a violin is also a viable option during growth. The overall cost may be slightly higher but the upfront cost will be much lower. You don’t own the violin, so will have to be very careful with it but you won’t have to worry about selling it or trading it in afterwards.
Most good violin shops will offer both violin sales and rentals for younger students.
Conclusion: there’s a good violin size for everyone
One of the many fantastic things about playing such an established instrument like the violin is that many thousands of students have had the same sizing challenges you are now facing. The industry has also had plenty of time to adapt their products to meet those challenges.
As well as the products to meet your needs, music teachers and music schools should be well versed in sizing violins so should also be able to help. As long as you realise that comfort is so much more important than meeting some arbitrary criteria for violin size and you take advice when unsure and listen to the student when they tell you they are uncomfortable, the road ahead should be a positive one!