The violin is an attractive looking instrument that produces beautiful sounds and music. Even though the violin can be a somewhat difficult instrument to learn to play, there are many violin sizes to match the size and age of each student. Many young students are eager to study this instrument and look forward to developing their violin skills.
Once you have grasped the basic techniques of the violin, you will have completed the hardest part of playing this instrument. Developing a good to perfect sense of pitch and a supreme memory for finding the precise pitches on the fingerboard, you are well on your way to becoming a proficient musician with this instrument.
What Are The Available Violin Sizes
One of the fantastic features of the violin is the number of different available violin sizes. There is a violin for everyone regardless of the player’s age or physical size.
There are actually ten different violin sizes; however, the 1/64th and the 1/32nd are just firm paper cutouts in the shape of a violin in a much smaller size. The actual violin is available in the following eight sizes:
1/16th, 1/10th, 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/2th, 3/4th, 7/8th, and 4/4th
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Choosing the Right Violin
Choosing the right violin size for children is very important because the child must be comfortable while playing the instrument. This means that they must be able to reach the strings and hold the violin in a relaxed yet firm position. By choosing the wrong size violin for children, you will be impeding their progress for playing the violin as well as encumbering their appreciation for the violin.
If possible, it is always best to ask the advice of the teacher as to the correct size of violin for the student.
In addition, different brands of violins may vary slightly when it comes to size. Thus, once you have made a decision regarding a particular instrument, always take a final measurement with the child holding the instrument for complete sizing accuracy regardless of the sizing charts recommendations.
There are actually several ways for choosing the correct violin size for each child. This process can be accomplished by selecting a violin based by age, by grade, and by arm length which can be done in two different ways.
If the child is generally considered a normal size for their age, which means they are not unusually tall or small for their age, you can simply choose an instrument based upon the child’s age.
Children younger than second grade can use either a 1/16th, a 1/10th or a 1/8th size violin. Generally, a second grader will need a ¼th or a ½ size violin. By third grade, most children will now need a ½ size and in fourth grade, some children will have gravitated to a ¾th size instrument. Normally, most sixth and seventh grade students are ready for a full size or 4/4th size violin.
By Arm Length
Arm length is generally accepted as the most accurate way of selecting the proper size violin for a child. Always keep in mind that if you unsure of the correct violin size; it is best to choose the smaller size instrument. Children should not have to grow into a particular violin size. All measurements should be rounded up to the nearest half inch.
Method 1 – While the child is holding the instrument in playing position, they should be able to cup the scroll at the end of the violin. Using a tape measure, you will measure from the base of the middle of the neck to the area of the hand that is angled upward.
Another way to take this measurement would be to hold your arm out straight at shoulder level and raise the middle of the hand perpendicular to the arm. You would then measure from the middle of the neck to the base of the angle in the hand.
This measurement can also be determined by measuring from the middle of the neck to the middle of the left hand palm.
When using this method, this measurement would reflect the largest size violin that the child should be using at that time.
Method 2 – An alternative to the above three measuring methods would be to have the child stand with their left arm outstretched to the side at shoulder level. They should not be reaching or bending the arm. While the child is in this position, use a tape measure to record the distance between the sternal notch or base of the neck to the wrist.
Either method is acceptable since there is a 50:50 ratio for each measuring method. Since children grow quickly, but yet erratically, they should be monitored frequently to ensure that they are using the right size violin.
The following chart can also be utilized as a reference in estimating an approximate violin size for a child.
Arm Length Usual Age Violin Size
- 14” to 15 3/8 “ 3 to 5 years 1/16
- 15 3/8 “ to 17” 3 to 5 years 1/10
- 17.1” to 17.5” 3 to 5 years 1/8
- 17.6” to 20” 4 to 7 years 1/4
- 20” to 22” 6 to 10 years 1/2
- 22” to 23.5” 9 to 11 years 3/4
- 23.5” & Up 9 to Adult 4/4
After verifying that the violin is the proper size and fit, you can perform an additional check to confirm the chosen violin size. When holding the violin flat across the child’s upper chest, the instrument should fit between the shoulders. If the violin appears bigger than the shoulders, the violin is probably too big for the child.
Other Sizing Problems
Occasionally, even when taking all the appropriate measurements and using a size chart, the violin still does not look as if it is a good fit for the child. Certain adjustments will need to be made if the child is very tall for his/her age. Alterations may be needed with regard to the shoulder rest.
There are a number of sizing problems that can exist with children because they do not always grow in a consistent manner. Perhaps one of their fingers is too short or one side of their body is growing a little faster than the other side.
Many of these modifications can all be made with a shoulder rest correction. Adding various sponge sizes to the shoulder rest is a comfortable and convenient way to aid the student with proper violin sizing. Each individual situation will need to be addressed by each teacher in order to follow their recommended sizing method.
Little has been said about older age children and adults. This is simply due to the fact that these age groups are probably using a full size violin already or they are close to moving to the 4/4 violin size.
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