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How to Size for Violin and Viola

Posted by Kevin Damm on

by Kevin Damm

Having the right size instrument will give your beginning student the best opportunity to succeed. A violin, viola or cello that's too big or too small makes learning frustrating. The student won't realize why they are having so much difficulty. They might think they're just not good and want to quit. That is a terrible shame... Let's avoid this pitfall and start off right, with a properly fit instrument.

There are two acceptable ways to properly fit a child on violin or viola. Fitting on an actual instrument and the tape measure method.

Fitting on an Instrument

The best way is to have the child hold the instrument. Of course this can be done at Damm Music Center. We have all the sizes available can can advise you in person.

The student holds the instrument on their left shoulder and under their neck as if playing it. The left hand is then extended out under the instrument with the Scroll resting in the palm of their hand. If the arm is at a 90° angle or less, the instrument is too small. If the arm if stretched out straight or close to straight, the instrument is too big. The magic is in the middle, somewhere between these two extremes, where the elbow has a gentle, comfortable bend.

The Tape Measure Method

If you do not have access to all the different size Violins and Violas, or if you just want to get an idea at home before coming into Damm Music Center, you can use the Tape Measure Method.

Simply have the child extend their left hand straight out as if holding a violin. Put the end of the tape measure just below the left side chin. Extend it over the left palm. You'll want to use the palm near the wrist, but just past the thumb indention. In our example, she is measuring at about 24".

Use the table below to see what size instrument is best.

Violin
Violin Size
Arm Length (from neck to palm)
Average Age
Full 4/4
24" & above
11 years old to adult
3/4 22"
9 to 12 years old
1/2 20" 7 to 9 years old
1/4 19"
5 to 7 years old

Viola
Viola Size
Arm Length (from neck to palm) Average Age
15.5" 25" Average size adults
15" 24.5" 11 years old & small adults
14" 23" 9 to 12 years old
13" 22" 7 to 9 years old
12" 20" 6 to 7 years old


As a general guide, we've included ages as an example for how old most people are when they use a particular size. However, with children, we believe their size, rather than their age, should have more bearing in the instrument they should be playing.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask...

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Here is a helpful video from StringTechnique.com on the correct playing position on violin & viola