Violin Sizes - One Size Does Not Fit All
Violin sizes, like shoes, come in a wide range of sizes from small enough for children to large enough for adults. Stringed instruments are sized by fraction with 4/4 being a full size, 1/2 being half the size of a full, 1/4 is a quarter of the size of a full, and so on.
You need to find the one that best fits your body. Here are some simple strategies to help you accomplish this.
1. Selecting a violin size by feel. Hold the violin up as if you were going to play it. Can you comfortably play all fingers, especially the pinky (4th finger), on the strings?
2. Selecting a violin size using the scroll test. Hold the violin up with left hand extended all the way to the scroll. While in this position check your left arm.
Can you wrap your left hand comfortably around the curve of the scroll? Is there still some relaxation to your arm with a slight bend to your elbow?You should be able to answer YES to these questions. If you can then the violin is a good fit for you.
Things you want to avoid when looking for the perfect size.
Is your arm extended straight with fingers barely touching the scroll? (Then the instrument is too big.) Is your left arm bent at a 90 degree or smaller angle? Does your arm feel squished when your left hand is wrapped around the scroll? (Then the instrument is too small.)
3. Selecting a violin size by measurements. Measure from your neck to the middle of the palm of your hand while your left hand and arm are fully extended away from your side. This will give you the largest size of violin a student can play on. Another method of measuring is from your neck to the end of your wrist. This measurement will give you a smaller but perhaps more comfortable size to play on. Then follow the sizing guidelines listed below
23" + 4/4 (Full Size)
4. Selecting a violin size by age. While not everyone of every age is the same size here is a general violin sizing chart by age. If your student is small for their age, look at the next age down. Using this method to choose violin size is not as accurate as the other three methods.
11-adult 4/4 (Full Size)
3 1/2 1/16
Go Big or Small? Some teachers and violin dealers say you should go more on the smaller size for better comfort and ease when beginning. Some teachers and professional violinists believe that a bigger violin is better because you will get a nice big sound and you won't have to trade in instruments as often.
Important to Note
There are many different opinions out there on buying a violin. Some say your student will hate practicing, and never succeed if you don't buy the perfect instrument in the perfect size. While trying to match the needs of your student to the instrument is important, I truly believe that above all, a passion and love for playing the violin will supersede any good or bad instrument when it comes to the success of the student.
Choose what is right for you. Some students like bigger violins because they are easier to get a nice full sound from. Some students like a smaller more comfortable instrument.
A lot of rental places will let you trade in sizes without a problem (this is something you will want to check with the rental shop you are working with). If you are purchasing an instrument, and you feel like your student is growing quickly it would probably be a good idea to go a little bit bigger. Some violin shops will also buy back violins and put that amount towards a bigger violin.
When possible ask your private violin teacher his/her opinion. Ideally we want to get a violin that has a great sound but is also comfortable, and affordable. The most bang for your buck!