What Size Instrument?

Violins and violin-family instruments come in smaller sizes to make it easier for children to learn to play. Getting the proper size is even more important than getting the correct size of clothes. An instrument that is too big can be nearly impossible to play, while one too small may not produce the best tone and technique. Determining the size of the instrument is easy!
Measuring with a yardstick:
sizing for violin
With the left arm fully extended, palm up, and a yardstick under the chin to simulate a violin, record the measurement in the center of the palm. At this point you don't want any slack in the arm, the measurements below will indicate the correct size of the instrument with a proper bend in the elbow.

Under 14"             1/32 Size
14" - 15 3/8"           1/16 Size
15 3/8" - 16 7/8"         1/10 Size
17" - 18 1/2"           1/8 Size
18 1/2" - 20 3/8"         1/4 Size
20 3/8" - 22 1/4"         1/2 Size
22 1/4" - 23 5/8"         3/4 Size
Over 23 5/8"         4/4 or Full Size

21 3/4" - 23 1/4"           Jr. Viola (12" or 13")
23 1/4" - 24 7/8"       Intermediate (13" or 14")
24 7/8" - 25 5/8"           15" Viola
25 7/8" - 26 3/8"         15 1/2" Viola
26 3/8" 27 1/8"           16" Viola
Over 27 1/4"             16" or larger

Using the instrument to determine size:
size with violin
If you have access to an instrument already, here's how you can determine if it is the correct size. With the arm fully extended, the child should be able to cup the majority of the fingers around to the top of the scroll.

There are a few other factors to consider when determining the proper size of instrument. It is usually best to get an instrument that is too small than to try and play an instrument that is too big. This is especially true for beginners. An experienced player may choose to go for a bigger tone, however, and sacrifice technique for a larger instrument of better quality. In addition to the length of the arm, the length of the fingers can be used to indicate if the student should move up earlier or wait for the arm to grow a little more to compensate. Please remember, it is easier to learn on an instrument that is a little too small than one that is too big.

Correct size

Nashville Violins is available to inspect your instrument, and help with sizing and other questions, free of charge. We offer great rental rates and trade up plans for every level of player.

Related articles:
TeenStrings article Livin' Large on upsizing with comments by Mr. Wascher
Setup and Inspection
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