Sizing The Instrument

If you don’t currently posses an instrument, the easiest way to establish the correct size for your child is to take them to a local music store where they can be accurately measured.

If you already have a violin and you need to know whether or not the size is appropriate for your child, there are simple guidelines you can follow to determine that:

First, understand that the eager and growing child when initially starting will want to start with the appropriate size. However, if they aren’t in a full size once they begin, many students after a while begin to wonder “when will I move up to the next size?” The next size somehow translates into growth, maturity and “arriving” on their instrument. They also may notice the difference in tone quality of the larger instruments.

Conversely, many students are just the opposite. They grow attached to their instrument and are apprehensive about moving to a bigger one for many reasons: familiarity of the older instrument, they’ve grown accustomed to the sound and the feeling of it, or they just don’t want to change and have to get used to another one.

There are “give and takes” for both types of students:

  • The students who want to move quickly into another instrument may not understand that they may sacrifice comfort and ease in playing for a larger instrument and sound. They could run the risk of injury trying to move to a bigger size too quickly. They may definitely sacrifice intonation.
  • On the other hand, the student who wishes to hold on to their comfortable “friend” may begin to have issues with proper playing posture and technique, which affects their tone quality and intonation as well. A good guideline to go by to appease both sides is to let them know that if the instrument feels good and it’s comfortable, then it’s the right size, whether it appears too small or a slightly on the larger side.

Another Sizing Approach:

  • Have your son or daughter stand facing you. Place the violin in playing position under the chin, close to the neck on the collar bone & shoulder.
  • Next, have them fully extend their left arm (no bend at the elbow) and have the instrument lay along the arm.
  • Check to see where the scroll sits.  If it lands anywhere between the base joints of the fingers and the second line of the wrist, they can fit the instrument.  Ideally, the scroll should sit right in the palm of the hand.
  • If the scroll rests on the fingers, the violin is too big. Get one size smaller.  If it goes beyond the 2nd line on the wrist, it’s too small.  It would then be time to move up into the next size.  When in doubt, get measured.

This approach focuses on comfort and playability:

  • Have the student extend the arm while in playing position again and allowing the scroll to sit comfortably in the middle of the palm while wrapping the hand around the scroll (the center finger should sit around the scroll and into the peg box.
  • In this position, the elbow should have a very relaxed bend in it (about 120 degrees from the shoulder). This will ensure that in playing position, they’ll be able to relax their arm comfortably in roughly a 45 degree angle from the shoulder.


Violin/Viola Length Dimensions:

Violin Sizes

Violin & (viola sizes)**


4/4 size (Full Size) =


3/4 size =

13 1/8”

1/2 size =

12 1/2”

1/4 size =


1/8 size =


1/16 size =


1/32 size =

** Larger viola sizes include 15”, 15 1/2”, 16”, 16 1/2” and 17”