String Instrument Sizing


Violin | Viola | Cello | Bass

Violin Sizing


These are general guidelines for help in determining the correct instrument size. The best option is to have the teacher size the student, and always defer to the teacher's judgment in sizing. It is important for the player to be comfortable to avoid issues that may develop over time from playing an improperly sized instrument.

The chart below is a good guideline for violin sizing.  Have the player stand with left arm fully extended to the side, then measure the distance from the neck to the middle of the palm. Refer to the chart to determine the best size. The student's age may also give you some idea of the size. Remember that everyone grows at a different rate. It is important for the player to be comfortable to avoid physical issues.

Violin Size Arm Length Player's Age
1/16 14"-15" 3 to 4 years old
1/10 15"-17" 4 to 5 years old
1/8 17"-18" 5 to 6 years old
1/4 18"-20" 6 to 7 years old
1/2 20"-22" 8 to 9 years old
3/4 22"-23" 10 to 11 years old
4/4 23"+ 12 years and older

7/8 size violins are also available by special request. These are sometimes used by smaller adults or people with small hands.

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Viola Sizing


These are general guidelines for help in determining the correct instrument size. The best option is to have the teacher size the student, and always defer to the teacher's judgment in sizing. It is important for the player to be comfortable to avoid issues that may develop over time from playing an improperly sized instrument.

Violas smaller than 12" tend to be very hard to play because of the short scale length. The strings will be very loose, and hard to bow. String makers are working on better technology to accommodate small violas, but for now it may be better to start on a ¼ (or smaller) violin rather than an 11" viola. As always, consult with your teacher to determine the best way to suit the player's needs.

The chart below is a good guideline for viola sizing.  Have the player stand with left arm fully extended to the side, then measure the distance from the neck to the middle of the palm. Refer to the chart to determine the best size. The student's age may also give you some idea of the size. Remember that everyone grows at a different rate. It is important for the player to be comfortable to avoid physical issues.

Viola Size Arm Length Player's Age
11" 18"-20" 5 years and under
12" 20"-22" 6 to 9 years old
13" 22"-23" 6 to 9 years old
14" 23"-25" 9 to 11 years old
15" 25"-26" 11 to 12 years old
16" 26"-27" 13 years to adult
16.5"+ 27"+ large adult

There are also a few sizes of viola not listed. For example; some people use 15½" violas for someone who is fully grown or nearly so, but does not quite fit into a 16" viola. As the viola evolved from an instrument played on the lap to an instrument played on the shoulder it is naturally a little larger than is comfortable on the shoulder. Violists often try to play the largest pattern they can manage, but too large of an instrument will cause physical injury over time with frequent playing. Student models are more limited in sizing, but the instruments don't fall quite as neatly into 1-inch increments as one might guess. If you have trouble finding a comfortable instrument let us know, and we will do what we can to help.

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Cello Sizing


These are general guidelines for help in determining the correct instrument size. The best option is to have the teacher size the student, and always defer to the teacher's judgment in sizing. It is important for the player to be comfortable to avoid issues that may develop over time from playing an improperly sized instrument.

Cello Size Height Arm Length Finger Span Player's Age
1/16       under 4 years old
1/10       4 to 5 years old
1/8 3.5 to 4 feet     4 to 6 years old
1/4 3.5 to 4 feet 18" to 20" 3" to 4" 6 to 8 years old
1/2 4 to 4.5 feet 20" to 22" 4" to 5" 8 to 10 years old
3/4 4.5 to 5 feet 22" to 24" 5" to 6" 10 to 12 years old
4/4 5+ feet 24" and up 6"+ 12 years and older

7/8 size cellos are also available by special request. These are sometimes used by smaller adults or people with small hands.

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Bass Sizing & Bow Options


Bass sizing is less standard than many other instruments, so it is difficult to give hard and fast rules for sizing students. See the age charts below for a rough guideline, but double-check the size with your teacher. It is important for the player to be comfortable and not struggle with an improperly sized instrument. The standard size bass for adults is ¾. 7/8 and 4/4 size basses are made, but less commonly used.

With an instrument in hand you can check the size as follows; when the player and bass are both standing upright the bridge should be about the same height as the player's right hand. The student should be able to reach the end of the fingerboard easily.

Bass Size Height Player's Age
1/8 3.5 to 4 feet 5 to 7 years old
1/4 4 to 4.5 feet 7 to 9 years old
1/2 4.5 to 5.5 feet 9 to 13 years old
3/4 over 5 feet over 13 years old

 

Bass bows come in one of two styles: French or German. Each has its own shape and is held differently. The French bow is held like the bows of other orchestral string instruments, while the German bow is held with an underhand grip. If you do not know what type of bow to get, please ask your music teacher.

This is what a French bow looks like:
French bow picture 
This is what a German bow looks like:
German bow picture 

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