How To Measure Your Child’s Instrument

Violins and violin-family instruments are available in smaller sizes to make it easier for children to learn to play. Getting the right 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 that is too small may not produce the best tone and technique. Determining the size of the instrument is important and easy.

Ask your teacher or a professional string musician to measure the student with actual instruments. We are happy to measure when you visit our store!

Determine the size on your own using our guidelines below:

MEASURING WITH A YARDSTICK (or stiff measuring tape)
If you don’t have access to an instrument, use a yardstick. Lift the left arm and extend it fully to the side, palm facing upward, fingers flat and straight out. Place the yardstick under the chin, touching the neck (you are going to measure from neck to palm (as this is where the violin will sit), and then determine the measurement from the neck to the center of the palm. Don’t allow for any slack. Once you have the size in inches, use the size chart, below, to determine the child’s size.

Violin sizes
Arm length measurements in inches
Approximate age
14” ………15 3/8”
3-5 years
15 3/8” ….16 7/8”
3-5 years
16 7/8” ….18 1/2”
3-5 years
18 1/2” ….20 3/8”
4-7 years
20 3/8” ….22 1/4”
6-10 years
22 1/4”….23 5/8”
9-11 years
4/4 (full size)
23 5/8” …………….
12 years to adult

Viola sizes

Arm length measurements in inches
Approximate age
13”   Jr. Viola
21 5/8” ….23 1/4”
9-11 years
14” Intermediate
23 1/4” ….24 7/8”
12 years to adult
24 7/8” ….25 7/8”
13 years adult
15 1/2”
25 7/8” ….26 5/8”
13 years adult
26 5/8” ….27 1/4”
13 years adult
16 1/2”
1/2” 27 1/4” …28”
13 years adult

If you already have an instrument, you can determine if it’s the right fit by fully extending the arm to the side and ensuring the instrument hits the center of the palm when the base of the violin is resting on the neck with the child’s chin in the chinrest. It’s a simple and quick method, but there are other factors that can determine the right fit. Generally, it’s a good idea to play on an instrument that is a bit smaller than one that is bigger, especially for beginners. An experienced player may choose to go for a bigger tone, but often sacrifice technique for a larger instrument of better quality. The length of the fingers can also indicate whether the student is ready for a larger size or whether it is best to wait for the arm to grow. Regardless, remember that it is easier to learn on an instrument that too small than one that is too big if you aren’t able to have the exact proper size.

Seat the child (or yourself) so that the knees are bent at a ninety-degree angle. The upper rim of the cello body should rest on the sternum (breast bone) and the left knee should contact the curve below the lower bout corner. The C string peg (for the thickest string) should be near the left ear, with the neck of the cello a few inches away from the shoulder. The left hand should be able to reach both ends of the fingerboard with ease.