For no other class of instrument is correct sizing more important than it is for orchestral strings. When a young player picks up a violin, viola, cello or double bass for the first time, it’s critical for the instrument’s size to match the player so that learning proper positioning and playing technique will be possible. And since a budding musician can start at any age and probably has several growth spurts in store, it’s important to update from time to time as well.
Whether your child is just beginning his or her musical journey, or in need of an updated instrument to keep up with a growing body, the methods and measurements outlined in this guide (coupled with the advice and recommendations of the instructor or orchestra teacher) will help you find the perfect fit. That will make the instrument easier to play, leading to better progress and avoiding the discomfort and frustration that come from attempting to play an outsize instrument.
For most aspiring violinists and violists, this simple sizing method is the most efficient and accurate approach to take. If you don’t have access to instruments through your child’s band program, consider visiting a local music store and asking for help sizing-in (or use the measurement tables below). When you do have access to sample instruments, have your child follow these steps:
If instruments are not readily available for sizing, you can take measurements to determine the correct size instrument instead. Use a yardstick or measuring tape and follow this procedure:
Because the cello is played in a seated position, you’ll need a chair for best results. If possible, use the same type of chair that your child will be using while performing. Otherwise, try to choose one that’s the same height. The most effective way to size for a cello is to use actual instruments; your child’s band director should be able to help out with this, or if necessary, you can visit a music store with instruments on hand. Then, walk your child through these steps to find the correct size:
It may come as a surprise to learn that correct sizing is even more important for the bass than for other orchestral strings. Because it is so large, the double bass is designed for the body and arms to fit around it in a specific way, and it’s very difficult to play if they can’t naturally fall into this intended posture due to a too-large or too-small instrument. One thing that the double bass does have in common with other orchestral strings is that the easiest way to size one is to have instruments on hand, and to guide your child through a set of easy steps:
In case you don’t have access to instruments for sizing purposes, you can take a measurement to determine the best size instead. Start by having your child stand up in a straight but relaxed posture, arms positioned at the sides with hands open, fingers pointing downward, and palms in against the body. Then, measure the distance from the “V” between the thumb and forefinger up to the outside corner of your child’s left eye. Reference the following list, choosing the indicated size for close-to-exact measurements, or the smaller size for measurements that fall squarely between.
It’s important to remember that as kids grow, so too must their instruments. So don’t just think of the sizing information in this guide as a one-time thing – instead, refer back to it every so often to check on the size of your child’s instrument and see whether it’s getting close to time for a bigger one. When choosing a rental or purchase plan for the violin, viola, cello or double bass, make sure to look into the exchange policy. For instance, rentals from Music & Arts are eligible for no-charge exchanges to larger sizes. That means it’s easy to always have the best fit even for a rapidly-growing young musician, and your child can enjoy a better learning experience as a result! It’s all part of the recipe for musical success: a recipe that starts with having a properly-sized instrument to work with.