“I don’t want to practise my violin, it hurts”. Evasive tactics for a spot of extra sofa-loafing, or the truth? Don’t look into their eyes – look at the left elbow. Does it concertina in, like the wing of a sad battery hen, or is it overstretched into a straight line, with the wrist at a jaunty angle? In either case, your child is dead right: it really, really hurts. I’ve seen grown men cry after three hours of rehearsing on an outlandishly large viola. Equally, a too-small violin is a slippery slope to tendonitis (it’s easy to forget that your child can outgrow an instrument, but if you keep feeding them, it will happen).
How do you find the right size?
As a rule of thumb, for a budding young violinist or violist, the left elbow should hang in a deep V, which can swing forward and backward easily when the first finger rests on any string. The old method is to put the violin on your child’s shoulder, stretch his/her arm out beyond the pegs, and see if they can hold the scroll in the palm of their left hand. If they can, it’s a good fit.
On a ‘cello, the left arm hangs at a more conventional, less tortuous angle, and so the easiest way to check is to see if your child can manage the spaces between the notes: is the little finger having to stretch for extensions, and buckling under the strain? Can they play a scale in tune? The knees are a give-away, too – they need to still fit around the ‘cello, without any gnome-like contortions.
You’re very welcome to bring your bambino along to an Amati viewing day, but, if you don’t fancy a fine for taking them out of school, it’s probably easier for the teacher to measure them up during a lesson, and advise you on the size.
|Violin sizes||Age range||Overall length (mm)|
|Full size||Teenagers and adults||591mm|
|¾ size||8 to 12 years||551mm|
|½ size||6 to 9 years||519mm|
|¼ size||4 to 6 years||460mm|
|⅛ size||3 to 5 years||421mm|
|1/16 size||2 to 4 years||381mm|
|Cello sizes||Age range||Overall height (cms)|
|Full size||Teenagers and adults||121cms|
|¾ size||9 to 12 years||115.5cms|
|½ size||7 to 11 years||101cms|
|¼ size||5 to 9 years||89cms|
|⅛ size||4 to 7 years||77cms|
|1/10 size||3 to 4 years||71cms|