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Violin, viola and cello sizing: how to know if your child is playing the right size instrument

by Bows for Strings on

A topic that we are asked about frequently is instrument sizing. The question that parents of growing players want answered is, 'does my child need a bigger instrument?'

We pride ourselves on our sizing of young players in store, however to help you check the size of your instrument at home we have put together our easy to follow steps, including videos, for checking the size of your violin, viola or cello.

There are many approaches to determining the right size instrument, so we always recommend consulting with your teacher first to discuss their preferences. Below are our videos and tips on how we size players in our showroom.

Violin and viola sizing:  

  1. Ask the player to extend their arm gently
  2. Position the instrument at the base of their neck (in the playing position)
  3. Check where the scroll of the instrument meets the player's arm or hand
  4. If the scroll meets the player's hand anywhere from the middle of the palm to where the palm meets the wrist, then we suggest this is an appropriate size for a student to be playing.
  5. If the scroll goes beyond the palm to the fingers then we suggest that the instrument is too big and the player is not yet ready for this size*.
  6. If the scroll meets the player's arm roughly where a wrist watch would sit, then this instrument could be considered too small and so it is time to consider the next size up.

Cello sizing:

Before getting started, check the chair:

When attempting to achieve the correct playing position, remember that it's all in the chair.

Make sure your knees are below your hips with your legs slanted down, and that your feet are flat on the ground for a solid and comfortable base.

Now, seated in the correct position, you can go about checking the size of your cello with these three tests:

  1. Determine the right endpin length with these three check points: we are looking to extend the endpin so that the curve on the lower bout of the cello is sitting on the player's thigh, the upper bout should then be in contact with the player's sternum and the C peg should be sitting just below the ear. If you can't get all three of these check points to line up, then this means you are playing a cello that is too big or too small. (Watch the video for what it looks like to be playing a cello that is too small).
  2. Bow test: match the size of the bow to the cello (i.e. 1/2 size bow, 1/2 size cello), then place the bow on the A string at the heel and draw the bow all the way along the string to the tip. The arm should be only slightly bent when the bow reaches the tip. If the arm is fully extended, then the cello and bow are too big, and if the arm is very bent, then the cello and bow are too small.
  3. Standing test: the last check we perform is the standing test. Here the player should keep the endpin extended at the length determined in step one and then stand up next to the cello. The player should be taller than the cello in this position. If they are smaller than the cello then it's likely the cello will be too big for them and handling the cello will be an issue. The player should be comfortable moving the cello around, packing it up, and of course, taking it to lessons!

*Note: we always recommend playing a slightly smaller instrument over an instrument that is too big.

As always, we hope you find these tips for violin, viola and cello sizing useful. If you are unsure about the size of your instrument, or that of your child's, then please don't hesitate to drop into our showroom or give us a call on 03 8802 7905.

Happy playing!

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