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What Is a Fractional Size Violin?

There is a violin that’s sized right for you.

Put 50 violin makers in a room and ask them the proper dimensions of a violin. You’ll likely get 51 different answers.

From the very beginning, violin makers have debated the appropriate size of the instrument. While the four strings have remained tuned to the same pitch, the vehicle that delivers their sound has varied greatly in design over the centuries. After all, players don’t come in just one size, so why should instruments only come in one size? Instrument makers therefore set out to build string instruments that not only fit the players’ physical dimensions but could still deliver the good sound and proper pitch that was necessary.

Today, there are essentially seven different sizes that are recognized as standards:

A 1/32 size violin.
A 1/32 size violin.

1. 4/4 full size (a 14″ body)

2. 3/4 size (a 13″ body)

3. 1/2 size (a 12″ body)

4. 1/4 size (an 11″ body)

5. 1/8 size (a 10″ body)

6. 1/16 size (a 9″ body)

7. 1/32 size (an 8″ body)

Fractional size violins are recognized in educational programs where children start learning the instrument at very young ages. As they grow, the next sized instrument is available for them to step into. Yamaha YVN Model 3 student violins, for example, are available in 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 sizes.

Three Yamaha student violins.
Yamaha YVN Model 3 student violins.

In the Suzuki Method of string education, a 1/10 sized instrument exists in-between the 1/16 and 1/8 sizes to accommodate a child who may be a little bigger or starts learning at an older age. Some violin makers have also created 7/8 sized instruments that are just slightly smaller than full-size. These are designed for players who are petite and may struggle with a full-sized instrument because their hands are small. Yamaha has created an online Student Violin Finder that can help you make the best selection.

The process of measuring the player to the correct sized violin is simple though crucial. The player places the instrument under their chin and reaches out over the scroll of the instrument. If their hand can comfortably wrap around the scroll of the instrument without overstretching, then it is the correct size. To help dealers and educators further determine proper instrument sizing, Yamaha has made a device called the “Fit Stick,” which allows a player to be measured without an instrument in their hands. The Fit Stick is simply placed under the chin; when the arm is extended out, the spot where the tips of the fingers land determines the proper instrument size needed. Contact Yamaha to get one free of charge.

So whether you are short or tall, three years old or 30, there is a violin that is sized right for you!

Photographs courtesy of the author.


Check out these related blog posts:

Five Things You May Not Know About String Instruments

Reimagining the Way Student Violins Are Made

How to Prepare Your Child for School Orchestra


Click here for more information about Yamaha YVN Model 3 student violins.

Click here for more information about Yamaha acoustic stringed instruments.

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