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Instrument Sizing Guide

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Our rough-guide to sizing violin, viola, cello and double bass beginners for the correct size instrument. A great starting point before consulting your teacher.

One of the most important tasks we find ourselves undertaking at Simply for Strings is to size a student for their instrument.  Whilst we always check sizing when you purchase an instrument, it is also important to talk to your teacher first about their thoughts on the appropriate size instrument. It is important to remember that we always err on the side of caution when it comes to instrument sizing.  Unlike clothes, you cannot ‘grow into’ an instrument.  If the instrument is too large then you will find yourself in severe pain when performing.  This often leads to a decrease in practice (and interest), which inevitably leads to the student choosing to forgo learning an instrument.  What a waste of money in the long run!  You are much better off to use an instrument that is the correct size and enjoy playing in comfort. Here are a few tips we’ve put together to help you determine which size instrument is right for you. String instruments are, except for violas, measured in fractions.  The most common sizes are the full size (4/4), a ¾ size, ½ size and a ¼ size.  Smaller sizes are available via special order and any in stock items. Simply for Strings stock instruments down to 1/10 and 1/16 size.  Violas are measured in inches (as described below).

VIOLIN/VIOLA

  • Hold instrument in left hand
  • Place instrument on the left shoulder and chin on the chinrest
  • Extend left arm all the way to the scroll (curly bit at the end of the neck of the instrument)
  • If your fingers cannot curl all the way around the scroll of the instrument, the instrument is too large for you
  • If your fingers curl all the way around the scroll of the instrument and your left arm is drastically bent then the instrument is too small for you
  • If you are situated somewhere between these two extremes it is important to consult one of our staff instore or your teacher to determine the best fit.
  • Smaller viola sizes are equivalent to violin sizing, ie. a full size violin is equivalent to a 14 inch viola, a ¾ size violin is equivalent to a 13 inch and a half size violin is equal to a 12 inch viola.  For this reason, one option for violists is to ‘string a violin’ as a viola (ie. adding a C string on the bottom, taking the E string off the top and moving all the strings up one slot).  However, it is important to discuss this option with your teacher.
  • One disadvantage to this restringing is that a violin’s physical size is not as ‘deep’ as a viola.  This means that the sound can be somewhat constrained.

Click here to see our extensive range violins and violas.  

CELLO
With both the cello and the double bass, it is important to size the instrument whilst using the correct chair or stool for performance.  We have a selection of bass stools in store for use and sale and both small and large cello chairs to assist you in your measurements.

  • Sit on a chair that allows your legs to rest at a 90 degree angle
  • The instrument’s upper edge should rest on the player’s sternum (in the middle of their chest).  This is very easy to determine if you look at the buttons on school shirts.
  • The pegs should sit just behind the left ear
  • The corners of the instrument should never dig into the players’ legs.
  • The knees should loosely ‘grip’ the lower sides of the instrument just below the corners.
  • Most importantly, the student should be able to reach both the top and the bottom of the fingerboard with ease.
  • It is important to adjust the spike length so that the position described above can be attained.  To help younger students remember how far out to extend the spike, you can measure how many ‘hands and fingers’ worth using their own hands and fingers.

Click here to see our extensive range of Cello's

DOUBLE BASS

  • It is important to note that a ¾ size double bass is the most commonly used instrument amongst adult double bassists.  A true, ‘full-size’ double bass is only needed in rare circumstances.
  • Stand up straight beside the double bass with the strings facing away from you.
  • The bridge of the double bass should be at around the same height as the main knuckles in the player’s right hand
  • Like the Cello, it is most important to ensure that the player can reach both ends of the fingerboard with ease.

Click here to see our range of Double Bass's For teacher’s who like to confirm their sizing, we do also offer a ‘Viometer’ in store to assist you with measuring a student.  Come in and try one out today. Remember, when it comes to choosing the correct size instrument, comfort is key!

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