Instrument sizes demystified 2. Strings

String instruments are very popular. They make up a large percentage of an orchestra so there is always lots of opportunities to join in.

In order of size: violin, viola, cello and double bass. And they all come in mini sizes suitable for very small children.

The two instruments that are most suited to very small children (from around age 5) are the violin and cello. These come in eighth size, quarter size, half size, three-quarter size and full size. (Violins can go even smaller; tenth, sixteenth and I’ve even seen a thirty-second, but it’s a bit unusual to need these.) Small children will be ‘sized’ by the teacher, who will look at physical factors such as the length of their arm and the stretch between their fingers in order to fit them to the correct instrument.

As a general rule, go for smaller rather than larger: it’s much easier for a child to cope with a violin that is too small for them rather than struggle with a bigger heavier instrument that makes their arm tired.

When you do get sized by a teacher, stick to that size. Don’t be seduced by a music shop salesman into getting a bigger instrument because it will last longer – in reality it will sit in a cupboard for a few years until your child gets big enough to use it!

At EJMS we have a Tardis of a cupboard that houses over 100 violins and cellos of varying sizes. We try to have all sizes available so we can have exactly the right size to hire to you for your child. It’s important to get this right. They all have the correct sized bow to match each instrument as well – we have several lengths of wide plastic drainage pipe holding all the different sizes of bows.

On to the viola. This instrument tends to be started a little later than the violin (at around age 7), simply because it is a little bit bigger (even in the small sizes) than a violin. But, if you have a very young child that wants to have a go, then we’ll find a viola small enough! The major factor for children choosing the viola rather than the violin is that they like the sound of it better – much lower and richer.

And then there is the Big Daddy, the double bass. These are big, REALLY big. Very few professional players use a full size double bass, most play on some form of three-quarters, unless they happen to be 6 feet 4 with enormous hands! (Transport can be an issue too, but check out the @EJMS_Ealing Twitter feed for a photo of Polly fitting one into a Mini!)

But, we do have a double basses in a range of sizes available for hire at EJMS, including an eighth size which is suitable to start at the age of 8-or-so, as long as you’ve grown a bit by then!

I hope this has been a useful start. On to the world of woodwind next…

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