Choosing the correct size instrument is not only an issue for children, but for adults as well, and since most children receive instruction from their string teachers or orchestra directors on sizing, we're going to concentrate this article on the neglected group - adults who might be small of stature! (but mighty in personality, of course!)
"I'm short! My hands are tiny! What size instrument should I get?"
Many smaller adults wonder if they need to play on a 3/4 size instrument, as they may not be aware of the range of sizes that are available, or simply feel that full size (4/4) is too large. The range of adults who can play on a full size violin is far greater than for viola or cello - essentially, nearly all violinists, no matter how diminutive, should have little trouble playing full size (4/4) violin. For the few who have exceptionally short fingers, for example, there are 7/8 size violins available, so please do inquire with us, or your favorite violin shop, about these instruments.
For violists, their instruments are not sized in fractions, but in inches, and those inches represent the length of the back, without considering the 'bump' at the center - the button, or heel - but measuring just beside it, straight down. These ranges are from 13" (for children, typically, as it is the same size as a 3/4 violin, and difficult to get a good tone because of the tonal range and the small body) to 17", but very few play such large sizes, with the majority of violists favoring 15.5" to 16.5". For smaller adults, aim for 15" to 15.5", as you want to play as large an instrument as you can comfortably play, but never too large as to harm you physically.
Cellists actually have a very good option, if they require a smaller instrument. While 3/4 size cellos are too small, and often do not produce the tone desired by an adult player, there are many cellos made in 7/8 size, which can often sound as rich and full as a full size (4/4) cello, if properly made, and properly setup (setup is, as always, EXTREMELY important for the overall performance and playability of an instrument - see our blog entry regarding the importance of a top quality setup here). We, at StringWorks, offer a number of our cellos in 7/8 size, though we don't often keep them in stock. We have made, and sold (and will have available if needed) Artist, Virtuoso, Soloist, and Michael Todd cellos in 7/8 size, and invite you to inquire with us about the possibility of getting one for yourself. Many other shops make 7/8 size models, so definitely check with your favorite violin shop or luthier if you think you might thrive on this near-full-size option. Even world-class, antique cellos in the five and six figure price range are made in 7/8 size, so your options are broad.
As always, feel free to call us at 888-624-6114 to chat about your instrument needs, or helping find the right size for you, even if you don't plan to purchase from us!