How to size a viola

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Meri Sheegog said: Aug 19, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
5 posts

I am a violinist who is starting to teach viola. I have a method for sizing violins (scroll should hit at the wrist with a relaxed arm), but I would like some advice for how to size a viola. Do you go bigger since the body of the instrument is bigger?


Jennifer Visick said: Aug 20, 2019
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

No. If you’re working with a child, whose body is still growing and developing, the length of the viola (that is, the distance from end button to scroll, or the vibrating length of the strings) should be sized exactly the way you size a violin.

First position on a child’s viola should have the child’s left arm in the same place, with the child’s left elbow bent to the same degree, as if the child were playing first position on an appropriately sized violin.

You may find that the width/shape/proportions of a small viola’s bouts, or the depth of its ribs, is greater on a viola than an equivalent length violin. This might mean arranging for a shorter chinrest and shorter shoulder support than the same person would need on a violin.

According to the way we size violins for children, some people might get to a full size violin (which is approximately equivalent to a 14″ viola body length) and then keep growing.

In this case, for a violinist, they just learn to change their technique gradually to accommodate continuing to play on a full size violin. But for a violist, you’d keep moving them up in size (to a 14.5 inch, a 15 inch, etc.)

When a student is done with their growth spurts and their physical size is stable, then depending on the student’s strength & flexibility, and depending on the demands of their repertoire & performing schedule, you’d start looking into the possibility of having the student play on sizes that are larger than what you would normally recommend based on shoulder girth or arm/hand/finger length.

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