Fractional Violin Sounds


said: Nov 11, 2006
 8 posts

My grandson is playing a 1/16 violin purchased from a proper music shop and which his teacher says sounds fine. She did qualify her comment because of the size of the instrument. I think it sounds awful and we are having a hard time getting him to get a decent tone out of it. Then, last night, I let him play some of the beginning open string “tunes” on my 180 year old German Strad copy and he sounded magnificient. Is there such a thing as a really good fractional violin, and if so, how large are they when they start sounding like real violins?

Kirsten said: Nov 12, 2006
 103 posts

If there is a such thing as a “really good” sounding 1/16 violin, I have never heard it. It is really important to see that the violin is “set up” by a professional violin maker who has experience with student instruments. Minor adjustments to the bridge, strings, chinrest and tuners can really help in some cases. When your grandson grows bigger, the violin maker can probably help you find a 1/8 sized violin that you like. You can even visit the violin shop now to have a listen and get an idea of what you might have to spend. Bring the little violin you have now, and have a chat about it.

My advise is to do the best you can for him, and then encourage him to enjoy the appropriate sized violin.


said: Nov 12, 2006
 8 posts

I was afraid of that. It came from an excellent shop, one of the best in the country, in fact. Since he will probably be playing this one for 2-3 years (he is a clone of his uncle, so he isn’t going to be outgrowing it any time soon), I didn’t balk at spending what I did on it and his teacher (who plays with the NSO) thinks it is fine.

I spent a couple of hours on his violin today, trying to work toward playing it in. I don’t know how his teacher can hit the right notes on something this small!

I just put in an order for a better bow for him yesterday. Hope that will help but even using my own bow with his didn’t seem to help much. I guess anything that small next to mine is going to be disappointing. Will start keeping an eye out for the rare 1/8 that doesn’t make my hair stand on end.

said: Nov 16, 2006
 5 posts

I have been very pleased with Scott Cao violins, even at the 1/16 size.

Best of luck with your search for a quality sound for your grandson! Kudos to you for researching this.

“Beautiful tone, beautiful heart”
~Shinichi Suzuki

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 17, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

Although it won’t change the sound to a ‘full size’ sound, sometimes the right set of new strings makes all the difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘I can’t stand it’ fractional sized sound.

Laura said: Nov 19, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

We have a 1/16 Gliga violin, one of the low- to mid-range “Gems” models from their lineup. Our teacher loves it and keeps remarking on the tone. Our local shops sell them for quite a price (I think around $500-700), but you can purchase them direct from for roughly half the price. It is a bona fide web seller with excellent customer service. If you go this route, you might choose to take the violin in to a local shop to have it set up a little better, which is what we did. I believe Kirsten mentioned this, too—it does make a difference.

While researching instruments myself, I was warned that no fractional violin will sound full and rich relative to a full size. This applies even to a 7/8 violin. It’s simple physics: the amount of wood available to vibrate and provide resonance. If one particular 1/16 violin is a very good one, that is only relative to other 1/16 violins… but it will pretty much still sound small. From observing my kid’s class, I believe that the better sounding instruments lack the irritating “nasal” edge to the sound, and perhaps sound one size bigger than it actually is. But they all sound teeny. Your grandson will be disappointed if he’s comparing the sound to a full size.

Good luck!

Laura said: Nov 19, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I also wanted to add:

I remember being told that the smaller the violin, the less you will notice the quality between one violin and another. As long as you have an instrument that will hold a tuning and can make clear dependable sounds, it’s probably OK. So don’t bother paying for “great” when “decent” will probably do, when the violin is only 1/32 or 1/16. (I was even told this in all honesty by the dealer, when I was about to open up my online wallet! He said I realistically didn’t need to get any more than what I got for 1/16 size, even though there were better models available in stock.) There might not be a huge difference anyway, since the main factor contributing to the sound (or lack of it!) is the size. It apparently starts making more of a difference at 1/4 size and up.

At the very beginning stages, the kids are mostly are learning posture, bow hold, playing on one string at a time, and learn to make an even tone without scratching. For this, even a mediocre violin will do the trick, if cost is a factor. A top quality violin will still sound awful until the player learns to play it properly. Might be time for their second (bigger) instrument by this time, so that’s when I would consider spending more on quality.

That said, I still wouldn’t settle for “cheap” if I could afford a good first instrument. At least get an instrument that has a CHANCE of sounding good, so the student has something to aspire towards (e.g. if the teacher can get it to sound this good, then so can I).

Please note that I’m only a parent here, not a violin teacher. Everything I have said is only from personal experience and I don’t consider myself an expert by any means.

Jennifer Gray said: Nov 19, 2006
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

There are some better sounding small violins, but it ranges across a number of different varieties: we have had some great sounding new Gligas through our studio, but even better sounding old Suzuki Nagoyas from 1979 that turned up in a lot of old school instruments. The most important things are good set up, and good quality fittings. Some of the less expensive models have an okay sound, but absolutely terrible bridges, making it difficult for the child to play on one string, or terrible pegs/ tailpiece/ taligut combinations that make them difficult to tune or unstable. The best source for a small violin is usually a program that tries to keep the better instruments circulating within the group.

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