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Recommend 1/10 violin for 4 year old child

Instruments: What is an adequate level of playability and sound for a 4 year old beginner? How much should I spend?

From Clare Chu
Posted October 10, 2004 at 11:26 PM

I've promised my almost 4 year old son a violin for Christmas, and have measured his neck to mid-palm to be 15.5 inches. Looking at the available 1/10 sizes there are the Gliga violins (Genial 1, 2, Gems 1, 2), and the Shar Hoffman (Etude, Prelude). For a 4 year old beginner, what is the difference in Genial 1, 2, Gems 1, 2 and/or the Etude, Prelude other than the price? Are the more expensive ones worth it in terms of playability and sound, or just have better decoration?

Since I will be teaching him, I would like it to be a fun experience and have at least decent sound, whatever is possible for a 4 year old!


From Jonathan Parle
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 03:37 AM
I think there are other people better qualified to speak about tiny instruments. But my view is that price and "decoration" (as you put it) would come a very distant second to the level of service from the shop as well as the shop's ability to set up the instrument to suit a very small child (and by setting up I just don't mean the instrument itself (fingerboard, nut, bridge, strings, tailpiece etc), but also the fitting of a proper chinrest and shoulder rest. These two things are absolutely critical to comfort, playing security and encouraging the correct posture.

So I would be less concerned about brand A versus brand B and far more concerned about the demonstrated expertise of the shop from which you wish to purchase it.

It might be a bit out of place to comment, but I am wondering if 5 years old is perhaps a more ideal age to start. The child will probably have grown into another more popular size of violin such as 1/8th (think resale), and their attention span may well have improved sufficiently for their progress to be reasonable.

I just wonder whether it might be an idea to give the child a toy musical instrument for now and a "real" violin next year. At the rate a 4 year old grows, I just wonder if the prospect of fitting them up with a "real" instrument (and the time and expense that will entail) is perhaps a little dubious. I have seen absolutely no evidence that waiting until 5 years old has any detrimental effect upon musical development whatsoever.

You say you measured 15.5 inches. What will that be next month? :)

From Michael Kuo
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 02:57 PM
My first violin at age 4 was a 1/8 size violin. I think it lasted a year and a half, but I had older brothers so I just grew into their violins. I think that violin is still in a closet at my parent's house. There's really no telling how quickly kids will grow, but they'll grow quickly and your 1/10 size violin which may be right for this month might be too small at Christmas. Good luck though! Starting young and starting right is the way to go.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 04:45 PM
I have a set of measurements that are extremely accurate for this. I have marked them on a yardstick, which I call my "fiddle stick," and I use this to measure my students for the appropriate violin size. I place end of the stick gently at their neck, then measure to the line where their wrist meets the hand. Here are the measurements:

13 1/4 inches or less: 1/16 size violin
14 1/4 inches: 1/10 size violin
15 1/4: 1/8 size violin
17 1/4 inches: 1/4 size violin
19 inches: 1/2 size violin
20 1/2 inches: 3/4 size violin
21 1/4 inches: full size violin

In centimeters:

33 1/2 cm or less: 1/16 size
36 cm: 1/10 size
38 1/2 cm: 1/8 size
44 cm: 1/4 size
48 1/2 cm: 1/2 size
52 cm: 3/4 size
54 cm: full size

A few guidelines: always err on the side of getting the smaller violin. It is tempting to get the bigger size, figuring, "Oh, (s)he'll grow into it," but it is extremely frustrating for a child to work with an unwieldy violin that is too big, and importantly, too heavy! You want them to feel in control of the violin, and at such a young age they get very upset if it hurts to hold it.

From june rhee
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 05:24 PM
thanks laurie for the numbers. do you have a guideline for when a 7/8 violin is appropriate?
From Jen Gray
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 07:16 PM
Laurie made a good point....measuring to the middle of the palm often results in a violin that is too big for your child. Measuring to the bend of the wrist is more like the proportion of most adult players. Apart from making a decent sound (which will be important when the instrument is under your child's ear every day) look for good quality fittings: easy turning wood pegs, easily adjustable fine tuners and tailpiece, well-shaped and good quality wood in the bridge. Better instruments with better fitting always stay in tune more easily, and keep their various moving parts in order. You will spend more money changing these things on a cheaper violin as they go wrong than you would have spent in the first place for a higher quality instrument. Most small Gligas I have seen have very good fittings.
If you are worried about constantly changing sizes,ask the dealer if they have a return policy, where you can move up to the next size by paying a fee. You could also contact local Suzuki groups, who will have new parents coming in who will need small instruments, and might have very good larger size violins available when you are ready to move up. A good instrument, well cared for, is rarely difficult to sell.
From Clare Chu
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 10:56 PM
Thanks for your responses. I will remeasure him with a yardstick and see how he measures. I do like the looks and reputations of the Gligas but the dealer violinslovers.com does not have a trade-in program. Shar does have one with the Hoffman Prelude, etc. So if the Prelude is comparable to the Gligas then I could start there, and move up as he grows.
From Clare Chu
Posted on October 11, 2004 at 11:01 PM
Laurie, how fast does an average child grow from size to size? I would think when they are little, they would change frequently?

1/16 to 1/10 to 1/8 with a year or two? So let's say they started at 3 with a 1/16, then at 3-1/2 to 4 with a 1/10, and from 4 to 5 they get a 1/8.

I know as a small 6 year old I started with a 1/4 size.

Ilya Gringolts

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