3/4 Violin for Tall man

July 27, 2011 at 03:57 PM ·

Is is advisable for a tall man (6 feet height) to play with 3/4 Violon.  Does it cause any problem in my playing, tone production etc?

Replies (33)

July 27, 2011 at 04:09 PM ·

No problem. But why do it?

July 27, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

By "3/4 violin" I think perhaps you may have meant "7/8 violin"?  A 7/8 violin can often be of the same quality as a good full size instrument, but the same cannot generally be said of 3/4 and the even smaller sizes which are intended for children learning the violin.

July 27, 2011 at 07:33 PM ·

I sometimes feel even a bit cramped on my full-sized violin. I can't imagine being comfortable with anything smaller.

July 27, 2011 at 08:45 PM ·

Unless you have difficulty stretching to reach notes with a larger instrument like me, I don't see why you would want to play a 3/4 size. Yes, it can be detrimental to your playing and even result in injuries if you are not careful, based on my own experience.

I am close to 5'3" so my arm length is ample for a 4/4.  I have been practicing on a 3/4 for two months as an experiment.  After all this time, I still cannot feel comfortable playing a 3/4 violin, but your mileage may vary depending on how flexible your joints are. See, in order for your left arm to have somewhere to go, you have two options: 1) play with left elbow far to the right. 2) hold the violin more to the left.  So it will not only affect your technique, but also add strain to your body (I experienced strain in my left shoulder due to #1  and right shoulder due to #2).   Another thing to consider is the string spacing - a 3/4 has narrower neck/fingerboard than a 4/4, so if your fingertips are not small,  playing double-stops and producing clean string crossings would be more difficult.

July 28, 2011 at 01:42 AM ·

 No.

A 3/4 size violin will generally sound like cr@p. Smaller interior volume (and usually cheaper construction) will severely limit the tone and volume.

July 28, 2011 at 12:19 PM ·

Sorry to disagree, Scott, but my 3/4 definitely does NOT sound like "crap"!

Joyce offered some really good points.  I'm right around 5'1".  I've played a 4/4 -- I can do it, but I'm much more comfortable on my 3/4.  I imagine that being 6' in height, you've got correspondingly long fingers.  I can see the narrower neck and reduced spacing between strings as a real problem for someone with longer fingers (and larger hands) than mine.  If you have access to a 4/4, I think that would be the best option for you.

July 28, 2011 at 04:13 PM ·

 Marsha,

It depends what your standards are. Most people who have experience with fine full-sized violins would not find a small violin satisfactory. There are exceptions, of course--I have a student who found a small old German violin that sounds very good. But that is a rare find.

July 28, 2011 at 09:24 PM ·

 I am just over 5 feet tall, with arms, hands, and fingers proportionately smaller even than you would expect for my stature.  I have joint issues as well so I need to play a 3/4 violin.  Anything bigger hurts.

I don't know why you want to play a 3/4 violin as a larger person, but I would make sure that you are not accommodating the smaller size violin by holding your body, arms, hands, etc. in a way that would cause damage over time. 

 

Ann

July 28, 2011 at 10:25 PM ·

If all 3/4's sound relatively bad, doesn't that mean that all violas (of relatively normal size) sound relatively bad, as well, since they're undersized?  

There are many small yet also very fine cellos, as well, and I think most would find their sound quite pleasing.

July 29, 2011 at 01:00 AM ·

 Andrew,

You have to compare apples to apples. Naturally, one can find a 3/4 violin that sounds better than a full-size. But if you compare similar makes/price range/quality, that is unlikely to be the case. And most violists are likely to play the largest size viola they can play (again, all things being equal).

Unless there is a very specific reason, a tall person would only be handicapped by having to use a too-small instrument. They would have to have extraordinarily small thin fingers in order to play in the higher registers or to avoid touching adjacent strings. I just don't see any advantage for a 6' person.

Scott

July 29, 2011 at 02:14 PM ·

 If you are asking because you are 'in love' with a smaller violin, then play it; after all, people used to play violino piccolo with no problems.

One thing to consider, though, is that if you later want to play other, full-sized violins, you may discover you have 'built' a technique geared around the smaller violin--not insurmountable, as any of us who play violin and viola can assure you--but irritating if you are a one-instrument sort.

 

July 29, 2011 at 03:09 PM ·

 Maude Powell wasn't 6' tall.

July 29, 2011 at 05:12 PM ·

Wilt Chamberlain should have played the viola.

July 29, 2011 at 07:37 PM ·

 Basketball players tend not to be good musicians. They have a sense of entitlement: for every note they play, they want credit for 2. Tennis players are even worse. For each note they play, the think they've played 15. And they'll only play 45 before they quit and let someone else give the cues.

And we all know that music is pointless...

My pick for conductor would be Bjorn Borg. He never said a word...

July 29, 2011 at 10:06 PM ·

...and he had Conductor's Hair, and a name with umlaut as all great conductors should--perfect!

July 30, 2011 at 12:29 AM ·

 Is it an umlaut or the ø?

July 30, 2011 at 04:33 PM ·

 John,

Finally I agree with you. I think the violin has, for whatever reason, become standardized at 14 inches in spite of the fact that very few of them are able to achieve a good bass response. I wouldn't be surprised if the optimum size is somewhat larger. However, it is what it is. The viola is a different instrument, so simply switching is not a realistic option for those who prefer the brilliance of the violin or its repertoire.

A new instrument that I've acquired is bigger in all dimensions, and I think the tonal depth is due to that.

July 30, 2011 at 04:48 PM ·

Where did Uncle Sam go?  Seems the topic needs a bit of feedback fro the OP...

July 30, 2011 at 04:55 PM ·

Seeing as the esteemed OP lives in India, my guess is that he is needing to make do with what he has available.

July 30, 2011 at 05:48 PM ·

Scott,

Have you played a mezzo violin?  They are slightly larger, but thinner, than a standard fiddle. They came out of Carleen Hutchins research and building of the "octet."   I played one once--an actualy Hutchins mezzo, as did my son. Very impressive. Very responsive.

 

The idea of the lack of bass response is interesting. But indeed that is much of what makes a fiddle what it is. If you get bass into the g string, you have a viola :-)

In the world of guitars, there are instruments which are chosen because of their big bass (Martin D-18) and others that are chosen despite the lack of big bass, because by giving up the bass you gain other tonalities. Think small bodied archtop. Then there are the instruments with a strong bass flavor but not a booming bass--think tenor ukulele, or series O small-bodied flattops. Each has something interesting to bring to the table.

In terms of fiddles, what I find is that even though they are all the "same" to the untrained eye, in fact they vary nearly as much as guitars do, in terms of tonal signature and indeed design details and proportions. The more you look at fiddles, the more you see their differences. Still, not like violas, or cellos, or indeed guitars, in terms of the range of difference.  To that extent it is interesting to imagine the "viola-voiced fiddle". On the other hand, the two small fiddles in the Octet range give a sense of what is possible in the treble range.

July 30, 2011 at 07:27 PM ·

Scott is spot on about the difficulty of getting a satisfactory sounding 3/4 after being used to the tonal quality and volume of a decent larger violin. I have been trying 3/4 violins on and off for over a year. After auditioning at least 40, I'm currently considering two - a new American and an almost 100-year-old German. The former is easy to play, balanced across the board, and sounds great from distance but muffled under the ear; the latter has beautiful deep sound (It was used by a professional to play in the orchestra) but the price is $3K+ more than the American.  If I decide to go with either one, chances are I will never be able to sell it because it's extremely rare that someone would be willing to pay that much for a child-size violin.  That's why good fractional violins are so rare - why would a good violin maker bother if nobody is willing to pay for it unless it's for their own family?

July 30, 2011 at 08:53 PM ·

John: curious coincidence: Ebernezer was the brother of Sam the meat packer - who was the origin of Uncle Sam who stars in the recruiting poster (apparently Sam put 'U.S.' on all the packets of meat he shipped to the army in the 1812 war and the joke was he meant Uncle Sam and not the USA). 

But I actually think Dr. Sam is genuine needy V.com member seeking advice - I just wish he would clarify why its necessary for a 6ft man to play a little violin.  Is this the only one available?  Or does he have a physical reason - if either there doesn't seem much point asking this particular question - surely the right one would be 'how best to...".  Maybe he will chip in some more....

July 30, 2011 at 09:26 PM ·

India has many ethnic and religious groups. I have Indian colleagues with Jewish, Arab, Christian/Western names. I totally believe this is OP's real name (note that he also provided address and phone number). Turbans are usually worn by Sikhs, who would have the last name Singh, so John you are likely to be disappointed.

July 30, 2011 at 10:51 PM ·

 Seems the topic needs a bit of feedback fro the OP...

 

What was the question again?

I'd always assumed the original posts were just starting points for freewheeling discussions, bizarre tangents, blind alleys, sheer dogmatism, and of course our own pontification.....

July 30, 2011 at 11:02 PM ·

Yes, knowing his situation would help, but I'm guessing his choices are limited. However, I'm currently making only 3/4 violins because of demand. I'm 6'2" with normal sized hands and have no problem playing them. Of course, the string spacings are full size with other slight modifications from "standard" 3/4. My customers are all adults, who tell me that these have full size sound.

I'm NOT trying to sell anyone anything, just pointing out that making very good 3/4's is not that hard if you know what you're doing.

July 31, 2011 at 02:44 AM ·

Lyle you are either freaking crazy, or you live in some parallel universe, our you make instruments that are WAY too good for WAY too little money:-)

I've been trying to sell a very nice good playing 3/4 for more than a year and not even a nibble. Not a bite. 3/4 sit around a lot longer than 1/2 size around here anyway (CT).

I have lowered my expectations a lot--all the way down to $700. Paid $1400 for it. Ouch with a capital C.

July 31, 2011 at 05:49 PM ·

Bill, thanks for the supportive words about the New Family. I was going to suggest to the OP that he look at the YouTube Video introducing the New Family. It's at http://youtube.com/user/octavivo (lots of new videos will be going up in about four weeks). Paying attention to the demo of the soprano violin, which is just slightly shorter than a 3/4 violin but with neck width and string spacings adjusted for the adult hand, will give an idea of what is possible with a well-tuned small violin. Of course, the instrument is tuned a fourth higher in the video. I mention it because I occasionally have others help me set up the soprano violins, and one who thought at first it was a child's violin put a set of regular violin strings on it. She said it was the best-sounding small violin she'd ever heard. I mention this to show that the possibility exists.

And for those of you who are having a tough time selling 3/4 violins, let me mention that in these financial times you're not the only ones!

July 31, 2011 at 06:19 PM ·

Sure it's totally possible for small violins to sound good. It's just that terrific sounding ones are rare due to economics.

Here is Chien Tan, Principle Second Violin of the Oregon Symphony, playing treble violin (about the size of a 1/4 violin):

Chien Tan compares a treble violin (right) with a standard violin:

Treble violin

July 31, 2011 at 10:49 PM ·

"Lyle you are either freaking crazy, or you live in some parallel universe, or you make instruments that are WAY too good for WAY too little money:-)"

Ha! Bill, I can't take that much credit. Actually, I got lucky in my design. As I said, these are not standard 3/4's. I was asked to make one by a professional fiddler with small hands and tried to talk her out of it because she wanted it to sound like my full size and I was pretty sure it couldn't be done. I finally told her I would try but with no promises. She took that first one before it was finished and played it at a memorial service, where the concertmaster of a symphony tried it and apparently was very impressed.

The next one was tried by a local teacher, who immediately declared it "as good as" her full size, which is a pretty nice fiddle. I've now finished four and they are all gone at my full size prices with at least one more ordered. And I'm not even trying to sell them. But my "market" is not students. It is adults with special needs. And you are right, I probably don't charge enough, but I don't care, and yes, I'm definitely crazy.

August 10, 2011 at 07:56 PM ·

Unless you're built like a T-Rex I don't see the point. Do you have short arms or small hands? I'd be worried about upper back and shoulder pain myself. You would probably end up rounding your back and pushing your shoulders forward not to mention your neck...ok I'll mention your neck unless it's short you may end up extending it forward and causing more damage.

                                                       -M

August 11, 2011 at 12:41 AM ·

 Worth noting that Carl Flesch in Art of Playing says that one should choose a smaller model (he's talking full size, but still) because they are easier to play.  I've heard nothing about him being a small-built man.

August 12, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

 Just want to say that my violin teacher at the university had very small hands, and she played a full size violin without any problems.  You do not see anybody trying to change the size of the piano keyboard so it would fit their hands better.   We all have to adjust to things.  

Just a thought.

August 12, 2011 at 08:32 PM ·

 Worth noting that Carl Flesch in Art of Playing says that one should choose a smaller model (he's talking full size, but still) because they are easier to play.  I've heard nothing about him being a small-built man.

On Flesch:

"His hands were poorly equipped for the violin-fleshy and flabby, with broad fingertips, and a little finger that was too weak and too short to be of much use; it forced him to employ fingerings favoring the three strong fingers." (Schwarz, p. 330)

No wonder he may have looked for smaller violins. However, Flesch did use a number of old Italian instruments, including Strad, Guad, P. Guarneri, Pressenda, Lupot, and Villaume.

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