Now that we're 10% taller than the average Strad customer, should we be building larger violins?
Here's a company that builds 5/4 and 6/4 sized violins:
As average heights have increased substantially since the size of the modern violin was determined in the 16th century, they argue that taller players find that larger instruments are more comfortable to play.
And they also argue that a larger body volume offers a richer G string and a more mellow E string.
On the face of it, this sounds rather sensible. Are we being too hidebound in sticking to the old dimensions?
The French beat you to it, they've been building larger body violins for years, except no one wants to buy them, its a killer to sales potential.
More people may be taller nowadays - but do they have longer arms?
Who cares about those stats?
It's peculiar they don't list any dimensions.
Looks like an answer to a problem nobody has... or marketing, or both. I haven't heard complaints about a violin being uncomfortably small, from anyone. At worst, maybe fat-fingered players might need a wider fingerboard, but usually it's the thin-fingered players that need a narrower one.
The violin is uncomfortable no matter what you do...
If we take it that evolution has caused modern players to be taller/larger than our predecessors.
Hahahaha, Scott pretty much got it, hahahaha. I'd love to pop that answer up in a violin maker convention where the latest comfortable changes and technologies for the violin are shown.
I've had and tried violins of different sizes, including a fairly large pattern Craske, and a pretty big Chanot. I've also tried very small violins.
Strad already did that. It was called the Long Pattern. After a decade of using it, he abandoned it for the dimensions that we still use today. The French tried it in the 19th c, and it still didn't work.
I'm Dutch (and taller than average) There are much more adults playing cello than violin, perhaps this is the reason ;)
I think the main reason there are so many adults playing cello is that it requires the least physical stretching of any of the bowed string instruments.
The OP presents an interesting question. In my opinion the violin won’t increase in size, because,
Now that we are 70% fatter, should we build concave cellos?
So basically...they're viola size? ;)
As a viola maker, I've seen the contrary, a trend towards small violas. Toby Appel, one of my viola test drivers for years, urged me to develop a small viola model because a lot of his students are small Asian Girls.
I have a question, if someone wants a bigger violin, why don’t they look at a fractional sized viola? In particular, the 15-inch one?
The viola repertoire is smaller than that of the violin, but I would not call it "limited and tiny".
Sorry for my words Luis.
A teacher suggested viola to me, since I am a big guy with very large hands. I 100% would love a 6/4 violin if playing on such a thing were acceptable. I wear a 14 or 15 shoe and XL gloves (sometimes tight)--why should I play a violin the same size as the person a foot shorter? I assume if height has increased, so has "wingspan." Obviously there is some discussion in the other direction, with people here occasionally requesting help finding a good 7/8 or 3/4 (also rarer than full size, but certainly there is a market).
J Seitz, you are lucky because you'll have your pick of the many excellent french violins that are big but slightly cheaper!
My French violin is a largish model: suitable, tonewise for a violist..
In Strad's day, people weren't writing concertos with passages in fingered tenths either.
@Paul but then the playing level was far lower I suppose, at that time.
I may be stating the obvious, but according to this site there are fractional violas that are even smaller than a 4/4 violin, with the smallest one starting at the size of a 1/2 violin. Though I don't know how popular they are.
@Bud Scott "It's peculiar they don't list any dimensions."
"J Seitz, you are lucky because you'll have your pick of the many excellent french violins that are big but slightly cheaper"
Fractional sizes are by volume. A 16" viola is identical to a 6/4 violin.
@Andrew "Fractional sizes are by volume"
A 6/4 violin would be for someone about 7 foot tall!!
I take issue with the statement as suggested that 10% taller is a fact across the board.
I have this memory of somewhere seeing someone who'd come up with a shoulder-rest type thing that essentially extended the length of the violin out by several inches.
I also wonder whether 10% taller is correct. Nutrition has improved. But those numbers are averages. I wonder if the same factor (1.1) applies to the segment of the population that can typically afford to engage in serious study of the violin.
Not to mention the biggest market now for violins could be from the Asians, most of whom I believe are happy with the current size.
What does height have to do with violin playing? If it's the length of limbs, there has always been a huge range of this.
I see a lot of size stereotyping here. Keep in mind average height rose greatly in Asia during the 20th century with industrialization and better access to nutrition. South Koreans are now taller on average than most countries in Western Europe, and Japan's average male and female heights are now about the same as Italy's.
Lots of great info here. Many huge players cope well with 4/4 violins with posture and position tricks. A 6/4 violin seems like insanity with 5/4 being a bit more reasonable. The viola has quite an extensive but unknown-to-the-public repertoire. There are lots of pieces that most violists don't know about, with around 95% of it being contemporary music. The viola sure has way less Baroque/Classical music written for it than violin (excluding Bach Cello Suites).
"South Koreans are now taller on average than most countries in Western Europe".
Your numbers are out of date. The average adult male height in South Korea is now 5'9", compared to 5'8.7" for northern Italy and 5'7" for southern Italy. South Koreans are also taller than the French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The average adult male height for Japan is now 5'8", similar to Italy as a whole and taller than Spain and Portugal.
Will Willy and tutti violino: my background is primarily in biology and medicine. I think I know what I'm talking about.
Andrew, 'most' means the majority of. South Koreans (whose height are highest among Asians) are taller than people in some Western countries, but not the majority of them. But I will be persuaded if you can cite a reliable source.
For now, 175cm never makes the Koreans taller than "most" Western countries. (check this)
I said Western European; Eastern Europeans are generally taller. An average male height of 175cm is taller than the French, Italians (even Northern Italian), Spanish, and Portuguese, and equal to the Swiss, looking at general adult populations. Asian-Americans tend to be short because such a high percentage are descended from southern Chinese, who are relatively short within Asia; but even then the vast majority of American-born adults of East Asian descent are taller than their parents.
Andrew, I wonder what Western countries belong to your list. The CIA classification includes 7 countries: Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, and UK. All except for Monaco (which I can't find data) are taller than Koreans. Even the Italians are at least as tall.
The fact that very tall violin players can be observed playing at a high level provides some evidence that being tall does not effectively prevent the realization of full potential. This observation, to some extent, serves to undermine the argument that taller people need bigger violins.
Yikes! I'm finding the racial/ethnic comparisons kind of gross. Do people still do this? Sure some ethnic communities prize and excel in certain areas (be it spelling bees or hockey or whatever), but I don't see how we got from height/proportionment onto this topic.
J Seitz, totally agree! The world has moved on and some people can’t seem to move with it.
Honestly I don’t know why a race-wise discussion of body features which might be relevant to violin playing would be considered racism.
It's just kind of a weird tack on the question. A generation ago, you'd have said American girls are terrible at soccer but today we have awesome women's teams. Is it because of femur length and foot arch and US ancestral soccer practices--no, those are ridiculous reasons to posit. It's because there are millions more girls playing, the coaching and leagues have improved, and American parents have money to throw at children's and teen soccer. The whole "Asian" question posed here is similar. But all of these are unrelated to the original question.
I would be happy coming out of the discussion being persuaded that race posed no influence whatsoever on violin playing. But there shouldn’t be any barriers to such kind of discussion in the first place (though it deviates a bit from the original question).
So far the only comment that's made me cringe a little was "hockey and spelling bees."
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