Which brands make violins with slimmer neck?

March 22, 2019, 7:50 AM · I have small hands and short fingers. I was able to finally stretch my fourth finger so that I can play with my pinky in first position. I move my elbow quite when reaching. However some double stops seems impossible. Hence the question: are there any violin brands with necks which tend to be slimmer? I have had an opportunity to play on 4/4 electric violin and the neck was very slim which made playing much easier.
My teacher also suggested that I should buy 7/8 violin but I cannot decide what is better in the long run.

Replies (29)

March 22, 2019, 11:05 AM · you're probably better to look at antique violins, quite a few of them have narrower necks, you're going to have trouble finding a new violin with a narrow neck.
March 22, 2019, 11:18 AM · Thank you Lyndon :)
Also I wonder if a 7/8 violin size is more or less the same as a petite (antique petite) 4/4 violin? I cannot find information about the exact lenght of those 7/8 violins versus small 4/4. If this is more or less same thing for now I could try out a 7/8 student violin and then (if I ever get there :)) when I play good enough to take advantage of a more expensive instrument I would search for old and smaller 4/4.
Edited: March 23, 2019, 7:03 AM · I feel your pain Paulina! I'm in the same position but am going to stick with my 4/4 for now as I figure it will be a challenge with any size violin until I am able to properly stretch/strengthen those muscles and open the joints. Just wondering how long it took you to be able to use your 4th on all strings in 1st?
Edited: March 22, 2019, 11:33 AM · A lot of things called 7/8 are only a couple millimetres shorter, and still have the same scale length, on the other hand some rare 7/8 are actually midway between the size of a 4/4 and a 3/4 with a scale length midway between a 4/4 and a 3/4. Sometimes 7/8ths are called "Ladies violins". I recently had a customer ask for a 7/8 violin and low and behold I could not find one out of about 40 violins I have for sale, so they are not exactly common.
Edited: March 22, 2019, 11:39 AM · I agree with Lyndon. Among my instruments I have a lovely old German violin c.1880 which plays beautifully, and has a slimmer neck. I have seen one or two others like it. A luthier told me that it was considered a lady's model. It certainly has a powerful and rich sound, though, and is full size. (I've had it for 60 years and would never part with it).
March 22, 2019, 11:39 AM · When I bought my violin, the neck was so thin that it hurt to play for more than a few minutes. I actually had a bit of wood be put under the fingerboard to bring it up to spec, which slightly affected the tone negatively. My guess is that someone had shaved the neck down, because I can't imagine someone building a violin with such a thin neck. I suppose that there are instruments out there where this has been done, but that if you had an instrument that you otherwise liked, you could always have someone shave the neck down. I don't know how common a procedure that actually is.
March 22, 2019, 12:00 PM · My old violin has a narrow neck, which I find very comfortable, but it is a 14-1/4" violin with rib and bout sizes in proportion, i.e. slightly larger than an equivalent 14" violin, and has a 2-octave Baroque fingerboard. This combination of sizes has the effect of annulling the benefit of the thin neck to a certain extent, making it a little more difficult, but not impossible, to reach beyond the 2nd octave. Thankfully, normal orchestral repertoire rarely calls for anything above the 2nd octave.

An exception to what I wrote in the last sentence: a local composer once tried out a new composition on us, and we discovered in the firsts that we were expected to do some busy scampering around well into the 3rd octave, doubling the piccolo. We had no hesitation in transposing the passage down an octave, and the composer who was in the hall listening never noticed. So there you go.

Edited: March 23, 2019, 7:53 AM · You could check with a luthier/violin-maker. It is possible to have the neck reshaped. I had it done a couple of years ago on a violin and on a viola. Professional job on both - impossible to see that anything was done, can only tell by the feel.

P.S. It is not only the "width" of the fingerboard or neck but also the geometric shape around the neck - especially in first position. If the shape is circular it can push out on your thumb and distort your hand shape. Ideally the curvature should be elliptical so it does not push out on your thumb joint.

March 22, 2019, 1:44 PM · Best course of action would be to visit one or two violin dealers with a large stock of instruments from the 1880 - 1930 period. Many violins of this era have slightly narrower fingerboards than the ones made today.
March 22, 2019, 2:13 PM · Sometimes I wish I had thinner fingers, and other times my fingers aren't nearly fat enough.

You have to change your technique.

Edited: March 22, 2019, 8:46 PM · My violin has a thinner neck than most. It's a Klaus Ludwig Clement, which is a fairly obscure modern brand from Germany.

Your teacher may have already suggested this solution, but you could try adjusting your hand frame (i.e. the position of your thumb, etc.) so that the third and fourth fingers are a comfortable reach, and extend backwards to reach the first finger's position as needed. This is MUCH easier than positioning your hand for the first finger and extending up with the fourth.

March 22, 2019, 11:26 PM · It's not a brand thing.
Tell a luthier what you want and he or she can do it within reason (there must be enough material left for structural integrity). I've had it done in several violins. It's not a big deal.
March 23, 2019, 2:22 AM · The fingerboard of my violin is slightly narrower than average, just about 1,2 mm. It already makes a noticeable difference in the ease of playing.
Would love to try a viola with violin-like fingerboard!!
Edited: March 23, 2019, 3:22 AM · To a large degree it's a matter of technique indeed.
Watch Perlman play his Soil Strad with his big fat hands!
I'm playing a Soil copy and the fingerboard is pretty narrow.
March 23, 2019, 3:40 AM · Thank you all for your insights!
So making a narrower neck by a luthier seems almost like a standard procedure :) This is a very helpful suggestion.

As far as hand postures are considered my first teacher told me that although my fingers are small I am an adult person so I need to play 4/4 violin but he allowed me to move my hand to reach with 4th finger (probably it was meant as “for now” not “forever”. I did not discuss it with him however I am sure he had something planned, he is a good teacher.)
My second teacher suggested a 7/8 for me but on the other hand he insisted on playing with "static/proper" position of the hand and thats how I have stretched my hand.

Catherine, I think that it took me about 3 months to stretch it. I was quite committed and I did everyday simple exercise in first position that my teacher has showed me. It hurt but I think it was worth it.
Also my pinky in the right hand wasn't making my life easier. It took me about 1 month to make it stronger (it is tiny and thin) so that I could hold my lightweight bow. At the same time it is easier in higher positions probably because my fingers are thin so I can put them next to each other and do not need to squeeze them.

Of course I want to play with proper technique and I do not intend to seek some quick fixes but I also don't want to "torment" my body more than it is needed. I think it is about finding a balance between technique and instrument/accessories that suit us the best.
I will probably buy a Stentor student II 7/8 since I have planned on buying this model or something similar anyway and if they have it in smaller size then why not to try it out. Maybe I will change then to 4/4 and make the neck “smaller”. Probably I still will need to stretch for double stops on 7/8 also so will do it step by step. I think it is worth trying. I guess no one can tell me what will be best for me – I need to try it out.

March 23, 2019, 7:14 AM · Initially I could use my 4th on all strings, didn't realize I was really shifting my entire hand to get it there - my teacher caught that and isn't allowing me to do that. No shifting into "1st and a bit" allowed :-) He has me working on dexterity and flexibility exercises right now - and strained my thumb on one of them last week (ugh) To be fair, the actual exercise didn't cause me to strain my thumb - had way too much tension there and am working on that as well. So it's a process and will take time to do properly. If this continues to be a problem a year from now I may explore having the neck adjusted - I didn't know that was even possible. Or wait until I'm ready to upgrade my violin and see what I can find that is slightly smaller.

Thanks for posting your question here, the thought of a smaller neck hadn't even crossed my mind as a possibility.

March 23, 2019, 7:57 AM · WOW!
"Static/proper position of the hand" utterly ridiculous!

Watch the first 5 minutes of the movie "Everybody Says I Love You" and watch Perlman's left hand.

March 23, 2019, 8:09 AM · My violin, 1894 Berlin, viola 1930? Markneukirchen? (dubious label). Both very playable with svelt necks, especially the viola on Campagnioli, Reger. and Bach (transcribed sonatas and partitas!)
March 23, 2019, 8:18 AM · Andrew: What I meant by "static" was that I was supposed to stretch my hand instead of moving it to reach for 4th finger position. That's why I have put it in quotation marks. I don't know how to describe it better. I mean "not to move you left hand up the violin neck / horizontally to reach with forth finger". Of course I also move my elbow more than average to reach further - at the beginning it felt awkward but now I got used to it. I will see how it goes on 7/8. Unfortunately in my city I don't have opportunity to borrow instruments and try them out so I need to factor in some risk.

I have watched Perlman in this movie - either he has a very small violin or large hands. The instrument looks like a toy in his hands whereas in mine like a giant :)
I read somewhere that if a person with small hands plays on 7/8 or a petite person on a 3/4 it is more or less as a tall person with long fingers and big palms playing on 4/4. I don't know if you get my point – I refer here to proportions.

Catherine: I think that smaller or adjusted neck might be a solution if you have small hands with small palms and fingers. If you have short arm then probably a violin with smaller body would be better. At least this is how I see it now after reading posts here and on other forums. :) I just remember how easy it was for me to play on electric violin because of its slim neck.

March 23, 2019, 3:44 PM · I wouldn't use Perlman's technique as a good example of anything. How he plays does not apply to normal people.
March 24, 2019, 6:27 AM · Paulina - my local music store tells me that Snow is at least one modern violin manufacturer who makes violins with necks just a little smaller than others. I don't know anything about their violins but you might want to explore what they have to offer.

It was interesting to learn that my music shop can get 7/8 violins via special order that would be an upgrade to mine, I am going to wait until early next year to decide if I need to upgrade for that reason. My current violin is a decent intermediate workshop violin with a good sound - I would prefer to wait to make an upgrade decision until my technique justifies the consideration.

March 24, 2019, 6:50 AM · Catherine, I am very happy that some people who got their violins neck adjusted answered this post - it would have never come to my mind that it can be done :) I just think of violin as some sort of sacred and mysterious instrument ;)
I will get my 7/8 next week and share my experience here. I hope I won't be like "it's too small/weird - I want a 4/4" ;) My second teacher advised it to me so I think I can trust an opinion of a professional violinist and experience teacher. He have never said though that a 4/4 is not fine also - he has just pointed out that a smaller one would be better in my case.
The reason why I consider this size is that now I do not own any instrument so I need to buy one and I have come across information that there are some factory violins in this size. Otherwise I would order a 4/4 and see if I can get the neck done. In an other thread on this forum someone has said that nothing needs to be forever - we need to try out what works best for us. Of course it costs time and money but might be worth it.
Your situation seems to be different – I don't know if this should be the main reason to upgrade your violin if you like quality and sound of your current one. What does your teacher say?
Edited: March 24, 2019, 11:16 AM · If the rest of you is as small as your hands, you will not be well served by a 4/4 violin no matter how small the neck. When you move above 3rd and 4th position, you will have to start to reach around the end of the body then back towards you to get the notes, everything will be too far away, and the small neck will not help you there. The bow, also, will be farther from you than optimal.

The other error in thinking here was hinted at by Victor: your hand does not feel the neck thickness or width: it is held and felt diagonally from the thumb to the edge of the board on the e-side. As Andrew Victor said, making the neck more oval makes it feel smaller. More often, I find that the edge of the board is too sharp, and even full-size players will complain about the neck being too wide when it really is not if the top corner of the board is sharp and they feel it cutting into their index finger or pushing on it, feeling like the board is in the way (saeems too wide when the problem is actually too invasive).

So the first thing to do is find the body size which is correct for your size, so that you will be able to reach higher positions. Then make sure that the neck on that violin is not too round in back, or too sharp edged on top. If you are genuinely small, you genuinely need a 7/8!

In 35 years I have never had to make a neck smaller for a player: 90% of the time the solution has been to take the square sharp edge off the top corner of the board. . . just round it over a bit, perhaps rounding the side of the board too if it was (incorrectly) left dead flat*. Then about 20% of the time the back is too round (the 10% overlap is both problems on the same violin).

Rounding off the corner on the upper edge of the board takes about five minutes. I charge the minimum for this, obviously. You would be surprised what a difference it can make.

*(This is the worst of all possible cases: a flat-sided board means the top edge of the board is too sharp and the straight board sides force the back of the neck to be round, not oval. Many, many cheaper violins have this problem. Since you are talking violin "brands" it's very likely that you are shopping in this range and may need both modifications I have mentioned)

March 24, 2019, 1:27 PM · Paulina - I've not come out and asked if I should consider a different size, he is focusing on our working on my strength and flexibility to allow non-modified fingering. If we can't get me there at the end of the day, we will explore modifications and other solution - but we do not want to start there. I totally agree with this approach, and most important of all, I trust him. He's been teaching violin/viola for at least 35 years and I swear he knows what questions I walk into my lesson with before I ask them! It will be some time before I consider a smaller size violin, there are just so many moving pieces and parts to this.

Michael - your experience is very interesting. Especially your comment about the edge of the fingerboard being related to the perspective of a wide keyboard.

March 25, 2019, 6:10 AM · Michael, thank you very much for your post - it's full of detailed and useful information :)

Catherine - 35 years - that is impressive. My both teachers were young (younger than me) but I also trusted both of them and they had different approaches, also when it comes to the equipment. I am happy that I was able to attend lessons with both of them.
I have come across some posts online with people saying they have small hands and they not only manage to play 4/4 violin but also viola.

Edited: March 25, 2019, 12:20 PM · Pauline, there are also YouTube videos by women violinists with small hands who discuss how they have dealt with a full size violin. I suspect it's easier if one has been playing since childhood without a 45 year break from the instrument. If you would like I can send you a couple links.

Yes I'm very fortunate that my semi-retired teacher accepted me. These days he only chooses to teach adults, and has a small string orchestra comprised of his students that I look forward to joining when he gives me the nod. I really want to reach the point where I can play with others! I have fond memories of that from long ago.

March 25, 2019, 11:06 AM · I'm not a Luthier, but I have read that the standard 4/4 violin has a body length of 14 inches. Stradivarius tried the "long pattern" at 14 1/4 for a while , then went back to 14. The Guarnerius model is 13 3/4, and the 7/8 violin is 13 1/2. A lot of the factory violins, intended for beginners, seem to have the extra-wide, thick fingerboard.
I also have the short 4th finger. Re-calibrate your personal version of first position: 4th finger matches the adjacent open string in a comfortable curved shape. Third finger matches the other adjacent open string, at the octave. Then pull the 2nd and 1st fingers BACK, to find their notes. The thumb then goes wherever it is most comfortable. This revised first position might look like 2nd position from someone else. The first finger might end up next to the 2nd f. , the 1st f. behind the thumb. For high notes on the E string, I avoid using the 4th f. That is a standard practice for bass players. Don't worry about playing 10ths and fingered octaves. A lot of high-level orchestra players never need them. To start opening up the hand; practice the harmonic minor scales; that puts the minor third interval between the fingers.
March 25, 2019, 2:57 PM · Paulina, play viola for a while, and your 4/4 violin will seem easy. :-)

But I believe you said in a previous post that you don't own a violin yet. Rental instruments can be pretty horrible (some with baseball bat sized necks), so don't base all your conclusions off those.

Edited: March 26, 2019, 1:32 PM · As far as I know, some really small ladies have no problems with a full-size violin while others struggle a lot. I think it's a really individual issue because everyone is different. Those with really short arms may place the violin higher on the shoulder to make the higher positions easier to reach. In addition, these small people may also place their thumb on the side of the fingerboard when they're playing up high. Also, they may hold their violins pointing almost straight in front of them, rather than out to the side. All of these measures help to make the violin feel a bit smaller and more manageable for a small person.

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