Is a Half-Size Violin Good for Beginners?

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Is a Half-Size Violin Good for Beginners?

Violins are available in a variety of different sizes. An appropriately sized instrument is essential for comfort and ease of playing. This essentially makes it one of the deciding factors in whether a learner continues to study music and mastering the violin.
A half-size violin is an ideal option for young learners of the instrument who may struggle physically to handle the larger full-size instrument. Purchasing a violin is, however, not a light decision, and a number of essential factors need to be taken into consideration before the final purchase is made.

Features of a Half-Size Violin

A half-size violin is neither the largest nor the smallest sized violin on the market. They measure 20.5 inches in length, shorter than the 23.5 inch full size violin or the 4/4 violin. This measurement is subject to a little leeway, especially as some violin brands produce ‘male’ and ‘female’ instruments, where the ‘female’ is about half an inch shorter than the ‘male’. This is a dated concept, based on more noticeable height differences between the genders in previous times. Fiddlers playing a half-size violin should be using a 24.5 inch bow for the ultimate in comfort and quality.

Buying a Violin for Beginners

The size of a violin is largely irrelevant in terms of skill level, so beginners should look to a variety of aspects alongside the length of the instrument. For example, beginners may prefer to stick to a lower budget and may also like to look into features that make fiddling easier for the novice.

Violin Sizes

A violin is a challenging instrument to handle at first, making it important to purchase the correct size so that the chin rest sits comfortably while still allowing the arm to support the instrument. To determine the correct size needed, measure from the chin to the palm of the hand, and use the table below to find the right model.

1/16

This is the smallest official violin size although an unofficial and uncommon 1/32 does exist. This violin measures up to 14.5 inches and is suitable for fiddlers aged between 3 and 5 years. The fiddler’s measurement should be roughly 14 inches.

1/10

There isn’t a great amount of difference in size between the 1/10 and the 1/16 ; about one or two inches depending on brand and manufacturer. It’s the best choice for those with a 15 inch measurement, usually 4 or 5 year olds.

1/8

A 1/8 size violin measures up to 17 inches and is played with a 19.25 inch bow. 4 to 6 year olds with a measurement of 16.5 inches will often find this size the most comfortable, both in length and weight in relation to their size.

1/4

Based on the typical size of 5 to 7 year olds, the 1/4 size violin may be a good choice for beginners within this age range. The fiddler’s measurement should be between 18 and 18.5 inches to play this instrument that measures up to 19 inches in total.

1/2

After the full size 4/4 violin which should generally be used by all adult fiddlers, the 1/2 size is the most common and popular option. It should be used by players with a 20 inch measurement and is a good transition between smaller and larger models.

3/4

Measuring up to 21 inches in length, this is a good choice for those with a measurement between 21.5 and 22 inches. It’s best played with a 27 inch bow and is often made from better quality materials than the 3/4 size as it’s aimed at older fiddlers.

7/8

This size isn’t seen often, and its advantages are often questioned in the fiddling community. Measuring up to 22.5 inches, the size is almost indistinguishable from the 4/4, but is perhaps better suited to very small adults or those with small hands.

4/4

The 4/4 is the standard, full size violin which is the most popular size on the market. Regardless of skill, experience, or ability, adults who are physically able to hold a full size violin should do so. Even younger beginners aged from 11 years should consider a 4/4.

Violin String Materials for Beginners

There are a variety of strings available for all sizes of violins which are made from different materials. Violins will come with strings as standard, but these can easily be swapped out for a different type of material to suit personal preferences. Beginners, especially, may prefer some strings over others based on ease of use and budget.

Plain Steel

Plain steel is the most cost effective type of string and is often included in smaller violins designed for beginners, but they’re not a particularly good choice for amateurs. Due to low quality, it can be difficult to get the bow to connect properly with the strings.

Rope Steel

This is a much better choice for beginners. Rope steel is not significantly more costly than plain steel, but the higher quality make it much easier for beginners to grip the strings with the bow and produce the type of sound and tone they’re looking for.

Gut Strings

Made from organic matter, namely animal intestine, these strings create the highest quality sound possible from a violin so are particularly expensive. Beginners are unlikely to require such a high quality string when starting out.

Nylon Strings

Synthetic nylon strings are designed to mimic the high quality sound of gut strings but are more accessible to those who prefer not to use animal products. Again, such a string is not a necessity for beginner fiddlers. Steel is usually a better option.

Beginner Violin Considerations


Whether a half-size violin has been chosen, or any other size instrument, there are a number of factors that play a role in determining what type of violin is suitable for beginners. These aspects will largely be based on personal circumstances and situations.

Budget

Beginners who have never fiddled before will want a decent quality instrument without spending out a fortune as it’s unknown how the player will take to the violin. Perhaps consider second hand instruments to reduce costs and stay within budget.

Growth

When children are beginning to play the violin, take into account that children grow quickly. If a child is just above the measurement for the 1/4 size, choose the 1/2, and if they’re just a bit too big for the 1/2, opt for the 3/4 to ensure they get the maximum use out of the instrument.

Rent

Beginners who aren’t 100 percent confident of what size is needed may wish to rent a violin in the first instance to discover what is right for them. Once the perfect violin has been tried out, this can then be purchased online or in store.

Accessories

To reduce complexity, beginners may want to buy a complete kit that includes the instrument, the bow, and a sturdy case. Cases are made for all sizes of violin and protect against damage. Ensure the kit includes the right size bow for the size of violin.

What to Look for in a Beginner Violin


While an amateur may be looking for something affordable, it is important not to make compromises on aspects that could affect the way the violin sounds. Check that the body of the violin is made from either maple, the most common wood used on half-size, or ebony, often found on full size models. Also make sure the fittings are made from hardwoods rather than a painted softwood. There should be no holes in the seams of the woodwork, so if buying online, always ask if it is possible to inspect before purchasing.

Find a Half-Size Violin on eBay

Half-sized violins, along with many other sizes of violin, can be found on eBay in the dedicated Musical Instruments store. eBay is a particularly good choice for beginners because both new and used violins can be purchased for just a fraction of the recommended retail price. To find half-size violins, choose the String instruments category, followed by the Violin subcategory. Finally, narrow down these results to show just listings for half-size violins. Beginners who have determined that they would be better playing a different sized violin can opt to filter listings based on any of the other sizes available through sellers on eBay.

Conclusion

There are a number of deciding factors when it comes to selecting an appropriate violin. As discussed above, the size of the instrument should be determined by the size of the fiddler, the length of the arm in particular, and not by skill level. Therefore, while some beginners may be suited to the half-size violin, others may find it easier and more comfortable to use a 1/16 violin or a full size 4/4 violin. Be sure to consider a range of factors rather than simply size when choosing a first string instrument.

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