What Size of Viola do I Need?

With violas, as well as many other things in life, one size does not fit all. Finding the right size of viola will set your student up for success.

Fortunately, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. What matters most is not the child’s height or age, but the length of his or her arms. If you’re renting a viola, make sure the company allows you to trade up as your student grows. Teton Music is just one of those companies who happily trades in your student’s smaller viola for a larger one.

Our size chart (below) lets you estimate how a child’s arm length and age usually relate to each other. To provide greater orientation, we have also added information about the child’s height and the standard approximate parameters of instrument size. To accurately discern which size is correct for the player, run a measuring tape from the left side of the player’s neck to the palm of their outstretched left arm and a second time from the neck to the wrist. (The arm must not be bent at the elbow and should be at a right angle to the body. The palm faces up to the ceiling.)

Another easy way to check the proper sizing of an instrument is for the student to rest the viola on their left shoulder, put their chin on the chin rest, and cup the scroll of the viola with their left hand. If they can wrap their fingers around the scroll without discomfort or over-stretching, then the instrument is not too large. If their palm extends well beyond the scroll, try the next size up.

Although you might be inclined to buy a larger viola for your student to avoid having to trade up, you’ll actually do a disservice to the student (and you’ll frustrate their teacher). An instrument that is too large quickly becomes a challenge to play.

Note: These sizes are tentative and approximate. For best results, you should be measured in person and sized with an actual viola.

14″–15⅜” 1/16 size -1/10th violin strung as viola
15⅜”–18½” 1/8 size violin strung as viola
18½”–20⅜” 1/4 size violin strung as viola
20⅜”–22¼” 1/2 size violin strung as viola 
22¼”–23⅝” 14" viola
23⅝”–25″ 15" viola
25⅝”–26″ 15½” viola
26¼″–27″ 16″ viola
27½”–28″+ 16½” viola