How To Size Your Child for Piano, Violin or Guitar

Sizing for Piano, Violin, Guitar

So you’re ready to get your young child started in music lessons! That’s great, but what instrument should you start with? For the beginner aged 5-7 years, SMMC usually recommends starting with either piano, violin or guitar lessons. To better understand why that is, check out our article Top 3 Instruments For Your Child’s First Instrument. Once you have decided which instrument to get started with, the next step is selecting the right size. Having the right size instrument is essential for developing any kind of musical ability. Conversely, having the wrong size instrument can make learning to play a musical instrument much harder than it needs to be.

Sizing for Piano

Sizing for the piano is somewhat of a misnomer. Pianos come in various sizes and forms and there is no right size for any particular age. HOWEVER, there are some key things to know in terms of sitting at the instrument. Use of proper posture and hand placement will make playing the instrument much easier. It will also have an impact on how quickly a student progresses. Here is our quick guide to key points for proper piano posture:

  1. Height: when sitting at the piano, the player’s elbows, forearms, and wrists need to be level with the keyboard and parallel to the ground. Adjust your keyboard bench to the proper height so your elbow, forearm and wrist sit just above the keys. If your bench is not adjustable, use sturdy books to bring the student to the proper height.
  2. Flat Feet: place both feet firmly flat on the ground and spaced shoulder width apart. Avoid resting on your tiptoes or crossing your legs while at the piano. If the student cannot reach the ground, use a stool for the feet to rest upon.
  3. Distance: your body should be at a distance from the keys that allows your elbows to sit naturally at your sides. Don’t sit at a distance that would cause your arms to extend farther than this position.
  4. Relax: keep your back straight and make sure the shoulders and elbows are relaxed.
  5. Hold An Egg: when first placing the hand on the keyboard, remind student to imagine they are holding an egg in their palm. This imagery guides the student into proper hand placement that will facilitate playing. Remind students of this hand placement as they play and practice.

With these key points in place, the stage is set for fruitful practice and musical development!

A Note About Keyboards

If you are opting to use a keyboard instead of an acoustic piano, it is highly recommended that you use an instrument that has weighted keys! Weighted keys imitate the resistance of an acoustic piano and give the ability to play softly or loudly. Without a weighted keyboard, students will not be able to develop the technique to be able to play with dynamics and you DON’T WANT THAT! SMMC carries the weighted keyboards and piano consoles by Alesis. Our Mission location carries the Virtue piano console and Recital Pro keyboard. Stop by to check these instruments out.

Sizing For Violin

Violins come in various sizes suitable for a variety of ages. Violins are not sized according to age-they are sized according to the arm length of the violin player. To get sized properly, follow these simple steps:

  1. Take a cloth tape measure that is at least 23-24” in length.
  2. Have the student stand with their left arm extended in front of them at a 45-degree angle. The arm should be extended with palm facing upward.
  3. Measure the distance from the base of the neck to the edge of the wrist and write this measurement down.
  4. Reference the length of the arm with the chart below to determine the proper violin size for the student in question.

Here is a helpful size chart to guide you with what violin size you will need:

Violin size chart

They “Eyeball” Sizing Method

Another way to size a violin student is the eyeball test. In this method, a violin is held to the student’s chin and their left arm is fully extended to the edge of the violin scroll (the circular part at the top of the headstock). If the student is able to bend their wrist and comfortably wrap their hand around the scroll, then that violin will work for their size. If the student is not able to wrap their hand around the scroll, retry the method with the next lower sized violin.

Obviously, the student will need to hold violins of various sizes to determine the right size, so it’s best to visit SMMC and have our friendly staff help you out!

Sizing for Guitar

Many parents are not aware that guitars come in various sizes. In addition to this, there are various guitar types: electric, acoustic and classical. All guitar types are played the same way, but the classical guitar is the best suited instrument for a complete beginner. For starters, this instrument is outfitted with nylon strings. This string type has the least amount of tension compared to the strings used on an acoustic or electric guitar. This makes the guitar much easier for a beginner to pinch and play. Next, classical guitars have wider necks than acoustic or electric guitars. The wider neck gives more space to the fingers that, again, make the instrument easier to learn on. Lastly, the classical guitar comes in more sizes than acoustic or the electric guitars do, so you have more options for a size that works.

The size of a guitar is measured from the bottom of the instrument to the top of the headstock. Classical guitars generally observe the following size chart:

Guitar Size (fraction)Total size (inches)Student’s Age
Quarter size30“4-6
Half size34“7-9
Three quarter size36”10-12
Full size39”13+

Step-By-Step Sizing Approach

While the chart gives a good indication of where your child might be, it’s still important to have the student sit with the instrument to accurately determine the proper size. One key element to observe when sizing a child for a guitar is how it sits on the lap. Follow these guidelines for the best fit:

  1. The student should sit on a chair low enough to have their quadriceps bent at a 90-degree angle and their feet flat on the ground. If the chair is too high, use a stool to place your feet onto.
  2. Next, sit the waist of the guitar (inlet between the bottom and top round half) on your right lap. Allow the lower bout to sit off your right side.
  3. Next, place your right elbow to sit on the top side of the lower bout. This part of the guitar should be small enough to allow a student’s right elbow to sit on the top portion of the guitar at chest height.
  4. With the elbow in place, the student should be able to balance the instrument on their lap so the guitar neck sits with a slight upward tilt.
  5. From this position, the student ought to be able to see the guitar strings and the frets on the guitar neck. If need be, the bottom edge of the guitar can be angled slightly to achieve this.

As you can tell, a lot goes into getting started! We hope this comprehensive guide gives you the confidence to go out and rent or purchase your child’s first instrument. If you’re still feeling a bit uncertain, not to worry. Visit us at either our Mission or Huntington location and let our helpful, knowledgeable staff make the right recommendation for you. After your visit, you’ll be equipped with the right tools to get started!

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