1. Should I Rent or Purchase an Instrument for my child?

If your child is committed to playing the instrument long-term, purchasing is your best option. You have a wider range of instruments to choose from at a variety of different price points. And most importantly, there is the Pride of Ownership.

Renting is a suggested option for children not fully committed to learning the instrument, or those that are simply “trying it out”. Also, if your child is growing quite quickly, it is recommended to rent an instrument so that they may easily exchange sizes without having to change the rental agreement.

  1.     Some rental instruments are not the best. Are your rental instruments any good?

Yes. We rent high-quality student instruments that are in our second or third price tier (better than our lowest priced instruments). Before our instruments and bows are rented, they are cleaned, inspected and adjusted by our in-house luthiers so they sound their very best.

  1. My child is just a beginner; why not get the cheapest instrument I can find?

Learning a string instrument is fun, but it is also a serious endeavor. Please take this new adventure seriously! Beginners need all the help they can get, and it is especially important to obtain an instrument that meets the standards of music educators. Many of the cheap “shrink-wrapped” violins are not properly set-up and the fittings and fingerboard may be plastic or a softer type of wood not adequate for student instruments. Soundposts and bridges are not cut or fitted. These factors lead to poor playability and tonal quality. Most of the time, due to poor workmanship and materials, repairs for these instruments will greatly exceed the cost of the instrument itself, and little can be done for the tone quality of these instruments. At the Los Angeles Violin Shop, we employ teachers and professional musicians, including expert violin makers, to help you select the appropriate instrument and to ensure that the instrument is adjusted to the highest standards. Playing a stringed instrument is an exciting and challenging endeavor and we want to make sure that all students have proper instruments that support their efforts.

  1. Is there a minimum length of time for a rental?

Yes. We have a minimum three-month commitment. You will pay for the first three months when you rent the instrument. After that, the rental goes month to month.

  1. Is there a limit to how long I can rent an instrument?

No, you may rent as long as you would like. But you can only accrue Rental Credit for 18 months (see below).

  1. Is there any deposit necessary?

No, but we do need to have an active credit card or bank account information (for ACH automatic payment) on file. This will be the account that is automatically charged for your month-to-month payments as well.

  1. Am I just throwing money away by Renting instead of Buying?

Not at the Los Angeles Violin Shop! 100% of each month’s rent accrues up to 18 months towards the purchase of any instrument in our shop.

  1. Isn’t that the same as a Rent–to-Own Program?

No. In most Rent-To-Own programs you are buying the instrument you are renting. At Los Angeles Violin Shop, our rental instruments are separate from the instruments we sell. When you decide it is time to buy, you can select any instrument in our shop at our regular retail prices.

      9. My child takes music classes during the school year, but we take a family vacation in the summer and the child won’t be practicing; can we return the instrument at the end of school year and re-rent it in the fall?

You can, but you would lose all the Rental Credit you had accrued, and would begin at zero when you re-rent in the fall.

A better plan of action would be to carry on renting through the summer. The instrument may sit idle for a few weeks, but it would be there when the child wants to play it, and you will continue accruing Rental Credit.

   10. If my child grows while renting, can we exchange the instrument we rented for a larger size?

Yes. And it has no effect on your Rental Credit accrual.

   11. Do you have an insurance or protection plan?

We do! It adds a few dollars to the monthly rental charge, but we strongly suggest everyone take this coverage. Not only does it cover accidental damage and theft, but it also covers normal wear and tear that even the most carefully attended instruments are subject to. With the protection plan, you are not liable for the normal wear and tear. Without it, you are.

   12. When the time comes, how do we terminate the Rental?

Simply return the instrument to our shop. If you have the Protection Plan, and your rental payments are current, returning the instrument is all you have to do! You will not be charged a Cleaning and Polishing fee at the end of your rental. We will inform you of how much Rental Credit you have, and you will have the option to utilize that credit to purchase an instrument.

If you do not have the Protection Plan, the instrument will be inspected, and you may owe for restoring the instrument to rental condition.  Again, we’ll tell you how much Rental Credit you have, and ask if you would like to use it to purchase an instrument.

If you are not current with your rental payments, you will have to bring the account current.

    13.   Can I use my Rental Credit to pay wear and tear charges or to bring rental payments current?

Unfortunately, no.

   14. How do I know what size instrument my child needs?

String instruments come in fractional sizes to meet the needs of children who are still growing. If your child has yet to reach adult height, it is very important to obtain the correct size instrument. Many beginners will struggle on instruments that are too large, and this may lead to posture problems and frustration. Since the size is not dependent on age or height it is necessary to see the child in order to size him or her. For most parents with children participating in school programs, the orchestra teacher can size your child to the appropriate instrument. Or if you are able to make a trip to one of our shops, our knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to assist you with sizing.

Violins are available in many sizes. It is important to get an instrument that is the correct size for your child. If an instrument is too big, your child will find it difficult or impossible to play.

If there is any doubt as to the proper size instrument, it is better to choose the smaller size.

Select by Age

If a child is neither particularly tall nor particularly small for his or her age, then it is possible to choose an instrument by age. Use the table below.

Select by Grade

Most second graders will take either a 1/4 size or a 1/2 size violin. In third grade most children have moved to a 1/2 size. In 4th grade, some kids begin being playing a 3/4-size instrument. Generally, children are in 6th or 7th grade before they move to a full-sized adult instrument. When in doubt, choose the smaller of the possibilities.

Select by Arm Length

Arm length is a more accurate way to select the correct size instrument. The student must be able to hold the instrument in playing position and comfortably cup the scroll with the left hand. If you cannot measure using the instrument itself, you can use a yardstick.

Have your child stand with his or her left arm outstretched to the side– not reaching, but not bent either. Using a yardstick or tape measure, measure from the sternal notch (at the base of the neck) to the wrist. This indicates the most comfortable size instrument for that child. Measure also to the middle of the palm. This indicates the largest instrument that child should try to play.

Fractional Violins:

Player Arm Length Usual age Violin Size ~Violin Length ~Bow Length
23+ inches 12 to adult 4/4 23-1/2″
591 mm
735 mm
22 – 24 inches 9 to 11 3/4 21-3/4″
554 mm
675 mm
20 – 23 inches 6 to 10 1/2 20-3/4″
520 mm
615 mm
17 – 21 inches 5 to 7 1/4 18-3/4″
478 mm
550 mm
16 – 18 inches 3 to 6 1/8 18″
441 mm
485 mm

Note: instrument sizes vary by manufacturer and country of origin

You can also measure from the side of the neck instead of from the sternum. This is usually about 2 inches shorter than measuring from the sternum.

Either way, this is a very rough estimate. Your child’s posture, arm length, length of fingers, length of neck, etc. all affect the size of the violin. In the end, the appropriate size will only become evident when your child is trying to finger the notes on a real violin.


Violas are larger than violins. Measure as for a violin, but use the sternum to mid-palm measurement. A 14-inch viola is about the same length as a 4/4 violin.

Child-sized Violas:

Player Arm Length Viola Body Length
24-1/2 to 25-1/2 inches 15-inch
23 to 24-1/2 inches 14-inch
21-1/2 to 23 inches 13-inch
20 to 21-1/2 inches 12-inch

There is no standard adult size for violas. Most adults play an instrument with a body length between 16 and 16-1/2 inches, though neither 15-1/2 inch nor 17-inch violas are that uncommon.

Adult-sized Violas:

Player Arm Length Viola Body Length
25-1/2 to 26-1/4 inches 15-1/2-inch
26-1/4 to 27 inches 16-inch
27 to 28 inches 16-1/2-inch
28+ inches 17-inch



The player should sit up straight on a chair with knees bent at 90-degrees, and feet flat on the floor. The cello is laid against the left shoulder, with the endpin extended so that the cello body rests against the sternum, the lower bout contacts the left knee, and the C-peg (the lowest pitch string) is near the left ear. The left hand should be able to easily reach all parts of the fingerboard.

Cellos can be roughly sized by the player’s age. Slightly more accuracy is obtained when using the player’s height; however, since body proportions are the most important factor here, there is in the end no substitute for trying out actual instruments.

Fractional Cellos:

Player Height Usual age Cello Size
5+ feet 15 to adult 4/4
4-1/2 to 5 feet 11 to 15 3/4
4 to 4-1/2 7 to 11 1/2
below 4 feet 5 to 7 1/4
below 4 feet 4 to 6 1/8