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fractional scale length

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 11 years, 7 months ago

The sizes of some reduced-scale instruments are traditionally represented by fractions.


Such instruments are mainly used by children, but may also be used by smaller adult players, even professional players, or for other special purposes. Their normal tuning is identical to that of the full-sized instrument.


4/4 is full size. Common reduced scale sizes are 7/8, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, 1/16 and 1/32.


These fractions have no mathematical significance, apart from roughly indicating the order of the sizes so you can at least hope that a 7/8 won't be bigger than a 4/4 (in the case of a double bass they're normally the same size). So despite appearances, they're just names not numbers. For example a 3/4 scale violin is a lot bigger than three quarters of the size of a full size (4/4) violin, and a 1/4 scale violin  is significantly larger then half the size of a 4/4. See the violin family tunings page for some more specific examples.


For the violin and cello, some of these names go back at least to Stradivarius, who may have invented some of them and at least standardised those he used (like many other things). But standardisation is very patchy. What one guitar maker calls 3/4, another will call 1/2. Neither is wrong.


The instruments which most commonly occur in fractional sizes are the violin, cello, double bass, classical guitar, steel-string acoustic guitar, and solid-body electric guitar. The viola is the only one of the modern orchestral string section not to occur in fractional sizes.


See also








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