Buying A Cello… Where To Begin
Purchasing a cello can be hard! Especially when you do it without knowing what to look for. Even the highest quality wood, and varnish and craftsmanship of a cello, could be ruined with an inadequate setup. And given the cost of a cell, making sure you are buying something that is worth the money is a must!
Don’t give up hope. A good instrument will cost you from around ~$800-$5,000!
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Rent if You Are a First-Timer
Some people instinctively know which instrument they like the most. However, there is a stereotype that string players start with one instrument and end up switching to the next like wildfire. Because of this, and because even the lowest acceptable quality cello will cost approximately $800, I recommend renting first and then purchasing once you know you really want to play the cello.
Look At The Wood
With cellos, you absolutely must pay attention to the varnish and outside appearance: you learn a lot about an instrument just by it’s looks, and without hearing a thing! When looking at cellos at a store, you will instinctively go for a deep, warm instrument with beautiful varnish and flames. Instead of the neon green cello that’s been sitting in the sun for far too long.
Good varnish is more than just aesthetically attractive. A cello’s varnish will influence how an instrument creates noise and how that sound changes and matures with time. Heavy varnishing might prevent an instrument from “opening out” acoustically, causing it to vibrate less as you play.
The quality of the wood is an essential consideration when selecting an instrument. Try to find spruce cello-tops and maple ribbings and bottoms on instruments. Although less expensive laminated wood is more durable, it is not conducive to good sound (a laminated cello will have layered cross-sectioning of its f-holes so look there!)
The most visible indicator of Cello quality is the ‘flame.’ This is the contrasting bright and dark in the wood itself, hidden behind the varnish. In general, the more intensely flamed the neck, and body are, the higher the price of the wood.
Examine the surface of any cello for lots of wear, fractures, or breaks. The wood ought to be in good performing condition, with no issues that might increase with time or repeated use. Are the edges in excellent shape? There should be no chipping or cracking, as either might lead to tragedy in the future.
Inspect the Cello Setup
A poor Cello configuration, regardless of who crafted the cello, can make the cello sound more like a dying horse than a beautiful, flowing bass voice. String type, peg placement, string tension, it all has something to do with a cello’s sound. So the cellos setup is crucial to inspect, as it can make a good instrument bad or a bad instrument good. Just by replacing parts on a cello, or tweaking one aspect of its setup can drastically change the sound and sometimes make it sound like a brand new instrument! A horrible setup, can make the perfect instrument sound less than perfect. And you don’t want that after spending all this time buying a cello!
Is the bridge properly installed? When viewed from the side, the bridge ought to be straight with only a tiny curvature. Bridges of excellent quality are often built of thick maple that is tight-grained and strongly flamed. Take notice of the strings fitting into the grooves on the bridge. The string grooves at the bridge should be deep enough to securely hold the string, but not too deep so it ruins the vibration of the strings.
Check the fingerboard carefully for bumps or weird abnormalities.
Pegs should be easy to turn and stay in tune. Make sure that the ends of the pegs end right close to where the scroll holes end for them.
Is the endpin securely fastened and retracting properly? Is the length appropriate for your needs? Endpins are available in 18″ and 20″ lengths, as well as a variety of metals. An endpin that is removable might be better as you can alter the endpin! Perhaps you put in a carbon-fiber endpin! These lighter choices, which may weigh as little as five ounces, are becoming more popular .
Set The Budget First
Before test driving your favorite cellos, you should look at the price tag: this is my least favorite part. Cellos may be pricey, and if your favorite option requires additional setup work, the ultimate cost might rapidly mount up. So make your plans appropriately when buying a cello.
Check to verify if the cello’s pricing fits its beauty and craftsmanship, setup, and performance before pulling out your wallet. Is there anything further that has to be done to the instrument in addition to the purchase price?
You should also inquire whether the dealer takes trade-ins. If this is the case, you will be able to do so in the future.
Take It For A Spin
Oooh wee, this is the best part! Take all the cellos that passed the initial budget test, and start a playin’. Many dealers will let you take a cello to a lesson, or to home to practice so don’t be afraid to ask!
If you do manage to get a trial time, make sure to play your old and new cello and compare! Bring the new cello to school, to lessons, and practice on it. Make sure it sounds good! It’s important to try it in many places to see if the sound blends with the rest of the orchestra well, and to see how the sound feels in different situations.
I also advise getting as many people as you can to listen to you playing your new cello and see what they think!
Analyze the Tone
So, how do you determine the tone of an instrument? First, select a section from a work that you are familiar with and comfortable with, preferably one that uses all strings and different playing positions. As you play, pay attention to the loudness and projection of the instrument. Is it capable of sustaining a broad dynamic range in lower and higher registers, as well as first and upper positions? Is it audible both to you and your listeners?
A good tone in a cello means the cello has a wide span of dynamic ranges, it projects well and has a singular and distinct voice! Instruments in Bass clef might sound a bit muddy at lower frequencies so keep a close ear on watch when playing the C and G strings. Check the timbre and sound quality of each string.
Examine the tone on all four strings. Is the cello’s tone and sound consistent in the lower, medium, and higher registers? Is the sound stable as you move? These are good questions to ask when buying a cello
Is The Cello Playing Well?
Your instrument should be comfortable. Its loudness, tone, and pitch should change smoothly under your control. Notes should be where you anticipate them to be, pegs and tuners should stay in tune, and the instrument should feel comfortable and responsive beneath your fingers and bow.
Is the movement enjoyable, and are the strings responsive? You should be able to depress notes smoothly and easily, with little effort—and without the string pressing into your fingertips. Your cello should communicate well, and you should be able to create equally loud sound in both the first and higher positions.
You should now be well on your way to buying a cello. in the correct manner. I hope this guide helped you narrow down your options, and made qualifying factors easier for you to pinpoint and pick out!