What to look for when buying your first cello.
Buying your first cello is a huge step and can be an overwhelming experience.
A cello is an expensive item, so you need to make sure you are getting the best possible quality for your money.
There are different categories of cellos:
Designed for beginners, student cellos are often made by machine. For high friction points such as pegs and the fingerboard, maple is sometimes used, often dyed to look like expensive ebony. These cellos are affordable for most budgets and make a great option for players still in the early development stages.
These cellos have better quality wood and craftsmanship. Often made by hand, they sound better and can also accommodate advanced players. Extensive hand graduation of the cello’s top and back creates a refined sound, and the pegs and fingerboard and often made of ebony. Depending on how high in quality the wood and craftsmanship are on an intermediate cello, they’re even capable of approaching a professional performance level.
Using only the finest wood and built with extraordinary attention to detail, there are very few craftsmen even skilled enough to be at this level. And due to the high cost of premium wood, along with the number of hours required to make one, the price of a professional cello is considerably high
The first thing to consider is how much you would like to spend in total. The cello is not the only thing you will need to buy when purchasing your first cello.
Most cellos sold from retailers come with a bow and a cello bag. A bag for your cello is fine, but you might consider getting a cello case if you travel a lot with your cello. A cello bag does not give the same protection as a cello case. But a cello case is much more expensive than a bag.
You will also need rosin for your bow. You will not be able to get a sound from your bow if you haven’t applied rosin to it. Make sure you buy cello rosin and not violin rosin. The brands that I have trusted for over 30 years are Hindersine and Pirastro.
You will also need a music stand. On stage is a good brand and you can buy it online.
Most entry-level cellos are sold with very low-quality strings. They are fine for a start, but I have seen many cellists snap their brand-new strings on their brand-new cello the first time they start to tune it with the pegs. Larsen, Pirastro and Jargar strings are the best strings on the market. They will last you 10-15 years. I’ve played with my Jargar strings for almost 15 years.
#2 Size of the cello
To find the perfect size cello is not a difficult task. The cello comes in different sizes: 1/8; ¼; ½; ¾ and 4/4. You even get a 1/10 for kids younger than 4.
Everyone is built differently, so you need to find your perfect fit.
At the music store, use the guideline below to try the size closest to your age and height. Find a chair with no arms and sit up straight. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground. The cello should rest on your chest at an almost 45-degree angle with the C-peg aligned to your left ear. Then pull out the endpin so that it supports the cello from the ground up.
By Your Age:
- 1/8 size—4 to 6 years old
- 1/4 size—5 to 7 years old
- 1/2 size—7 to 11 years old
- 3/4 size—11 to 15 years old
- 4/4 size—15 and above
By Your Height:
- 1/8 to 1/4 size—below 4 feet
- 1/2 size—4 to 4.5feet
- 3/4 size—4.5 to 5 feet
- 4/4 size—5 feet and above
- If you are between sizes, rather go for the smaller cello.
In the end, comfort matters more than size. Since we all come in different proportions, you need to find your comfortable fit.
#3 The wood of the cello
Make sure your cello is made from wood. Rather purchase an electric cello than purchasing an acoustic cello not made from wood. Trust me, acoustic cellos made from wood are much better-sounding instruments. Don’t let the fancy Italian names fool you. Make sure the fingerboard is from ebony or rosewood and the body is from maple or spruce or any other high-quality wood.
#4 Odd sounds
Play the cello before you buy it! If you are not yet able to play, let someone in the music store play it for you. Check for any buzzing sounds. If there is a buzz, it might be a misaligned or uneven fingerboard or bridge. This must be fixed by a luthier at an additional cost.
#5 Check the pegs
Check all four of the pegs. Make sure you can turn them and they stay in place. A peg that is stuck or does not stay in place can be fixed, but it is also something that must be fixed by a luthier at an additional cost.
#6 You must love the sound of your cello
All cellos sound different. Just like everybody does not have the same taste in music, you need to find the cello with a sound that YOU love. This is your investment and will become part of your soul once you learn to play it. Play a scale or a song, if you are not yet able to play, ask someone at the music store to play it for you. You must love the sound of the cello.
Try as many as you can in your budget. Cellos are alive in their own way, even if they are the same size and brand. Try different cellos until you find your perfect fit.
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