Common Problems with Cellos (& What You Should Do)

Whether you’re the proud parent of a cellist or a cellist yourself, you likely already understand that proper care and maintenance of your instrument is key. Unfortunately, repairing damage to your cello occasionally falls under that category. Experiencing problems with the cello and its various components is a normal part of owning the instrument, and may issues can quickly and easily be fixed by a qualified repair technician. From open seams to slipping pegs, here are a few of the most common issues with cellos and what you can do to fix them.

Open Seams

An open seam is pretty simple in nature: it’s an opening somewhere between the sides and the face and/or back of the cello. In many cases, cellists notice an annoying buzzing that comes from the cello whenever they play, only to take it into a repair shop to be told it’s being caused by an open seam. In other instances, cellists visually spot the open seam during routine cleaning. Regardless, it’s a very common (and very simple) repair. That’s not to say that you should perform the task yourself, as repairing an open seams requires repair knowledge and a special set of tools. Although open seams aren’t typically a major issue, they can become a problem if they’ve been open a long time in conditions that can cause the wood to warp. If the wood is warped, the repair is considerably more involved and expensive.

Sound Post Issues

The sound post is a small dowel inside your cello that serves as the structural support for your instrument. If the sound post of your instrument falls down, it can rattle around in your cello. This can happen for a variety of reasons: you may have dropped your cello, the cello strings may have lost their tension all at once, or your cello may have been exposed to a drastic change in humidity. No matter what caused it, the fix is easy. First, loosen the strings of your instrument so the amount of tension is cut down, and head to your local repair shop where a luthier or qualified repair technician can set the post back up. In some cases, a new sound post will need to be cut.

D'Addario Helicore Series Cello String Set
D’Addario’s Helicore strings are justifiably popular; they offer a warm, rich sound that’s remarkably similar to gut or synthetic core strings. Unlike gut, however, their all-metal construction renders them impervious to fluctuations in humidity and temperature. Helicore strings have a multi-strand high-carbon steel core that produces flexible response and range. Learn More

Slipping Peg

When a peg slips or sticks, tuning (and staying in tune) can be difficult. If your pegs keep slipping or sticking, remove the peg and apply a specialized compound to the shiny parts of the removed peg. This compound, as long as its made especially for cello pegs, will provide the traction needed for slipping pegs or the lubricant needed for sticking pegs. Although this is a quick and easy fix, keep in mind that changes in humidity can have a significant impact on pegs. Many cellists find themselves pushing the pegs in a bit more on days when the air is dry, and vice versa. If your peg no longer fits in the peg box, bring your cello to a luthier to find out if the peg needs replacing. Note: to further protect your cello from damage, ensure you’re taking the appropriate measures to protect it from changes in temperature and humidity.

Glaesel GL-3866 Cello Humidifier Standard
The Glaesel Cello Humidifier protects stringed iinstruments from damage due to excessive dryness. Model GL-3866. Learn More

Bow Problems

Sometimes issues with your cello won’t affect your cello at all, rather the bow itself. If the hair on your bow has turned black or a very dark color, or just doesn’t bite the way it used to it may be time for a rehair. This is recommended at least once a year (more often if you play a great deal) and is usually a same-day service. If all the hair pops out of your cello bow at the same time, don’t toss it in the trash. It’s not a lost cause, it has merely lost the “wedge” holding in the hair. A repair technician who specializes in bow repair can fix this easily. Similarly, if the hair won’t tighten the bow screw may be stripped. If you think this is the issue, make an appointment with a bow repair professional.

Glasser Fiberglass Cello Bow with Plastic Grip
Fiberglass cello bow with horsehair and plastic grip. Fiberglass bows are a good alternative to inexpensive wood bows. They are more durable, will not warp, and perform adequately for beginning students. Learn More

Chips & Scratches

In most cases, chips and scratches are a purely cosmetic issue and won’t affect the sound that’s produced by your cello. If you chip your cello and the chip isn’t lost, it can easily be glued back into place. Some prefer to glue the chip back on themselves, while others opt to trust the task with the professionals. If the piece is lost, the repair will be significantly more expensive, as the repair technician will have to carve or shape a piece of wood to replace it. Scratches can either be buffed out or filled with a matching varnish, depending on the severity of the scratch. If the scratches are minor you may even be able to buff them out yourself with paraffin oil and a soft cloth.

In many cases, damage can be avoided by properly caring for and maintaining your instrument. Check out our tips for Proper Cello Maintenance & Care.

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