If your child’s cello skills have developed to the point where a rental is no longer an option, it may be time for an instrument upgrade. Unfortunately, buying your child’s first cello can be tricky business. In the past, the problem was a distinct lack of a “price range”, but nowadays it’s almost like there’s too much selection. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about cello categories, materials, and prices, this overview will help guide you through the cello buying process.
As with most orchestral stringed instruments, a cello will fall into one of three categories: student, intermediate, and professional. Designed for beginners, a student cello is usually made by a machine and is often dyed to resemble expensive ebony. If your child is currently renting a cello, it’s likely a student version. If your child has been playing the cello for a year or more and seems interested in the instrument, an intermediate cello is your best bet. Intermediate cellos are often made by hand, and have a noticeably improved sound. Depending on the level of craftsmanship, some intermediate cellos are capable of approaching a professional level of performance. Finally, professional cellos are usually reserved for those who play the instrument professionally, as the attention to detail that goes into making a professional cello can cause the price to be considerably high.
Another thing to take into consideration when purchasing a cello for your child is the size. Musicians should purchase an instrument that’s comfortable for them to hold and play, and the same “rule” is extended to the cello. As you start to do some research you’ll notice that cellos come in measurements of 1/16, ½, and 4/4. The smaller sizes of these, particularly 1/16, ⅛, and ¼ are ideal for children and younger performers. When choosing a size, consider your child’s size and arm reach. If your child has already reached their permanent height, opt for a full-sized, or 4/4, cello. If you’re still concerned about purchasing the right size, talk to your child’s cello teacher- they’ll be more than happy to offer advice.
Acoustic vs. Electric
While the cello has been around for thousands of years, the electric cello is a relatively new development. Although an acoustic cello is the more traditional choice (and the best choice if your child is playing the cello in a school orchestra or band), there are several strong arguments in favor of electric cellos- they’re more affordable and offer unique sound qualities. With an electric cello you can effectively avoid feedback and deliver a signal that’s more malleable than its acoustic counterpart. If your child plans on playing the cello in a non-traditional way (i.e., in a rock or jazz band) than an electric cello is the best choice.
If you haven’t already been putting money aside for your child’s first cello you should start as soon as possible, as cellos tend to be on the expensive side, especially when compared to other guitars or violins. It’s not uncommon for the price of a cello to creep into the quadruple digits, with some exceeding $3,000. Fortunately, many online sites offer slightly blemished cellos at discounted prices. If you see a “deal” that seems to good to be true, it probably is. Unless you know what red flags to look out for when purchasing a used cello, it’s always best to purchase a brand new cello from a company you can trust.
Pay Attention to the Seller
Since cellos are an expensive investment in your child’s future, you shouldn’t purchase your child’s cello from a site like eBay or Craigslist. $1,000+ is a lot to spend on a product that could be flawed, broken, or missing crucial pieces. Additionally, if your child isn’t already taking lessons, it’s a wise idea to rent a cello for at least six months before purchasing. That way, your child can take some time to decide if the cello is the right instrument for them. If you do decide to purchase a cello online, choose a reputable seller, such as Music & Arts. Boasting one of the largest product offerings in the world, you’re sure to find the perfect cello for your child on our site.
Many new cello owners forget to purchase additional supplies. Unless you purchase a complete cello package, your child’s cello probably won’t come with a bow, rosin, tuning pegs, or a music stand. Although these items will need to be replaced periodically, there’s no reason to stock up with extras. Before purchasing your cello accessories, talk to your child and his or her teacher about their teaching and practicing methods, as your child may not need a music stand, at least initially. Other important supplies include tuning forks, electronic tuners, a cello bow, and a sturdy cello case.
If you’re shopping around in-person, you’ll have a chance to handle a cello with your own two hands. When doing so, turn the cello over and examine each part to make sure it’s manufactured from the proper materials. For most cellos, only straight-grain spruce is used for the top of the cell. The reason for this is that most of the cello’s sound comes from the top so a strong material must be used to handle the tension. For enhanced beauty, maple is used on the sides, back, and neck, while ebony is the preferred choice for the finger, pegs, endpin, and tailpiece. In some cases, exotic woods like rosewood and boxwood may be used in the construction of a cello.
Don’t Forget the Strings
If your cello didn’t already come with strings, or if you’re purchasing a used cello that will need them replaced, you’ll need to purchase a couple sets of cello strings. There isn’t a definite type or brand of a string a cello player should use, as strings are a matter of preference. Most cello players keep a spare set handy in case a string breaks, and many professionals replace their strings a week or so before a performance, so they have some time to break them in. New strings fall in and out of tune quite frequently, so make sure your child is prepared to tune the cello several times after replacing the strings.
Thinking about renting instead? Check out Instrument Rental for Your Child.
For more information about the cello, check out this video: