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Do you want to become the next Yo-Yo Ma? Then you need to know how to find the best cello so that you can set yourself up for musical success.
Beginners and professionals alike need to know what to look for in a good instrument. So what goes into choosing a cello and how can you find the perfect one for you?
How to Find The Best Cello
When shopping for a cello, you shouldn’t just buy the first model you find. It may be the right instrument for you, but there might be another one that’s a much better fit.
Knowing how to find the best cello is important whether you’re a beginner, professional, or anywhere in between. That way, you can make sure you enjoy playing and have an instrument that will help you improve.
If you’re looking to buy your first cello or an upgrade, keep the following things in mind before and as you shop around.
Understand Cello Sizing
It may not look like it in an orchestra, but cellos come in more than one size. Consider the different sizes available and which one might suit you the best:
- 1/10 for 3-4 years
- 1/8 for 4-7 years
- 1/4 for 5-9 years
- 1/2 for 7-11 years
- 3/4 for 9-12 years
- 4/4 for 12 years and up
Cello sizes may not exactly line up based on someone’s age, and the ratios aren’t the same as you might think of them. For example, the 1/2 size is only about eight inches smaller than the full size.
And even if you’re an adult, you may find a 3/4 cello is more comfortable. They’re about two inches smaller than a 4/4 cello, so the size may be easier if you’re shorter or have smaller hands.
Consider Your Experience
Next, you should think about your experience with the cello. Of course, you may have never played at all, in which case you should look for a beginner model.
But if you’ve played the cello for a while, you may be ready to upgrade to something better. Upgrading can be a good idea if your current cello isn’t giving you the sound you want.
You might also choose to upgrade if you’re looking to join an orchestra or if you’re about to go to college for music. If you aren’t sure if you should upgrade, ask other cellists what prompted them to buy a new instrument.
Review Your Budget
Once you decide that you’re ready to buy a cello, take a look at your finances. Some cellos can be pretty affordable, but others quickly reach almost $10,000.
Knowing your budget will help you narrow your search for a cello, but you’ll need to budget according to your level. If you’re looking for an intermediate model, you may want to save up a bit more.
Looking at your budget can also help you decide if you want to finance the instrument or if you want to wait a while and save more money. That way, you’ll be able to choose the best cello for you.
Play Your Cello
If you already own a cello that you can play, you should play it. Think about how it feels and sounds to play and if you really do need a better cello than what you have.
You should also consider taking the cello to a luthier or musical instrument repair shop. They can take a look at your cello and fix it up so that it’s in the best possible condition.
Sometimes, that can be enough to make your cello sound amazing. But if it’s not, you’ll know that you’re ready to invest in a better instrument.
Make Small Changes
Before you rush to buy your next cello, you may also want to test out some small changes on your current one. You can get a new set of strings, which may be necessary if you haven’t changed your strings in a while.
The right set of strings may offer the sound you want to get out of your instrument. But another option is to look for a new cello bow, which can also affect the sound.
A good bow will be easy to hold, and it might offer a different feel for your right hand. That way, you can play your cello, and it might offer the change you’re looking for.
Find Good Test Music
You’ve decided that maintenance, a new set of strings, and a new bow aren’t enough of a change. Before you buy a cello, you should consider some music to use to test the new model.
Selecting music ahead of time will allow you to keep that element of the test the same across each instrument. Whether you try one new cello or a dozen, you can use the music to compare them to each other and your current setup.
If you’re a more advanced player, for example, you may want to play Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. That piece is very famous, but it also encompasses a wide range of the cello, which is great for testing.
Think About Renting
If you’re a beginner, renting a cello can be a great way to get a good instrument for a smaller upfront investment. You can spread the payments out over many months, and you can return the instrument if you decide not to stick with it.
But if you do stick with it, the rental program may apply your payments to the cost of the instrument. Eventually, you’ll be able to own the instrument, but you won’t need to spend a ton all at once.
However, buying a cello is usually a better option for more experienced players. At that stage, you’ll know that you want to continue playing, so buying an instrument will keep you from having to make regular payments.
Look At The Used Market
Another thing you can do to save money on a cello is to buy a used model. Used cellos sound just as good as new ones, assuming the prior owner took good care of it.
You can also access more options when you’re willing to buy a used cello. If you only look at new instruments, you may not get as much of a selection.
When shopping for a used cello, make sure to ask about its condition. Consider if it received maintenance recently to make sure the instrument will be playable for you.
Schedule Some Trials
After you decide what type of cello you want to get, you may want to set up a cello trial. This is where you get to compare at least a couple of instruments before buying one.
You can set up a trial at a music store or order one online to send instruments to your home. That way, you’ll be able to find a few cellos that may work for you.
If you can’t trial multiple cellos at once, try to buy one from a shop with a return policy. Use the return window as a trial period for that cello, and send it back if it’s not the right fit.
Play And Compare
When you start the trial, use the music you selected earlier on. Listen to how each cello sounds and if one stands out from the rest, either in a good or bad way. Then, you can eliminate options to find your ideal cello.
Compare the cellos with your current cello, if you have one. While one of your trial cellos may be the best, it needs to also be better than what you own already.
Don’t be afraid to put each cello through extensive testing, from soft to loud playing, and other techniques. The more you play a cello, the easier it will be to decide if you should purchase it.
As you go through the trial process, take notes about each instrument. Write down the brand and model number, then list out what you do and don’t like about the cello.
Taking notes is particularly helpful if you can only try one cello at a time. After you get to try a few cellos on separate occasions, you can review your notes to eliminate the cellos you don’t like as much.
When you’re ready to purchase an instrument, you’ll know which model to get. If you don’t decide to buy any cello, use your notes to help look for another model to try that you may like better.
At best, the first cello you try will feel great to play immediately, so you won’t need to try anything else. But at worst, you won’t love any of the cellos you try in your first trial.
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy a cello you don’t completely love. Instead, keep looking at more models and brands to find the right fit for you.
Then, you’ll select an instrument that you look forward to playing. You won’t have to worry about regretting the purchase or wishing you would have bought a different model.
The Best Cellos To Try
You know the steps for how to find the best cello. But you don’t know where to start looking because there are tons of cellos on the market.
If you aren’t sure which cellos are worth trying, that’s okay. Whether you’re a beginner or need an upgrade, you should look at a few brands and models.
While you may need to try more options, the following cellos are a great place to start.
The Cremona SC-100 cello is a beginner model, and it comes in different sizes, from 1/8 to 3/4. That range makes it perfect for children and smaller adults because it can be more comfortable to play a smaller cello.
It uses hand-carved tonewoods to help you get the best possible sound, and the instrument is lightweight. Cremona cello makers ensure the strings are at the right height to help with intonation.
You also get fine tuners and pegs to make tuning the cello quick and easy. If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with this cello model.
- Smaller sizes
- Great for beginners
- Easy to play
- Some quality control issues
Another excellent beginner cello, the Cremona SC-200 is pretty similar to the other model. However, this one comes in a full size, so it’s better for adults and older kids.
It offers the same feature regarding string height to help with intonation. Tuning is also easy with the fine tuners, while the pegs can help you change the strings.
The bow that comes with the cello also has a nice balance, so you don’t need to spend more money to get a good sound. Unfortunately, the 200 is quite a bit more expensive than the 100.
- Easy to play
- Good quality
- Nice sound
- A little expensive
The D’Luca CAC600-34 cello comes in the 3/4 size, so it’s great for people who aren’t comfortable with a full cello. It uses spruce and maple for the body, which offers a fantastic sound.
Meanwhile, the carbon fiber tailpiece offers fine tuners that help you get the correct pitch for each string. You also get a decent bow to use, and everything comes in a padded bag.
This model is great for beginners and early-intermediate players. While it’s not the cheapest on the market, it’s far from the most expensive cello you could get.
- Good construction
- Easy to play
- Suitable for beginners
- Not the best for advanced players
D Z Strad 101
Another beginner model to try out is the D Z Strad 101. This cello comes in most of the common sizes, from 1/8 to 4/4, so anyone can find a size that works for them.
It looks and sounds good, and the instrument is durable enough to last for years. You’ll get everything you need to start playing, including a bow, rosing, and an extra set of strings.
The cello is a bit expensive for a beginner model, but you can get a lot of use out of it. As long as you keep playing, the cello will be an excellent investment.
- Great for beginners
- Different sizes
- Not for professionals
D Z Strad 600
If you’re ready to upgrade to a better cello, the D Z Strad 600 might be right for you. The instrument looks great and features a two-piece maple back to offer a good sound.
Like the other D Z Strad model, this one comes with plenty of accessories, including rosin, a bow, and strings. That way, you don’t have to find those items yourself.
Unfortunately, this cello costs quite a bit more than the other cellos so far in this list, but it does come in different sizes. You should only look into getting this one if you’re serious about the cello and can afford to spend more.
- Multiple sizes
- Looks and sounds great
- Comes with accessories
- Pretty expensive
D Z Strad 700
The D Z Strad 700 is another advanced model cello, and this one features hand-rubbed varnish. It uses maple, spruce, and ebony woods on the body, pegs, and fingerboard.
A carbon fiber end piece helps keep the cello from getting too heavy, and the fine tuners on it are easy to use. The cello comes with excellent quality strings to help you get the best possible sound.
You get a nice bow to also help with your sound. Sadly, this cello is quite expensive, and it’s only available in the full 4/4 size, so it’s not the best for smaller players.
- Great sound
- Suitable for professionals
- Nice craftsmanship
Perhaps you’re happy with your current cello, but you want another one for silent playing and rock playing. The Yamaha SVC-110SK is an excellent model for that purpose.
You can connect the cello to your headphones so that you can play and hear yourself without annoying others. It also features a piezo electric pickup so that you can connect it to an amp.
Whether you need to practice at odd hours or want to join a rock band, this cello is great. It’s not nearly as heavy or expensive as some models out there.
- Great for silent practice
- Electric pickups
- Not the best for classical music
FAQs About How To Find The Best Cello
Answer: The cello can be hard to play because you have to put your fingers in just the right spot. As a beginner, you also don’t have the finger strength necessary to play.
It can take time to develop that strength and develop calluses to keep from hurting your fingers. But if you’re interested in playing the cello, you will be able to push through the difficult parts and enjoy the instrument.
Answer: You can teach yourself how to play the cello, but you need a lot of discipline and motivation. It might be worth having one or two private lessons so that you can keep from developing playing habits that can lead to pain or discomfort.
If you plan to teach yourself, be sure to get a good cello method book. Look for video tutorials online and read articles about how to play the cello so that you have as much information as you can get.
Answer: Having a good-quality cello matters because it can make playing much less stressful. If your cello is in bad shape, you may have to constantly stop to retune the strings.
And you may not be comfortable, especially if you have shorter arms. You need a cello of the right size and that comes from a good brand to increase your chances of enjoying the learning and playing process.
Answer: Cellos are expensive because they require more materials to produce than violins and violas. Because they’re much larger than some instruments, it also takes longer to craft a good cello.
The price for a good cello will reflect the cost of the materials and labor. While you can get a cello for cheap, it may not offer the sound or durability that you need.
Answer: Listen to recordings of people playing the cello to see what you like or don’t like. If possible find recordings that use beginner models to hear them in action.
You can also ask a cello teacher or player to go with you to a music store. They will be able to test the instruments for you so that you can listen and decide which you like the best.
Answer: This is another great reason to listen to as many recordings of cellos as possible. If you can figure out what cello someone plays, buying it for yourself may be a good option.
Either way, you should buy from a store that offers a return window. Then, if you don’t like how the cello you buy sounds, you can return or exchange it for something better.
Answer: Financing a cello is a great option if you can’t afford to buy one outright. Many retailers offer financing options so that you can buy a cello even if you don’t have the full amount in cash.
However, if you buy a used cello from an individual, they may not want you to finance it. So consider that when looking at where you should purchase an instrument.
Answer: Bad reasons to upgrade to a new cello include being jealous of someone else’s cello and upgrading because you have the money. You also shouldn’t upgrade before getting your current cello in the best condition possible.
Instead, take your cello to the shop to get it back in good condition. Then, you may not need to spend money on a new cello just yet.
Final Note On How To Find The Best Cello
Understanding how to find the best cello is critical for all cello players. When you know what to look for, you can keep from wasting time on cellos that won’t meet your needs.
But you can still try a variety of brands, such as D Z Strad and Cremona. Then, you’ll be able to find an instrument that makes you sound good and that you love playing.