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Choosing a Cello

by Dr. Robin Kay Deverich

Should I rent or buy?

Renting or purchasing are both good options for those who are beginning the cello. If you’re buying a cello, it is essential to find and use a reputable dealer, music store or cello maker. It is strongly recommended that you enlist the help of your cello teacher or an advanced cellist to help you choose a cello that is well-made, has a good tone and is worth buying. There are many poorly made cellos out there, and price isn't the best way to determine the quality or sound of an instrument.

Before purchasing an instrument, it's a good idea to test and compare several cellos before making a final decision. If you do decide to purchase online or through mail order, carefully investigate the company’s return policy to make sure you're able to return the instrument if you aren't satisfied with it.

What size cello should I get?

Cellos are available in many sizes, and a knowledgeable instrument maker, music dealer or cello teacher will be able to help you find the right size for you or your child. Generally, the smaller sizes (1/16; 1/8; 1/4; 1/2; 3/4) are for children, and most adults and teenagers use full size (4/4) cellos.

As a general sizing guideline, you should be able to extend the cello endpin and sit in a chair with your feet flat upon the floor. The top of the cello body should rest against your chest, and the neck and scroll of the cello should be to the left of your head, with the lowest tuning peg approximately the same height as your ear (this may vary depending on the instrument and cellist). Your left hand should be able to comfortably span the interval of a minor third between your first and fourth fingers (two half-steps). If your fingers can't reach this interval or the top of the cello body or scroll is too high, a smaller sized cello might be appropriate. Again, a cellist or knowledgeable music dealer should be able to assist you in finding the correct size.

I have an old cello. What’s my cello worth?

The best (and only) way to really determine the value of a cello is to take it to one or more reputable cello makers and have an expert look at it in person. They should be able to tell you in a matter of moments if it's worth much. Many inexpensive, machine made instruments have fake “Stradivarius” labels inserted in them, so a label often has little meaning.

Just a few of the many factors used in determining the value of an instrument include: whether or not the instrument is machine or handmade; who made the instrument (if it's handmade); the country or region the cello was made in; the age of the instrument; the sound quality and condition of the instrument; and previous repair jobs. Numerous other factors are also utilized, but again, only an expert can properly evaluate the worth of your instrument.

If the instrument does appear to be valuable, you may want to get several opinions (there are unscrupulous dealers out there). Music dealers generally charge for written appraisals (often used for insurance purposes), but they should be able to give you a rough verbal estimate if you're interested in selling or "trading up" (similar to buying a car---the value of your cello is applied to the purchase price of one of their cellos).

Visit our Music Store for a sampling of cellos, bows & cases.