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What Are the Best Tips for Buying a New Cello?

Judith Smith Sullivan
Judith Smith Sullivan

Buying a new cello should be an enjoyable experience, and trying out new instruments is an excellent way for a musician to better understand his or her preferences. Although there is some amount of emotional "gut" reaction to finding the right instrument, there are some key tips which can help a musician better understand how to purchase a new cello.

First of all, a budget is necessary. A new cello can cost hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars. Much like antiques and designer items, an instrument's value is more than the sum of its parts. Typically, only full-time, professional musicians or collectors purchase the more expensive instruments.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Student and amateur musicians are better served with a well-made but affordable instrument. There are many good new cellos that are available at reasonable prices but which still have rich tone and good action, which is how the instrument reacts to pressure from the fingers. It is important to decide on a budget range before shopping but also to understand the qualities of a good instrument.

Since a musician needs to experience the instrument first hand, it is best to shop for cellos in person. Although there are many online and catalog retailers, there is no way to experience the cello without actually playing it. The tone, action, and overall feel of an instrument all contribute to determining whether or not it is the best choice.

Seeing the instrument in person also gives the musician a chance to check for damage. The seams joining the sides to the back and front of the cello should be firmly glued together with no gaps. There should also be no cracks on any part of the instrument, including the neck, tailpiece, bridge, and tuning pegs.

The neck of the cello should be straight. Looking down the cello from the head-stock, where the tuning pegs are located, should allow the musician to see any dips or obvious bowing. A bowed neck usually means the instrument was made out of cheap, low quality wood.

Many cheaply made new cellos will also have tuning pegs that slip. This means that the pegs are not fitted well and will not hold the strings taut. In order to check the pegs, the musician simply loosens a string and tunes it back to pitch. If the string does not hold tune, the pegs are probably slipping.

If the instrument appears to be free from damage and well made, it is worth trying out. It is best for the musician to play several different types of songs, from slow ballads to fast up tempo tunes before purchasing the instrument. The tone should be full, rich, and carry well throughout the room.

Most new instruments need some slight adjustments to sound their best. Sometimes a thin or poor sound is the result of a misplaced sound post. The sound post is located inside the instrument, usually under the bridge. Sound posts can be adjusted, but a professional instrument repairman should be consulted before purchasing an instrument which is not playing well.

Many reputable music shops will allow an instrument to be tried out for a period of several days. Sometimes it takes more than a few minutes for a musician to know whether an instrument is the right one. Trying it out at home can help the musician make the final decision.

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