1. How serious are you about playing cello?
If you have already been playing cello, perhaps on a rental, and you are ready to take the plunge and purchase your first instrument, you have obviously decided that you are serious enough to make that investment.
However, if you have never played the cello before, and have always wanted to, only you can be the judge of how serious you are about this new adventure. Cello is not the easiest instrument to learn to play. It is physically demanding, and quite technical. Teaching yourself will probably only go so far, and you may end up with some really bad habits that will be harder to break down the road. We always advise new players to get a teacher, take lessons once a week, and practice daily. If you are not serious enough to commit to that, you may find your interest quickly waning as you realize Yo-Yo Ma just makes it looks easy, but dedicated 10's of thousands of hours of practice to get that good.
Cello is also not a cheap instrument to learn. The strings are expensive, getting your bow rehaired annually is expensive, and decent cellos themselves are expensive compared to something like a ukulele or guitar.
2. Are you a beginner?
If you are just starting, I have a couple other articles in this blog that will be helpful: Renting vs. Buying, Avoiding Cello-Shaped Objects, Questions Cello Shoppers Ask, How to Select a Cello for a Beginner
3. How Advanced is Your Playing?
If you have advanced on your rental cello and it is now time to invest in your own instrument, you will want to get the best cello that your budget can afford, so you won't outgrow it (musically) too quickly. The cello bow is of equal, if not more, importance than the cello, so sometimes getting a pretty good cello, and a really good bow is a good strategy. Typically at our shop when people are ready to step out of a rental (or beginner instrument) into something that they won't outgrow as an amateur player, we will recommend instruments in the $4,000-$6,000 range. For most adults, this will be perfectly adequate for them to continue to progress, and play in orchestra and small ensembles. If you are a really good musician in general, with a good ear, and a good handle on the cello playing more advanced repertoire, moving up to something from $8,000 to $15,000 will usually bring you your 'forever' cello. At this point, playing them in person is always the best, but we make 'forever' connections all the time with people that never step foot into our shop. If this is you, and you have been listening to our sound bytes, and just need some advice, please hit us up either on chat or using a contact form, and we can give you a call to discuss.
4. How tall are you?
This might seem like a weird question, but cellos come in different sizes, and sometimes small adults are more comfortable on fractional sized cellos, like 7/8 or even 3/4 sizes. Attempting to play a cello that is just too big for you can be really frustrating, and can even lead to annoying injuries. See our article How to Select a Cello for a Beginner to figure out what size you need. We find women who are aging, with arthritic limitations of their hands and fingers, often down-size to 7/8 instruments to make the extensions easier.
5. Do you have any physical limitations?
Cello is a demanding instrument, and can lead to injuries if not played properly. But even with proper instruction, if you have certain limitations, it can be a challenge. Your hips must be flexible enough to allow you to spread your legs wide enough to accommodate the instrument between your knees. Your right shoulder has to be flexible enough to lift your arm to shoulder height, and extend your arm out and up. Your left arm must be flexible enough to bend tightly in first position with your hand near your chin and your elbow back. Your right hand needs to be able to grip the bow gently, and that thumb needs to be flexible and strong. Your left hand fingers need to be flexible, and able to curve and press down. The left hand fingers also need to be able to spread. Your back need to be straight and strong so that you can sit properly and hold your arms up. Tension can build up in your neck and upper back, so being able to do all this and relax is important.
6. How much can you afford?
Depending on everything else, the amount you can afford is going to be the determining factor in your cello purchase. Don't 'cheap out' on this decision, though. Although you will see really inexpensive instruments on certain big websites, our article on Cello-Shaped Objects will go into more detail about why you should avoid them. I would recommend spending as much as you can reasonably afford, and getting a good bow. #3 above goes into deeper details about this. If you are unsure how much you should be spending, reach out to us for a conversation and we can guide you so that you are getting the most bang for your buck, and not spending above your experience level.
7. What are your goals?
Do you want to play cello just for your own enjoyment? Do you like the challenge of learning something new? Do you want to be able to play your cello for friends, family, church, or in your local community orchestra? Regardless of your goals, finding a cello that you really like the sound of will encourage daily practice so that any of these goals will be attainable.
8. Where do you live?
Cellos can be a bit temperamental to weather changes. When it becomes really dry in severe winter areas, and you turn up the heat in the house, this sudden humidity change can lead to seams opening on your cello. This is not the end of the world (it's designed to do this) however, unless you have a luthier nearby, this can be an issue. Preparing for this by having a Boveda humidity equalizer on hand, and a good, hard case that you can put your cello away in will help reduce this happening. Some people live in such harsh areas for cellos that they decide a carbon fiber cello will be much less problematic. If you are unsure, contact us, and we'll help you decide.
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