1. Are more expensive cellos better? The answer is "It depends". There are so many factors to this question that it is hard to answer. More expensive doesn't always mean 'better'... for you. You may play several cellos and prefer the least expensive one (without knowing the prices). If you were to come into our shop, we would ask you what your top budget is, and then give you just about every cello under that price to play, two at a time. As we go through the instruments, we will learn what you prefer in tone and playability, and we will start slimming down the choices of what we show you. Frequently, people with a high budget will not even select the most expensive cello that they play. That being said, the more expensive instruments tend to be much more responsive. This is great for an advanced player, but not so great for a beginner. Responsive means the cello will do what you tell it to do. So, if you are a beginner with poor bow technique, and you lightly scratch the bow across the strings, a more responsive instrument will play very softly for you. Some instruments make better beginner instruments because they will just play LOUD no matter what you do, giving beginners the confidence that they need. More expensive instruments are usually made out of wood that has been drying for a longer period of time, hence the higher price. Well-dried woods are desirable in stringed instruments. If you are just starting out, and plan to stick with it, I would recommend purchasing something marked 'best for beginners' with additional comments about 'but it won't hold you back' as you progress. If you are unsure, reach out to us for some advice and a list of instruments that we think you would be happy with.
2. I'm just a beginning. How much should I expect to spend on a cello? At a minimum, spending $1,500 on a cello, hard case and bow will get you a decent instrument to learn on. Any less than this, and you are likely to end up with problems that will hold you back from learning. Things like pegs that won't stay in tune, strings that sound horrible, necks that aren't straight, fittings that are improperly machined or installed. If you are a beginner, you owe it to yourself to make your learning experience as positive as possible. Good cellos are not cheap. $500 will only buy you a whole lot of frustration.
3. How does this cello make/model compare to that one? Cellos aren't like cars or washing machines. They are works of art, hand-crafted by experienced luthiers. You can't really compare makers and models of cellos. Each instrument is utterly unique. We frequently have the exact same model of instrument in our showroom, and each one plays and sounds completely different. This is why we provide photos and sound bytes of each instrument that we offer.
4. Are Chinese cellos any good? Yes. At least the ones we carry are. Keep in mind, China is a HUGE country, with billions of people. They put out some amazing products, and some really crummy ones too. We purchase our Chinese cellos from importers who work directly with small shops that hand-craft their instruments in the old European style. They are every bit as good as anything we can purchase from Europe at a fraction of the price.
5. I'm just a beginner. How will I know if I am getting the right cello since I don't even know how to play yet? This question is the reason we spend so much time with our cello shoppers, whether you are shopping online or in our showroom. Most beginners in our showroom are amazed that they have preferences even though they don't know how to play at all yet. We will show you how to hold the bow, and at the very least, we will have you bow open strings. Most people will be able to hear the differences, and will prefer certain cellos over others. If you are shopping from a distance, hopefully you have listened to some of our cello sound bytes, and can tell us which ones you prefer. We will then be able to recommend some other cellos with a similar sound that we feel would be appropriate for you, your goals, and your level of play.
6. What's the difference between a wood cello bow or a carbon/composite bow? The main difference tends to be that wood bows are easier to break than carbon or composite bows, but this alone should not drive your decision unless you are buying a bow for a young, careless beginner. Good wood bows, such as pernambuco, tend to bring out more overtones and complexity than composite or carbon, but not always. Many people erroneously think that the bow is a secondary thing to the cello. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The bow is probably more important than the cello in terms of providing a vehicle for musicality. Although each cello will have a unique sound, so does each bow, and finding a bow that is compatible with your cello is the secret. It could be wood, it might be carbon.
7. I've never played cello before, but have always wanted to. Should I rent or buy? See our other article about renting vs. buying.
8. I'm older, but have always wanted to play the cello. Is it too late to start? It's never too late to start! That being said, you may be at a slight disadvantage than a youngster who is starting out due to your ligaments, bones, and tendons being set in their ways and no longer as flexible or malleable. Cello is a physically demanding instrument that requires mobility in your shoulders, elbows, hands, wrists and hips. If you are mostly mobile, you should have little problem, however, if you have limited mobility in any of those areas, you may find it too demanding. Only you will be able to tell, though, how playing will affect you, so renting for awhile is always a good idea if you are not sure.
9. My child wants to play cello. Is it better to rent or purchase? This depends on a lot of things such as how serious your child is about cello and music in general, and your financial situation. Our rental program includes the accrual of a balance of part of your rental payment towards the eventual purchase of one of our many instruments. So, if you aren't sure, and you live close enough to Santa Barbara, CA to rent, at least you won't be throwing most of your money away if you eventually decide to purchase a cello.
If your child is quite precocious, you may consider purchasing so that you have more choice of possibly nicer instruments. Most shops rent somewhat inexpensive instruments because they get a lot of use (and abuse). If your child is pretty serious, purchasing something, then trading up as they grow, might be a better option for you. Many shops offer 100% trade value for trade-ups in size. You can read more about our fractional trade up policy on this here. Also see our other article about renting vs. buying.
10. What woods are used to make a cello? Cellos are typically made from 3 woods: Spruce for the top. Maple for the back, ribs (sides) and neck, and ebony for the fingerboard, pegs, and nut. Sometimes you will find instruments with other woods on the back, such as willow, but maple is the most common.
11. What about carbon fiber cellos? Are they any good? Do they sound like wood cellos? I always say that carbon fiber cellos are 'string amplifiers'. Since the carbon provides absolutely no acoustic complexity on it's own, carbon cellos are just resonant, weather-proof boxes that amplify the sound of the strings. So, yes, they can sound good depending on the string brand used, but tend not to have the same color, overtones and complexity of a wood cello. That being said, they make great gig cellos for outdoor functions such as weddings, concerts, etc.
12. What if I want to upgrade my cello in a few years? Do you have a trade-up policy? We sure do, you can read all about it here.
13. I bought my cello elsewhere. Will you buy it from me? Probably not. We are in the retail business, and typically purchase cellos from wholesalers. If you happen to have a very unusual instrument, say old or rare, that might sell in the $20,000-$30,000 range, we might be interested in talking to you about either purchasing it or consigning it, but unless you are able to bring it to the shop for us to examine, we would not be interested.
14. Do you take instruments on consignment? We may take an unusual instrument on consignment, however, we are reducing our consignment inventory at the moment, and would only be interested in highly unusual, old or rare instruments that would sell for over $20,000.