Choosing the best cello to fit your needs is quite a complicated procedure, and there are a few things to keep in mind. Like with any instrument, you have to take into consideration things like cost, specs, weight, and how hard it is to play depending on your skill level. Some are better for beginners, others for experts, and we’ll be looking at all the factors at play.
A brief history of the cello
The violin family of instruments first appeared somewhere around 1500 A.D. and the first depictions emerged 30 years later. The particular paintings showcased three similar instruments of different sizes, which we now know as violins, violas, and cellos. Many people think that the cello evolved from the viola da gamba, but they actually coexisted for 200 years.
Finally, around 1700, musicians of Italian descent started popularizing the cello around northern Europe. What followed was a game-changing move. Many musicians cut down the size of their bass violins to turn them into cellos. The smaller pattern developed by Stradivarius was beginning to leave its mark on the musical world.
Baroque-era cellos further popularized the instrument and made it a part of almost every orchestra of the time. People were intrigued, and rightfully so, by this amazing instrument. Its dark and mellow melody gave the entire orchestra a distinct and original vibe that people never felt before.
Cellos have a very distinct sound from one another. You have to take into consideration the quality of the materials used, as well as the overall build quality. Some cellos might be more expensive yet may sound poorer than less expensive cellos. Price isn’t everything, it’s more about the technical specifications and what experts say about a particular model.
By far the cello that will last you for years will be a hand-made one. But even so, before actually buying, you might want to rent one and test it for a while to see how comfortable you are with it. Most adults will most likely prefer a 4/4 full size one. However, you should still test it first. Afterward, you should decide what you want to do with your cello.
Size and height
Cellos usually range from 1/16 up to 4/4, which is full size. We mentioned earlier that adults will likely prefer the 4/4, but it’s not always the case. The bigger the cello, the more tone is produced by the instrument, making the cellist sound more mature. But you also have to take into consideration the height of the user and their skill level.
A cellist needs to feel comfortable about all else if they want to express their talent to their true potential. The height of the ribs, neck size, string, and scale length all contribute to your comfort. This is why it’s hard to say what size cello will fit you best. You’ll have to just test out a few and see which one you’ll get the hang of.
What do you want to play?
At first, this might not seem like a huge consideration. But it is. Depending on your play style and the notes of the melodies, you will have to consider what the cello is good at. Some cellos have no problems hitting middle and high notes, while others are meant to play low notes with ease. Very rarely you will find something for all three, if ever.
Keep in mind that cellos are hard to master. But the sounds they make when played correctly is absolutely breathtaking. If you’re a beginner, get ready to practice. A lot. It’s also a good idea to consult with your musical teachers, as they might give you some insight into options that you should try.
When playing in an orchestra, the cellist needs to make sure that they’re heard above other instruments since the sound of the cello is mellow. That is why projection is a huge aspect. Responsiveness, resonance, and tone all need to be taken into consideration as well. Like we said, this instrument is hard to master.
Play with style
One major part of the cello’s charm is its looks. Often, people forego this aspect and focus just on the sound alone. A stylish cello will make you stand out when you’re performing in an orchestra, for example. Style and sound go hand in hand when playing this marvelous instrument. Don’t sacrifice one for the other. Choose both.
Does the brand matter?
Speaking of style and quality, you might’ve noticed that the majority of cello brands claim to have the best sounding, best looking, and best-priced cellos. How come so many brands can claim that they are the best? It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that the majority of cases are simply not true.
It’s just marketing done wrong for the most part. But let’s not get sidetracked. Do your research before investing in a cello. Read about the brand and its reputation. Reading user reviews or directly asking other musicians you know about certain cellos never hurts. It’s actually the recommended approach.
Planning your budget
If there’s a downside to cellos, it’s their price. They aren’t cheap by any means. Expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $2500 for a quality beginner cello. And even so, anything less than $1000 doesn’t hold up that much unless you buy it second-hand from a reputable source that took care of it. Yeah, not very encouraging, we know.
They are more likely to have tricky tuning pegs, and even worse, they are much more prone to damage than more expensive models. And, as you can imagine, they are most likely machine-made, not hand-made as we recommended earlier. This is why it’s important to rent and try out before actually spending so much hard cash.
As for intermediate to more advanced cellos, you can usually find them between $500 and $10,000. Depending on how much you practice, you can usually move to this category after two or three years. We wouldn’t recommend buying the most expensive cello from this skill category, though. Unless you’re Bill Gates, of course.
Sure, the more expensive the cello is, the more it should last you (possibly even a lifetime). At least in theory. Cellos from this category are handcrafted by an expert luthier, and you can produce much better sounding melodies. If you’re going to play in an orchestra and earn a lot of money as such, the investment is worth it. But you should really think it through.
Finally, we have the professional category. These exceed the $10,000 threshold with ease. They’ll produce fantastic sounds as long as you know how to play them properly. They’re basically the luxury cars of instruments. Moreso, rich collectors buy these simply to show off. It’s a shame, really, because such cellos deserve to be played.
A cellos concerto is a type of concert that brings the cello front and center, with an orchestra accompanying it rather than directly influencing it. Vivaldi and Boccherini were major fans of the instrument and created 25 and 12 cello concertos respectively. Haydn, Bach, and Schumann also contributed their own creations in this category.
With such outstanding names dedicating themselves to a single instrument, it is no wonder that other contemporary musical geniuses also view the cello as an outstanding piece of musical craftsmanship.
The cello in other musical genres
Neoclassical music is one genre that often uses the cello in its compositions. Pop music, jazz, and even several subgenres of rock and metal have used it in several songs. Apocalyptica, as an example, is a metal band that plays exclusively on cellos. As hard as it might be to imagine such a genre played on an instrument, they did it. And it sounds amazing.
If you’ve never heard their songs, do yourself a favor and listen to them. We guarantee you’ll love every second.
Hard to master and extraordinarily rewarding, the cello is one of the best instruments you could ever play or hear. You’re going to need to invest a lot of time, effort, and money, but the satisfaction of mastering this instrument will be at least twice as big. Good luck!