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Taking up the Cello

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#1 Hotair

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Posted 09 September 2020 - 08:08

I am looking into buying or renting a cello to learn from scratch. I play other instruments. I am about 5 foot 3, smallish hands, mature years, a few aches and pains. Would I be best to get a 7/8 size rather than full-size? Can anyone advise on best makes/places to buy or rent? I live in the South East.
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#2 Norway

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Posted 09 September 2020 - 08:53

There's no harm in starting on a 3/4 and upgrading later. Can you give us some idea of budget, as cellos and their suppliers are very variable in price.


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#3 Tenor Viol

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Posted 09 September 2020 - 12:52

You would almost certainly use full size cello, however different models vary in shape. For example, ones based on the Stradivarius shape tend to have narrower lower bouts than one on the Montagnana model. There is a 7/8 size aka 'English' or sometimes 'Ladies'' cello, but these tend to be premium priced, especially older ones.

 

It is worth getting the advice and support of a cello teacher before buying and they might help you with selecting an instrument.

 

Also, use a specialist shop as they will both have more knowledge but will probably have a tame luthier to sort out set-up etc. 


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#4 Bremmer

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 07:22

Regarding new outfits, I teach a lad who has been up until recently using a 3/4 Primavera outfit, the 200 series. This I found on Ebay and I think I paid around £200 for it. OK, it has upgraded strings, which most new outfits will need to improved the tone, but it is an exceptional sounding little instrument. 

Stentor I can be OK, again, if bought new it'll need better strings, likewise Stentor II. Another adult pupil bought a Harley Benton from Thomann, and I was pleasantly surprised with the tone quality despite the cello looking a bit as if it was an advert for matt ronseal varnish and the name implying it might be made by a motorcycle manufacturer.

 

Every cello, even factory made to the same tolerances is going to sound different, some better than others, but the first two are ones I'd take a punt on buying. Watch Gumtree and Ebay and you may just hit lucky. New it's best to either go to a luthier or buy from somewhere like Caswells, who will at least have set it up properly. They come from China almost in 'flatpack' state, the bridges are usually far too high, the pegs may or may not have been fitted and the strings are frequently just horrible - sounding like a strangled cat and hard to play. Decent strings are expensive, though D'Addario Prelude aren't bad. I think it was Helicore that I tried and absolutely hated, a very nasal quality. They are back in their packets as absolute emergency use only. 

 

At the low end of price, the bows are very variable, a lot of luck required if you buy new, sometimes you get a good one, other times the camber, the bend in the bow is insufficient for the bow to work properly. This can be fixed, but if the stick is too weak it's not worth the money, when you consider that the bow on one of these outfits probably constitutes about £25 in the price of the outfit. If you find one secondhand, you may even get an upgraded bow, or you can always upgrade the bow when you buy new if you discover the bow with the outfit is junk.

 

If you can find a secondhand Zeller, made in Romania, they are definitely a step up and can be really nice. 

 

That said, one of the most remarkable sounding littel cellos I ever encountered was a Chinese ? 3/4 bought off Ebay by me for £50, a plywood instrument that had a deep resonant sound, was a pleasure to play, and got a pupil of mine through his grade 7 with a very high merit where the tone was mentioned by the examiner. I moved it on to a fellow musician having played it for them over the phone. The guy was looking for a 3/4 cello for his son, with a low budget, he was pleased as punch.


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#5 Hotair

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Posted 11 September 2020 - 16:17

Thanks for all your replies. A lot to think about!
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