Author Topic: Any Mustachian cellists?  (Read 679 times)

Unicorn

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Any Mustachian cellists?
« on: September 10, 2018, 11:45:49 PM »
My 12-year-old daughter has been taking cello lessons for about 5 years using a 1/2 size cello, and her teacher tells me it is now time for her to move up to a full size version.

My daughter is committed to the instrument. She enjoys playing and is getting very good, though she is not looking to a Julliard/professional direction. I anticipate that she will continue to play for many years.

However, this purchase would need some scrutiny! I don't have an ear for the "quality" of the instrument and don't really know what criteria to be looking for, which means I would be vulnerable to inflated prices or rip-offs. On the other hand, it seems obvious that some instruments are better than others.

I have similar questions about the larger bow that would also apparently be necessary.

Does anyone with experience in cellos (or perhaps violins, violas, etc.) have any advice or information? What price range would be reasonable? What features (manufacturers?) should we be looking for? Should we actually be trying a 3/4 size rather than 4/4? Craigslist versus the well-regarded string instrument store in town? Rental would be another possibility but that seems like a losing option over the long run...

Minnowstache

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 02:11:45 AM »
Ooh cello talk :). I am an adult beginner who has been learning the cello for three years. I have done lots of research on cellos - and have a knack of breaking them so have had a few.
 On the question of 3/4 or 4/4 - how tall is she and how big are her hands? If she is l, or is likely to be over 5ft soon and has “normal” sized hands then a 4/4 would be fine. I have a 3/4 but i am 5ft and have small hands. I did have a 4/4 for a while and it was ok. The 1/2 must be very small for her now - she may find the jump to a bigger cello takes a week or two to adjust to.

As for which cello to buy - there really is a huge variety in price and quality. I have bought most of mine second-hand. Some basic rules i have are a) wood not particle - a real cello - some of the cheaper ones are known as CLOs (cello-like objects). Avoid palatino and ones advertised as “student” cellos.  For the wood spruce body, ebony pegs, tail, and etc. although a good quality wittner tail which is metal is ok. Intermediate level brands i would look at include stentor (the II is bettee) i had a 4/4 stentor II and it wasnt bad. I currently have an Antonio brand which is ok - not as good as the stentor but ok. If she wants a “forever” cello then moving up the price range therr are a couple of brands that have good reviews - scott cao (mid range not the cheapest ones - again check the body is spruce , i have also heard rave reviews for the gliga gama which is romanian. The best one i have had so far was a christina c9 - my teacher and kuthier thought it was amazing value (but I promptly broke it). I bought it new from AliExpress - and got a good price on sale.

Other things i have done to get the best sound out of my cellos are a) get a luthier to service it even if it supposedly comes set up or even new - my Antonio was unplayable when i got it second hand as the bridge was too high - i have no idea how the person who owned it before me played it. b) get good quality strings - i buy larsen strings - they are horrendously expensive but it makes a real difference in the sound - I played a $300 cheap (but still wood) cello for 8 mths with larsen strings on it and the sound was still ok. Jargar strings are cheaper but also ok.  c) yes, you do need a good quality bow - get a pernumbuco wood bow with horse hair - same size as the cello - mine was $300 second hand and i had to get it re-haired recently for $120 but it is worth it - my bow brand is schumann - i have heard there are some good non wood bows but i have never used or seen one so i am not sure about that.

I am neither an expert in the cello or in choosing an instrument - just an enthusiastic amateur. I have also heard that if you are buying new then they may let you take it home on loan and get your teacher’s opinion. I have also heard that some teachers have deals with brands - so If you trust your teacher then ask their advice - they will actually know what will best suit your daughter. But if they push one brand with no real reason - ask them if they have any association with the company.

dcozad999

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 07:41:01 AM »
My 12-year-old daughter has been taking cello lessons for about 5 years using a 1/2 size cello, and her teacher tells me it is now time for her to move up to a full size version.

My daughter is committed to the instrument. She enjoys playing and is getting very good, though she is not looking to a Julliard/professional direction. I anticipate that she will continue to play for many years.

However, this purchase would need some scrutiny! I don't have an ear for the "quality" of the instrument and don't really know what criteria to be looking for, which means I would be vulnerable to inflated prices or rip-offs. On the other hand, it seems obvious that some instruments are better than others.

I have similar questions about the larger bow that would also apparently be necessary.

Does anyone with experience in cellos (or perhaps violins, violas, etc.) have any advice or information? What price range would be reasonable? What features (manufacturers?) should we be looking for? Should we actually be trying a 3/4 size rather than 4/4? Craigslist versus the well-regarded string instrument store in town? Rental would be another possibility but that seems like a losing option over the long run...


What does the instructor recommend for her, beyond 4/4? They should be a good starting point.

I will ask my wife this evening, though I don't think she knows a lot about the brands of cellos. She was a professional cellist back in her home country.  She does not have a very nice cello, as she came from a poorer country. It cost her maybe $2-$3k. We did look at getting her a new one about 10 years ago, shortly before she decided to give it up due to her Rheumatoid Arthritis. The one we were close to settling on was close to $15,000. The difference in the sound was very noticeable, even to me, who knows nothing about instruments. It just had a fuller, richer, deeper sound to it.

A music store in Kansas City let her take it home for a couple weeks to try it out.  If you can find a store that can do that, try out a few for a few days or a week for each of them. Your daughter, or at least her instructor, will be able to tell the difference in quality. Don't be in a hurry to make the purchase.

I know she spent a lot of money on her bow. I think she said it was close to $1,000. And she was quite pleased when I bought her a set of Larsen strings (Maybe $200?). She had never had nice strings before and she said they made a huge difference.

My wife also had to have hers repaired multiple time as the wood starts to separate. So many cellists spend a lot on a good, humidity-controlled case as well.

So if you want your daughter to have a decent set up, it is going to cost a little bit. One of the cellists who was in the University orchestra with her had a $25k cello.

Minnowstache seems quite knowledgeable on the subject and appears to have done her research.

Case

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2018, 06:03:06 PM »
My 12-year-old daughter has been taking cello lessons for about 5 years using a 1/2 size cello, and her teacher tells me it is now time for her to move up to a full size version.

My daughter is committed to the instrument. She enjoys playing and is getting very good, though she is not looking to a Julliard/professional direction. I anticipate that she will continue to play for many years.

However, this purchase would need some scrutiny! I don't have an ear for the "quality" of the instrument and don't really know what criteria to be looking for, which means I would be vulnerable to inflated prices or rip-offs. On the other hand, it seems obvious that some instruments are better than others.

I have similar questions about the larger bow that would also apparently be necessary.

Does anyone with experience in cellos (or perhaps violins, violas, etc.) have any advice or information? What price range would be reasonable? What features (manufacturers?) should we be looking for? Should we actually be trying a 3/4 size rather than 4/4? Craigslist versus the well-regarded string instrument store in town? Rental would be another possibility but that seems like a losing option over the long run...

Somewhat surprised there arent more answers... maybe Mustachians aren’t often musicians compared to the populace?

I played violin, not cello, but perhaps this will give you some value.

You should rely on your daughter’s private instructor if she has one.  It is possible for you to get a decent-but-not-extraordinay instrument.  Stringed instruments are very expensive, especially the classical ones.  The quality price graph is very exponential.

You can’t choose an instrument if you don’t play it yourself.  Ideally your daughter would, but she might not be old or mature enough to make the best choice.

If you dont have a private teacher, go to a reputable shop and ask for advice on what to look for.  A reputable shop is not Music and Arts (etc...).  You need to be talking to people who play professionally in groups and/or orchestras.

My parents got me a decent violin when i was a young teenager, after i had demonstrated for a few years that i was dedicated.  It cost $2000, 20 years ago.  I would guess that is $5000 today.
It is not a strad by any means, but it is certainly sufficient for a non-professional.  Actually, i have always liked its sound, and I 100% feel it was the right choice.  It will last me a lifetime.

My friend who started at a younger age than me and was defintely better but not extraordinarily better, had a $10000 violin (again, 20 years ago).  This price is not uncommon for people who are at or near the top of their high school orchestra in a competitive area.  I don’t think its necessary to get that expensive... but i also dont know cello prices vs violin.  My friend sounded better than me, but not thaat much, and i think it was more his skill than the instrument.

I bought it new.  Good violins (and probably cellos) often improve with age.  Not all instruments are this way.  You can always buy a used instrument looking for a deal, but you are definitely going to need someone else’s help in the selection/evaluation of it.  Especially for valuation of the price.

Fast forward a few years, and i quit in college.  Post school, i have interest in playing again, but not enough free time.  I wish i had stuck with it longer, but eventually the passion fizzled because classical music wasnt ultra exciting to me. 

CogentCap

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2018, 06:03:13 PM »
Hello, professional (classical) musician here!  I have just a couple opinions to offer. 

The first is, trust your teacher.  (I assume they are professional, not a hobbyist?)  They will be better able than anyone else to advise you on makes, models, what to avoid, what to consider.  We musicians know that parents don't want to pay through the nose for instruments, yet we also know that a basic level of decency is required if your kid is going to make any progress.  It's a dialectic we are VERY used to. Your teacher is your best asset to navigate this. 

They should also be willing to put in the time to advise you on any instruments that you do find.  It's part of their job as teacher, and they should be invested in it as they are invested in your child's growth.

If the price is a ripoff, they'll let you know.  If you're being cheap and trying to buy bag of glued-up sawdust, they'll find a way to encourage you towards the pricier model (they are unlikely to tell you to your face that you're being a cheap bastard, so listen carefully, lol.  Phrases like "might limit [your kid] or "instrument won't respond as well" are informative).

Just to clarify, note that I said trust YOUR TEACHER, not the salesman at the shop.  But you knew that already.  :)

Also, selling your 1/2 size should help offset the price of the new one a bit.

All that said, get the nicest cello/bow/etc that you can reasonably afford.  I know you say she's not Juilliard-bound (and I'm certainly not recommending music as a foolproof life plan), but I didn't decide I was conservatory-bound until I was 16.  A decent instrument will keep options open. 



Unicorn

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2018, 09:48:01 PM »

Thanks to all for the detailed advice -- much appreciated!

Minnowstache

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2018, 10:11:24 PM »
Please report back and let us know what you get in the end. I would love to know how it goes :)

MilesTeg

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2018, 10:31:00 AM »
Unfortunately, there's no good way to buy a cello without actually playing it. Every cello, even two made by the same person one after the other, will be significantly different. Every piece of wood is unique. Don't buy site unseen (or rather, unplayed), and don't buy without being able to compare at least a few different instruments.

If your daughter is not ready for a 4/4, there's little point to getting anything other than a student model. But, once she is ready for a 4/4 the best way to go about shopping is to take along an experienced cellist. Her teacher is best, but any experienced cellist will do. Find a music shop (preferably a locally owned one, not a chain store) that will let you audition the instruments and have the experienced cellist AND your daughter play each one. The experienced cellist can help you evaluate the instrument's qualities better than someone just learning. He or she can help you figure out if the instrument is bright or dark, which strings are weak or overly strong, where the wolf tones are and how problematic their position may be, which positions are weak on which strings, and importantly how playable the instrument is. Some cellos are really easy/forgiving to play but aren't very "good", some can produce a very good sound but are unforgiving. For a student, you ideally want something easy and forgiving with a high quality sound. Importantly, all of these qualities will vary on several instruments of the same model that are equally priced by most stores.

I'm an adult student with 3 years of experience. I started with a student model that cost about $1700. after 18 months I upgraded to an intermediate instrument that cost $6500 + $500 bow + case. However, you can find decent intermediate instruments for as "little" as $3k+bow. The problem is even just a "decent" cello is very expensive. The good thing is, well cared for, a decent instrument will hold its value and sometimes increase in value.

If she still isn't' ready for a 4/4 and you still want to upgrade, look for a local music shop that will rent to own and let you trade up. My local shop let me trade up my student instrument (which generally don't hold value well) for 90% of the purchase price.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2018, 09:43:02 PM by MilesTeg »

Sibley

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2018, 10:33:13 AM »
In addition to the instrument, make sure you've got appropriate sized everything else. The stop that they use - is it going to work for the new instrument. A good bow, good rosin, good strings - all make a difference. If a mute is needed, make sure it's appropriate.

It will take time to adjust to the new instrument. You have to learn it, each one is different. Especially changing sizes. Ask her teacher to pay attention to her form - if it's messed up, she could develop an injury. She may need to relearn some of the basics just because of the size change.

ambimammular

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2018, 02:53:50 PM »
Violinist here. MilesTag, has some solid advice. I would add, that once you've decided on your cello, try it with some different bows. Here you can see the best jump in value for your additional dollars. $200 upgrade spent on a bow will have more of an impact than 200 upgrade invested in a nicer cello.

Cressida

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2018, 09:29:38 PM »
If she's 12 she can play a full size. I started at 12 and I was small.

I don't play anymore, so I don't have current advice. I agree that the teacher is probably the best resource. I also think you absolutely do not need to pay $10K. In your place, I might pay up to $3K on a used instrument. They don't depreciate, so if she continues to improve and wants a better instrument, you won't have given anything up. If you're going to splurge, do it on the strings. I wouldn't balk at $200 there.

EDIT: Middle-aged sieve for brains. I actually started at 11. That just strengthens my point on the instrument size, though.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 12:42:22 AM by Cressida »

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Any Mustachian cellists?
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2018, 07:17:36 PM »
I missed this one ... I am a cellist and cello teacher. I agree with the advice to go to a local, professional quality shop with your daughter's teacher (I have done this for a student and we counted it as a lesson). Try all the cellos they have in your price range. You should be able to get something quite decent for a young student for $2,000-$3,000, or maybe even less. Bows can start at under $100 and go up to the stratosphere. A carbon fiber bow is an inexpensive alternative to a wood one and can be better than the equivalent-priced wood bow. The good thing about buying from a reputable shop is they will fix any problems, and the cello will be in good playing condition from the beginning.

If you don't live anywhere near a good violin shop, there are good mail-order places that will ship to you, and you can return the instrument if you don't like it, but obviously that's less convenient.

I would avoid Craigslist -- doubtful you will get anything worthwhile there.

Unfortunately, stringed instruments (and their maintenance) can be expensive. But playing on a bad one is a dispiriting experience.

Unless your daughter is unusually small, a full-size cello is probably best. The teacher and the shop should be able to help you with that decision.

Good luck!