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What To Look For In A New Violin, Viola, Cello

As for violin, viola or cello brands, the finest "beginner's" violins, violas or cellos are hand made by individuals all over the world. The best could cost thousands of dollars. Also, two cellos made by the same maker can vary in quality depending on the pattern, wood or numerous other factors. Of course, if you have the resources, you can buy a "professional's" violin, viola or cello for tens of thousands of dollars. I wouldn't recommend that even if you could. An instrument has to feel right to the player, it might be difficult for a beginner to know what feels right.

I'm finding that some of the instruments sold on eBay from China are good for beginners. A few things to look for though. If you buy a Chinese or any starter violin, viola or cello, make sure you get one with an ebony fingerboard and ebony pegs (not ebonite or ebonized). I recently bought a cello for $480. It will need to be set up by a knowledgeable person (luthier) by fitting the bridge, adjusting the sound post and putting on better quality strings. The repairman may have to adjust the tuning pegs, they tend to slip on these new instruments. Figure on adding $200 - $400 for this service.

The most important things to do on string instruments purchased online are:

  • Make sure the nut (the piece that holds the strings as it comes out of the pegbox) is adjusted properly. It's usually too high making playing in the lower positions difficult.
  • Make sure the soundpost is set up properly.
  • Set up the bridge with good quality strings.

I found that the bridges are usually fitted adequately for these string instruments although it also may need fitting. For the pegs, a material called Peg Compound or Peg Drops may have to be applied to the pegs to help them operate properly.

As for the cello strings, anything you get will sound better than the strings shipped with the cello. Either buy a set from a local violin shop or go to an online music store and find an inexpensive set. I use the D'Addario Prelude Cello String Set for my students. The Jargar Cello String Set is a step up from the D'Addario strings and the Pirastro Permanent Soloist Cello String Set is what I currently use for my instrument.

As for my beginning cello students, a good inexpensive instrument I found is the Cecilio CCO-500. The best price I've found is here. It has all the basic components. I have purchased many of these and have been not only satisfied, but actually impressed. These instruments have all the basic components; inlaid purfling, ebony fingerboard and ebony pegs. If you decide to buy one of these, you will have to spend a little more money to get it set up. An beginner's instrument like this should be adequate for at least a couple of years of serious study.

This is the same instrument I've seen listed on Ebay but at a equal or lower price. I've haven't had any problems with this company from which I've bought my cellos. I also have no relationship with this company (I don't make a commission from them). I only know this model cello and for my beginning students, it is more than adequate. Contact me here if you want advice on what work needs to be done to set up the instrument.

 

If you have any questions, or want me to look at a cello you found locally or online, let me know by contacting me here. Make sure you send a link to the page where you found the cello.

 

Rudolph Stein