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Levietta

Cello for beginner

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Hello everyone! I’m a newbie at this forum. My name is Aria and I have a daughter who has just started playing cello. She likes her classes but she can’t bring the cello home. That’s why I’m thinking about buying her own one. Another option is just rent it but I see how she likes cello classes and I’m sure she will play it for a long time. I’ve searched the information about “beginners cello” and “budget cello” and they are different, of course. The question is what is better: to buy a cheap one for the first time or to buy a special one for beginners (maybe it’s easy to learn or easy to play)?
I now have these variants: Cremona SC-165 (for students) and Cecilio CCO-100 (budget). Are they good? Are there any other variants? This guy says the budget beginners cello could be for $200-399, is that true?
Thanks in advance!

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Hello Aria,

It’s great to hear that your daughter is so excited about playing the cello. If she does indeed stick with it, it’ll reward her for the rest for her life!

Given that she’s new to the instrument and you’re looking for something that’s tailored to a beginning player, I strongly advise that you go to a violin shop (NOT a music store) near you and talk to the staff about renting an instrument. Maintenance of cellos is an investment, and it can make it hard to sustain if you’re paying for everything out-of-pocket. Keep in mind that in addition to the cost of the instrument, you’ll need to buy strings at least once a year, and the cello will need to be maintained by a luthier periodically to keep it in good playing shape. 
 

The instruments that you see online are priced to appeal to the budget-conscious consumer, but those prices are deceiving—they are made too cheaply and carelessly to serve any player well. A lot of corners have to be cut to get the costs down to such a dramatic difference from standard prices. You don’t need to sell your house to find a good, playable instrument, but getting a cheap one can seriously hinder progress. A budget of $200-300 is not enough to purchase a playable instrument.  You can put your money to much better use.

Any good shop that has a rental program ought to have instruments available that have been professionally set up by people that work with players regularly and know how to make the necessary adjustments to make instruments easier to play. Even a lot of higher end rental-level instruments come with a subpar setup from the factory. Getting a professional setup will make a world of difference.

If you do rent, most shops offer rental insurance that will protect you from big repair bills should any accidental damage occur. Many shops will include the strings and bow in the rental, so you can avoid some of those expenses that can accumulate. And most shops that offer rentals also offer rental credit, so that you can eventually buy an instrument to keep at a good discount. Should your daughter decide to give it up, you can just return the rental cello and be done; if you buy one and she doesn’t stick with it, you either have to take the loss on the nose or try to sell it. Rental instruments have very little resale value.

If you do decide that you want to purchase an instrument now, go to a good violin shop and talk with them about what you want in a cello. They can help you select something good, and even more importantly, your daughter can try things out in person to find the best one for her. 


Best wishes for you and your daughter in your search. 

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I agree with The Beautiful Violin. A local shop rental would suit your needs given your budget. If not properly setup, a student grade instrument will stifle the player’s playing and ambition.

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6 hours ago, Jrwillis said:

Go to a local shop and rent one. It will be set up and ready to go. 

Agree. Rent a cello until you can buy one. If your daughter is under 5 feet tall, she won’t be ready for a full-size anyway.

Insist on a fully carved instrument with a manageable wolf, and a real wood bow with fresh hair. 

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16 hours ago, Levietta said:

Hello everyone! I’m a newbie at this forum. My name is Aria and I have a daughter who has just started playing cello. She likes her classes but she can’t bring the cello home. That’s why I’m thinking about buying her own one. Another option is just rent it but I see how she likes cello classes and I’m sure she will play it for a long time. I’ve searched the information about “beginners cello” and “budget cello” and they are different, of course. The question is what is better: to buy a cheap one for the first time or to buy a special one for beginners (maybe it’s easy to learn or easy to play)?
I now have these variants: Cremona SC-165 (for students) and Cecilio CCO-100 (budget). Are they good? Are there any other variants? This guy says the budget beginners cello could be for $200-399, is that true?
Thanks in advance!

Anybody who says you can buy a worthwhile instrument for $200-$399 is an idiot.

Even a worthwhile set of strings is almost that much, unless they are on sale.

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To be fair to the guy that OP linked...in the video he even says that he estimates really good beginner cellos at a price point of 2000-5000 USD. The guy is a Juilliard-trained cellist and member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road ensemble, so probably not too much of an idiot.

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Phillip has cranky moments...^_^

I'd also suggest renting a fractional and start saving for a full-size, if your daughter sticks with it.

Some places will have a rent-to-own program, which can likely go towards owning a full-size too, so you won't be totally out of pocket. But then you have to stick with that store.

Or - check your local Suzuki program to see if anyone is selling a "better" 1/2 size. You can then sell it on when your daughter outgrows it...

If you do buy an economy model, be prepared to spend a bit more to tweak the set-up and maybe get new strings.

Keep in mind you may need a better/different bow too.

And - as a kid that came from a school strings program <_< - have your daughter start with private lessons too. I really wish my parents had done that.

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4 hours ago, Marie_ said:

To be fair to the guy that OP linked...in the video he even says that he estimates really good beginner cellos at a price point of 2000-5000 USD. The guy is a Juilliard-trained cellist and member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road ensemble, so probably not too much of an idiot.

Anyone who says you can buy a worthwhile cello for two to $300 is at best Ill-informed. I don’t care about his background. You can certainly get a worthwhile instrument for 2-3 THOUSAND dollars but not 2-3 hundred.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

If you do buy an economy model, be prepared to spend a bit more to tweak the set-up and maybe get new strings.

You are a master(mistress?)of understatement, my dear.

Edited by PhilipKT

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

You are a master(mistress?)of understatement, my dear.

You may call me "Master", sounds less frilly. B)

I had three kids in school music programs. Between them and me I've bought/sold/gave away/traded/kept a number of instruments ...

Teachers generally - but not always - give appropriate advice. The prevailing advice we, as parents, were given, didn't make sense to me so I did my own thing and came out ahead financially. The kids didn't suffer from "unsuitable" instruments either...

But it also took a lot more time, on my part, to find suitable material.

 

Edited by Rue
Can't spell...

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43 minutes ago, Rue said:

You may call me "Master", sounds less frilly. B)

I had three kids in school music programs. Between them and me I've bought/sold/gave away/traded/kept a number of instruments ...

Teachers generally - but not always - give appropriate advice. The prevailing advice we, as parents, were given, didn't make sence to me so I did my own thing and came out ahead financially. The kids didn't suffer from "unsuitable" instruments either...

But it also took a lot more time, on my part, to find suitable material.

 

The advice I give to my kids is to rent while you learn about instruments, and then when you buy an instrument, shop carefully, buy wisely, get something that you can sell easily later on. I’ve never in my life seen a $300 retail violin that was not firewood, although I have seen some That were lucky fines at the state sales or such, and reasonable retail ones can be found for $800 or 1000.

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3 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

The advice I give to my kids is to rent while you learn about instruments, and then when you buy an instrument, shop carefully, buy wisely, get something that you can sell easily later on. I’ve never in my life seen a $300 retail violin that was not firewood, although I have seen some That were lucky fines at the state sales or such, and reasonable retail ones can be found for $800 or 1000.

Okay. Good advice. BUT...

What if that's still unaffordable? Should the child not bother? Quit?

What if there's no place to rent from?

What if it's the $300 cello, or nothing?

 

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30 minutes ago, Rue said:

Okay. Good advice. BUT...

What if that's still unaffordable? Should the child not bother? Quit?

What if there's no place to rent from?

What if it's the $300 cello, or nothing?

 

Generally in my area, the rent instruments are quite good. So in your situation I would tell the kid to keep renting until he can afford. Your hypothetical is actually pretty unlikely, though, because the system is set up so that kids who cannot afford to purchase can continue to rent. And if they don’t care about having an instrument at home, they needn’t rent at all. I have had more than a few students go all the way through high school and never buy an instrument. They paid the 50 bucks a month from sixth grade through 12th, which I opposed, but it’s their choice.

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I think you might be underestimating the number of kids in a scenario along the lines of what I've suggested.

Kids in rural areas won't have access to a music store. Parents might not be willing to drive 2-3 hours (or more) to a larger center.

Parents might entertain keeping a kid in an extracurricular activity (that they aren't interested in) that is easy (and free or cheap) for them to manage, but NOT in one that promises to be a PITA.

I can use myself as an example. But I still see it happening all the time...

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6 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Anyone who says you can buy a worthwhile cello for two to $300 is at best Ill-informed. I don’t care about his background. You can certainly get a worthwhile instrument for 2-3 THOUSAND dollars but not 2-3 hundred.

What I was saying indirectly is that I did not see him saying what OP said he did.

To be fair though, I watched only part of the video, but in first half I saw only said that a good beginner cello costs around 2000-5000 USD. Nowhere did I see him recommend to buy a budget cello for 299 USD, let alone a cello sight unseen online. He begins the video saying you should visit a shop, choose some you like, and try them out with your teacher at the next lesson. He even recommends Wayne Burak for people in Texas.

I did not want to watch the whole video so maybe OP is correct, but I had a hard time believing when I saw who it was that he would make such advice.

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

I think you might be underestimating the number of kids in a scenario along the lines of what I've suggested.

Kids in rural areas won't have access to a music store. Parents might not be willing to drive 2-3 hours (or more) to a larger center.

Parents might entertain keeping a kid in an extracurricular activity (that they aren't interested in) that is easy (and free or cheap) for them to manage, but NOT in one that promises to be a PITA.

I can use myself as an example. But I still see it happening all the time...

Depending on your country, you can rent online decent Chinese or Romanian cellos that have been set up by in-house luthiers. They will ship it to you. 

Also, depending on the shop, some shops offer a percentage back on upgrades. If one is lucky, there is the full trade-in. 

Some shops offer a rent-to-buy scheme as well, or a discount for purchasing the rental after a period of time. 

Carbon-fibre bows are probably a better option, from both a school orchestra safety point of view and quality given the price point compared to a pernambuco bow.

People often scour the internet for how to purchase a cello affordable to their budget, rather than how can they acquire a good instrument suitable for learners within their financial means. These are two different questions, and often answers to the latter fall on deaf ears when the person is looking for answers to the former. 

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2 hours ago, Marie_ said:

What I was saying indirectly is that I did not see him saying what OP said he did.

To be fair though, I watched only part of the video, but in first half I saw only said that a good beginner cello costs around 2000-5000 USD. Nowhere did I see him recommend to buy a budget cello for 299 USD, let alone a cello sight unseen online. He begins the video saying you should visit a shop, choose some you like, and try them out with your teacher at the next lesson. He even recommends Wayne Burak for people in Texas.

I did not want to watch the whole video so maybe OP is correct, but I had a hard time believing when I saw who it was that he would make such advice.

You can get a quite good cello for between two and $5000. Finding a good quality used instrument in that range is one of my favorite things to do.

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13 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

You can get a quite good cello for between two and $5000. Finding a good quality used instrument in that range is one of my favorite things to do.

I agree. I play with bows from contemporary makers that were more expensive than my either of my two cellos. In particular, my full-size was quite a lucky find. Cellists with their lovely pedigreed and certified antique Italian and French cellos or new ones built by famous makers remark how the tone on that one is pretty/bass is particularly excellent/how it is unusually loud and are really surprised by the price. 

Carter Brey used to play on "Brey's Box", which also was a Schönbach cello purchased for 500 USD back in the 70s or 80s, until he landed his NYPhil job. 

BTW, the guy in the video that OP linked even says in the video that his main performance cello is a Chinese Jay Haide right now.

I would love, of course, to have the resources to purchase a more expensive cello (new made with different wood for the backs) or have a collection. Some day! Saving up the money until then. It is a terrible habit/addiction, as you very likely understand :)

 

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I totally agree about Jay Haide cellos: for the money they are the best you can get.

im interested in your bows? Mind sharing who made them? Cello too, for that matter.

”Inquiring minds” and all that.

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On 2/4/2020 at 3:34 PM, PhilipKT said:

I totally agree about Jay Haide cellos: for the money they are the best you can get.

im interested in your bows? Mind sharing who made them? Cello too, for that matter.

”Inquiring minds” and all that.

Editing bc I shouldn't derail OP's thread

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The local rent places all have excellent instruments to offer. The worst have at least carved tops, but most are solid wood, and a few  are worthwhile purchase instruments.

I don’t like carbon bows though. Regardless of the price point, they just don’t feel like wood, and because the bow is more important than the instrument, i want to start them off with wood, so they start learning discernment right away.

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On 2/3/2020 at 6:40 PM, PhilipKT said:

You can get a quite good cello for between two and $5000. Finding a good quality used instrument in that range is one of my favorite things to do.

You can get one for a few hundred if you know what you're doing.  :P

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10 hours ago, David Beard said:

I think string dealers should promote rentals of better instruments to beginners if they can find out if the beginner is taking private, regular lessons, particularly if adults. Maybe you already do that though. Here, I see some really dreadful rentals.

Anecdotally about better instruments for beginners, I heard someone play a rental cello from Pierre Mastrangelo in Lausanne, Switzerland a decade ago. It was from the 1960s made by another Swiss luthier. I was amazed this was a rental, and the resonance seemed to help quite a bit with learning intonation particularly and proper bow technique/feedback. FWIW.

Rentals do not need to be so fine, but if you start off eating McDonald thinking this is what is a hamburger let alone beef should taste, it is a much harder transition to a steak or any other simple yet good, responsibly produced food with actual taste. 

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