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What does the phrase "nice [instrument]" actually mean?


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I bought an old cello recently and took it to my luthier for a couple of repairs and a setup. When I laid it on the counter, he glanced at it and said "nice cello". This was before he had a chance to examine it closely or see the probably-spurious Juzek Master Art label. A couple of minutes later, a colleague walked up, took a look and said, "nice cello". 

I'm sure I should be grateful they didn't say "crap cello", although this seems like something they might think, but not say aloud. But what does "nice cello" mean? Nice-looking cello? If so, I agree. Or do they think that they can discern something about the overall quality of the piece with such a quick look? Or were they just being nice? Just curious.

 

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[Glances at cello, instantly notes corners, scroll, f-holes, 2-piece lower rib, solid wood top, lack of open cracks, and obvious cello geek holding it.]    "Don't I know you from Maestronet?  Oooooh, nice rubbish!"  :ph34r:  :lol:

Probably a bit of both.  :)

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  • Royce J. changed the title to What does the phrase "nice [instrument]" actually mean?

After having one of my violins worked on, the shop manager looked at me and said of my early 20th century French workshop violin,   "very nice fiddle,  don't ever sell it "  I hoped that meant that it was a great value for what it was rather than its so bad it would be best to keep it with a mediocre player like you...

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I say that a lot. Partly to be polite. After all, most factory instruments these days are “pretty.”

But when my luthier Looks at a bow that I have brought him and he says, “nice bow,” He means that it displays some thing beyond mere modern flash.

I have even asked him what he means by the term, and he speaks of workmanship, good quality wood(and he has attempted to show me what good wood looks like, with middling success) but eventually he shrugged his shoulders and just says, “after a while you can tell.“

The Juzek Master Arts Might be the most successful marketing device in the history of factory instruments, but the fact remains that they are fine instruments even if I’ve seen at least one that had fake corner blocks, ha ha. So yes I would call that a nice cello, so if that’s what you have, congrats. Please share photographs.

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Thanks for the replies. I think they were being sincere. I'm sure my luthier is pushing 80, if not dragging it behind him... :P He's seen a lot of cellos over the decades and probably knows a well-crafted instrument when he sees one. Every time I see him he mentions all the awful Ebay, etc. instruments that folks bring him, and how he has to tell them that they're not even worth working on. 

I have the cello home now, and I think it sounds great, better than my 10-year old Chinese cello which I've always thought sounded quite good. I've tried to post pictures without success (I think Maestronet is having some issues around that). Eventually I should be able to post some.

 

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On 7/6/2021 at 6:17 AM, GeorgeH said:

What do you think he/she meant?

I actually think he liked the violin,  I think there is good respect for the basic french workshop violin in my area.  It's nothing special, but would be hard to replace.   I play OK, they handed me a Bergonzi and a Peccate while I was getting some work done...  

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My first attempt to post photos, I hope these are OK. In person, on the back the dark areas are much redder, and the light areas yellow/orange. Here they just look brown to me. The top is more brown. 

 

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An intermediate to advanced student could (Along with a nice graphite bow) have years of fun with that.  I bet your luthier recognized that.  Its the appropriate tool for the job.

 

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2 hours ago, Royce J. said:

My first attempt to post photos, I hope these are OK. In person, on the back the dark areas are much redder, and the light areas yellow/orange. Here they just look brown to me. The top is more brown. 

 

Yup, exactly what I expected, a good antique Markie cello.  Excellent, top grade rubbish.  Very nice cello.   How does it sound?  :)

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

Yup, exactly what I expected, a good antique Markie cello.  Excellent, top grade rubbish.  Very nice cello.   How does it sound?  :)

It sounds wonderful, thank you! My other cello is an unlabeled Chinese that I bought secondhand but virtually unused ten years ago. It has some gorgeous wood and quite a lovely tone, but next to this one sounds a little thin.

This one is just richer and fuller sounding. There's just more there there (steal from the best, I always say). Definitely a keeper. I'll never be as good as it is. 

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It looks like a lovely cello, but it does not look like a Juzek. Now mind you, that means nothing, because Juzeks were just nice factory insurance that were extremely well marketed.

Get a nice bow, that is real wood, and not one of those ghastly carbon fiber things.

Actually you should probably be able to find a contemporary German bow, well-made and Silver Mounted, for not much money that would be a lovely match for your cello. 

Edited by PhilipKT
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2 hours ago, Rue said:

FWIW, several cellists in our symphony orchestra were using the Incredibow for a while.

These are awesome cellists...so the bow must have some merit.

Next time I go to a concert, if I remember, I'll see if anyone is still using them.

https://www.incredibow.com/product/incredibow-cello/

I doubt any luthier ever called it a "nice" bow. I should definitely get one for my "chairlo" (built around a chair leg).

 

PICT9050r.jpg

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One thing for sure, you will not get a feigning "nice cello" comment in the Maestronet forums.  Most members are brutally honest, which btw I respect!

Personally, I am brutally honest when it comes to instruments and bows.  I won't be an ass and tell a colleague, friend, student that their instrument or bow is crap, but I will tell them whether its something that I would play and use.  

A luthier may or may not come from a different perspective. Most luthiers I know do relatively well (financially) and its not in their best interest to feign praise.  On the other hand, I would not blame a luthier or shop if they feigned praise in order to continue to get business.  

Take my advice, next time someone says "nice cello," take pride and simmer a bit in those good feelings.  Then, brush it off and move on.  Dwelling on the comment and possible negative connotations will lead to insanity.  

And btw, when I say an instrument is nice, its based first upon initial looks, then sound, then playability.  If someone said nice cello without touching, playing, or hearing it, its based upon aesthetics and you should smile.

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  • 2 weeks later...
13 hours ago, KevinLew said:

I just posted pics of mine and got no comments.  Is it not nice?

...I  guess it also depends exactly how one says "nice".

Nice.

Nice!!!

Niiiiiiicccceeee!

^_^

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Instruments which are truly nice can usually pull at least one or two compliments. The confounding factor is that instruments which are not so nice can have about the same rate of approval. So ya got to take a close look at the knowledge-base of those who approve and disapprove, to derive anything meaningful

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