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Originally Posted On: Intermediate’s Guide to Buying a Cello – Dolce Violins
It happened: you’ve been practicing faithfully, the squeaky sound is gone, and finally, your teacher pauses in class. “Your sound is coming along,” they say. “I think it’s time to get a real instrument.”
How to buy a cello that is right for you
Beginner students play entry-level cellos to build their skills, as well as to keep playing costs down until they decide whether they want to continue playing. But when the time comes to upgrade to an intermediate cello, how do you know which instrument to choose?
This guide will help you identify instruments in the intermediate range and explain what to look for. With these tips for buying a cello, you will be confident in choosing and purchasing your new instrument.
What is an Intermediate Cello?
Cellos come in a range of qualities that suit all levels of musicianship. After a student has been playing for about a year, their skills and commitment may have outgrown an entry-level instrument. Both financially and musically, purchasing an intermediate cello is the best choice.
An intermediate quality instrument allows the player to develop their ear, fine-tune their bowing, and build their musicality, all without the investment of a professional cello. Quality intermediate cellos need to be selected with care. Finding the right cello will keep you from getting stuck with a low-quality instrument that may inhibit your musicianship or overpaying for a professional instrument.
Here’s how to tell the difference between the tiers and identify intermediate-range cellos.
Entry Level Instruments
A beginner instrument:
- Has less expensive steel strings
- Is often machine carved with wood that is not aged less than 10 years
- Often comes with a beginner-quality Brazilwood bow
- Is finished with synthetic lacquer instead of an oil varnish
- Has a price that reflects its quality: below $1500 and in some cases, below $800
- Is playable but may lack the richness of sound that higher-quality instruments offer
With more careful construction than entry-level instruments, intermediate cellos:
- Are hand-carved from aged wood
- Come with a higher-quality, synthetic core, European-made strings
- Are made by experienced luthiers with knowledge of plate tuning for optimal tone
- Are finished with the hand-rubbed spirit or oil varnish
- Are usually priced between $2,400 and $6,000, although some may cost up to $10,000
Professional cello players often play antique instruments that deliver the richest, most finely-nuanced sound. A non-professional may have difficulty telling these instruments apart from their intermediate counterparts however, their price is a giveaway: a professional cello will cost over $10,000.
Choosing Your Cello
Now that you have identified which cellos are in your range, it’s time to choose the perfect instrument for you. As an intermediate player, you are developing your personal playing style, and finding the instrument to match it can take time.
At Dolce Violins, we carry a wide range of cellos from a number of the best brands, all of them hand-picked by our staff for sound quality. If you’re looking at buying a cello in the intermediate price range, have a look at a selection of the Dolce Violins intermediate cellos below:
MASTER LINN CELLO – $3,850
With an elegant design that evokes the ateliers of the 18th and 19th centuries, this cello provides a superior sound quality for an intermediate-level price. Maple Leaf Strings is one of the best brands available to marry modern techniques with traditional craftsmanship. This cello boasts excellent spruce and maple tonewood, an ebony fingerboard, fittings, and purfling, and a Wittner Ultra tailpiece.
ALBERT NEBEL CELLO 4/4 SIZE – $3,932
This full-size cello, made by the Eastman strings workshop in the German style, carries a warm, rich sound throughout its entire range. Its dark voice introduces intermediate players to the nuanced tone quality of a professional cello for a fraction of the price.
IVAN DUNOV CELLO – MODEL 401 – $4,190
Another Eastman Strings classic, this affordable cello is handmade in Romania, using seasoned, aged Carpthian tonewood, before being varnished in Eastman’s workshops. Dolce Violins takes this craftsmanship one step further. Once we receive an instrument, our San Rafael workshop refines it, and owner and professional cellist Moses Sedler test play each cello before adding it to the catalog. Only the best instruments make the cut!
Eastman strings makes most of the intermediate cellos in our catalogue, and the Rudoulf Doetsch cellos our one of our favorites.
The tops and backs are carefully tuned and graduated and the bass is expertly fitted to maximize the instruments clarity and projection of tone. The Doetsch signature antique-style spirit varnish of reddish brown over a golden ground is applied by hand giving these cellos a beautiful antique Italian look, yet in an affordable price.
JEAN PIERRE LUPOT MODEL 501 – $4,279
One of our favorite intermediate cellos, the Jean Pierre Lupot Model 501 from Eastman Strings is made on the Stradivari pattern. Its unique crimson, antique-style varnish, combined with its well-seasoned spruced top and flamed maple back, give it the look and feel of a professional-level instrument. This cello also features Ebony pegs and a Wittner ultra tailpiece. Dolce Violins finishes each Jean Pierre Lupot cello with strings specifically selected for the instrument by our owner.
A BOHEMIAN CELLO CIRCA 1910 – $5,500
For the truly talented and dedicated intermediate cellist, an antique cello may be in order! This Bohemian cello provides historical quality without breaking the bank. Its sweet, lovely voice sings from a rich bass in the lower range to a rounded, vibrant soprano at the top.
Among cellos, there are seemingly endless variations in construction details and sound. The way the individual instrument is finished, called its setup, includes the strings, bridge, soundpost, nut, fingerboard, and more — everything that creates the final tonal expression and playability. Here are the key variations to be aware of so that you can choose and adjust your perfect instrument:
At Dolce Violins, we use only the highest quality, most popular strings on our intermediate cellos. Each instrument responds differently to the tension and materials of the different string brands, so we play-test every cello to make sure the strings we select work well. The strings most often used on our cellos are Thomastik Versum, Pirastro Perpetual, Larsen, Magnacore, and Evah Pirazzi Gold.
In string playing, there are three major variables for sound production: the player, the instrument, and the bow. When you are trying a new instrument, don’t forget that a different bow will also alter your sound. At first, we suggest using a bow you are familiar with, but then you should try several new bows to make sure your cello and bow match well together. Buying a cello bow is a process in itself.
Find Your Luthier
Where to buy your cello: online or in-store?
With the wealth of high-quality online options, buying a cello online might be the right option for many. However, finding a violin shop with an expert luthier (a maker of stringed instruments) on staff can make all the difference when you are choosing and starting with a new instrument.
Your cello luthier can help you make small adjustments, such as changes to the string heights at the bridge and the nut to make the cello feel easier to play. By adjusting the soundpost, the luthier can alter the tone in subtle but noticeable ways.
Whether you buy online or in-store, find a violin shop or repair studio near you to help you get the most out of your instrument.
Buying a Cello
As a new cellist, there are lots to learn, but purchasing your intermediate cello is a milestone to be proud of. With this guide, you will be able to explore your options to find the right instrument for you.
Dolce Fine Violins offers modern and antique string instruments in the full range of student to professional quality. With free shipping and returns in the US, you can be confident in your new instrument. Contact them today to talk to an expert and find the perfect cello for you.