A Girl and Her Cello

qBteOyMhSZSwi0swMbDJJADC has been playing the cello since September, having picked it as her instrument of choice at the beginning of the school year. We had told her at the time that she could go with whatever instrument she wanted. (I didn’t even mention that we already had a violin just her size that Tomas had outgrown.) She went with cello because she liked the sound, and so I was all for it.

Of course, bigger instruments come with their own set of problems. For DC, that included lugging the thing around. We weren’t sure if she’d want to stick with the cello, since it can be bulky. They’re also more money to rent ($33/month) and lots more money to buy compared to violins. But I believe you get drawn to instruments, and who am I to stand in the way of that happening?

So the cello it was. And she’s enjoyed playing it so far. She practices happily and hasn’t minded the bulk. $33/months racks up quickly, however, so if this were something she was going to stick with, I wanted to stop renting and start buying. (We’d already paid $160 in rental fees, so every month we waited, the total cost of a cello was just getting bigger.) The thing we had to wait for was her to reach a size where she could play a 4/4 cello, and for her to have played it long enough that she decided she wanted to stick with it.

Well, she grows like a weed, and so her teacher just gave her the green light for a full size, and she thought about it at length and decided to commit to cello as The Instrument, so I went into research mode to figure out which cello we should get her.

Here’s the thing. All the advice I was reading online said you should try an individual cello out to figure out exactly which one you wanted. We live a long way from stores where you can just waltz in and buy a cello that way. And the stores closest enough to do that charge a fair bit more than the stores where you can purchase cellos online. I personally don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference between a good cello and a bad cello of the same make and model. I’d be able to tell the difference between a cheap one and a more expensive one. A laminate one, for example. But the thought of going to a store and pretending like I had any clue what we were talking about, and then spending more money just to say I’d done it . . . didn’t appeal to me.

We had bought Tomas’s violins at Shar Music, and we’ve had a very good experience with them, so I was inclined to stick with them for this purchase. They even have a nice upgrade program, should you ever decide you want a nicer instrument.

Of course, even knowing where I wanted to buy, there were things to decide. Which model to get? Even ignoring the laminate models, prices ranged from $700 all the way up to more than $10,000. I knew I didn’t want to buy the $10,000 one, but I also knew we only wanted to buy one cello. So how nice was nice enough?

The description of each cello left much to be desired. They were fairly interchangeable, I thought. Some were made in China, some were made in Romania. Different adjectives got bandied around, and different back stories. But I wanted a definitive answer, and I just couldn’t get one. In the end, I went by price, buying an instrument a few steps up from the cheapest non-laminate. One that said (in theory) it could be used by intermediate players as well. Fine.

Shar lets you get a package deal, complete with case and bow and rosin. But I researched the case they sold you and the bow. They were cheap models. If I’m going to pay a bunch for a cello, why skimp on the case? So I got the bow and case on Amazon, choosing well reviewed models.

If we were to have stuck with renting her cello for her whole school career, it would have cost $3,500. We paid less than half of that and got a nicer instrument and case, and she gets to keep it once she graduates. Playing the long game, we just saved a good chunk of change.

Did I get the best cello for DC? I’m not honestly sure. But I made a decision, and we all (DC, Denisa, and I) felt good about it, and so we’re going with that. DC has been ecstatic to get her new instrument, and that’s made me very happy. Sometimes research projects are like that. You do your best, and you make a call in the end that you hope is the right one. At that point, my experience has been to leave well enough alone and just be happy.


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