How to Buy a Cello: A Comprehensive Guide

When buying a cello, it is essential to consider the best fit for you. Cellos come in different sizes, and each person is the other. You also need to think about the sound of the cello and what kind of strings it has. There are many different brands of cellos, and each one sounds slightly different. You need to decide which brand is right for you.

Should I Even Buy a Cello?

The first question you need to ask yourself when you are thinking about buying a cello is whether it is the right thing for you. So that you should make an informed decision, our “Should I Rent or Buy a Cello?” guide is provided. A summary of the costs connected with renting and purchasing cellos.

Another question you might ask yourself is if the cello is the right instrument for you. It is an important question because the cello is an expensive purchase.

Different Levels

There are different types of cellos for players at varying levels of their learning journey. Many students start by renting cellos to practice until they are ready to own one. Cellos can be divided into three categories:

  • Student Cellos: Beginner cello students are constantly working on the basics of playing, such as tone production, fingering, and bowing. To make it easier for these students, maple (dyed black to look like ebony) is sometimes used for the pegs and fingerboards. This material is more resistant to wear and tear. Student cellos are mostly machine-made so that the tone remains consistent. They are pretty affordable, ranging from $200 to $2,500.
  • Intermediate to Advanced Cellos: An intermediate cello has better sound than a beginner’s cello. There are more dynamics, and the projection is stronger. The fingerboards and pegs are fashioned from ebony. Most of the instrument is handcrafted. Prices range from $500 – $10,000.
  • Professional Cellos: Cellos made with high-quality wood and crafted very well have a rich tone and can play very loudly or softly, depending on what is needed. These cellos are often considered masterpieces and can cost anywhere from $10,000 to even more.

Usually, the quality of a cello is related to how much it costs. Cellos that cost less than a few hundred dollars are often not very playable. In contrast, the more expensive ones usually sound better. There are exceptions, and sometimes a cello’s price depends on the maker’s reputation.

How to Choose the Right Cello

Ask Your Teacher

The best way to learn what type of cello you should get is to talk to your music teacher. Music teachers know their students better than anyone else and can recommend the best kind of cello for you. They have a lot of experience and can give you good advice.

Test Cellos

The second piece of advice is to go to a violin shop and try their cellos. Cellos are not as famous as violins, so you might not have a lot of choices when it comes to brands. Make sure you read our guide on the best cello brands before knowing what to look for.

The selection of instruments at general music shops is usually not very good. However, the choice will be much better at a good violin shop. Make sure to try out any instrument you are considering buying before purchasing it, especially if you are buying it online. You need to test the instrument’s size, projection, and resonance to see if it is right for you.

Here are other factors for consideration:

  • The size of the cello influences its sound. Cellos come in a variety of sizes, 1/16 to 4/4. The bigger the cello, the more tone it produces; the cellist will sound more mature.
  • The height of the ribs and the circumference of the upper bout. The neck and the string or scale length contribute to the instrument’s size and playability. Comfort is more crucial than size because if a cellist feels uncomfortable while playing, she will not perform effectively.
  • Four things affect the sound of a cello: responsiveness, resonance, tone, and projection. A cello’s sound is mellow and darker. In an orchestra, the cellist must ensure she can be heard above the other instruments. That is why projection is essential. All these sound elements will affect a player’s performance, which is why choosing a cello in person rather than over the Internet, or investing in a higher quality cello, is necessary.
  • On the other hand, having a solid C string is nice, but don’t forget about the other strings. Make sure that there is consistency in sound quality across all four strings. It also appears that shorter strings are more comfortable to play on. However, longer ones may provide a more powerful sound. It depends on what the gamer values the most.
  • The performance of the bow can be affected by its quality and weight. Make sure to test out different bows before buying one to find the best one for you.

To evaluate the cellos, test them by playing scales and different passages (both fast and slow ones). Check the tone of other cellos. Which one sounds best? Is it simple to navigate the fingerboard? Ask someone else to play the cello while you listen from the room. Does the sound project well?

Quality of the Material

The quality of the cello’s material affects both its sound and price. Cheaper woods from America and China usually have a brighter sound. In contrast, the warmer and sweeter tones of more-expensive European woods are preferred by many. The “flame,” or as some say, “tiger stripe,” on the back, sides, and scroll of the cello affects its price more than the top spruce grain.

Many people want a cello with a lot of “flame” because it looks beautiful and makes a better sound than cellos without much flame. A well-made cello will have the center crease on the back hidden by the flame. It is one way to identify quality workmanship quickly.

Where to Buy a Cello

You don’t need to buy an expensive cello. Many good-quality instruments are less expensive. The most important thing is to buy from a store with a good return policy that lets you try out their instruments. You can also ask a teacher for recommendations. If you don’t have other options, you can try buying from second-hand stores, luthiers, or online retailers like Amazon or eBay.

Should You Rent or Buy a Cello?

Suppose you’re shopping for a student cello. In that case, you’ll undoubtedly be drawn to renting one rather than buying one with a long-term commitment. You’d have to worry about reselling if the kid doesn’t continue playing. However, there are several compelling reasons why purchasing a cello over renting is often a better option:

  • Renting a cello can be expensive. If you rent a cello for $30 a month, you will spend $360 in one year. About $200 may get a brand-new or gently used cello. If the music shop offers rental credits, you might be able to use them to buy the cello at the end of the contract. But it is usually cheaper to buy the cello outright.
  • If you want to trade in your cello for a bigger or better one, many music shops will give you a discount on the new cello if you trade in the old one.
  • A good beginner’s instrument that is cared for well will usually keep its value. You can trade it in for a better quality instrument later.
  • Some cellos are better quality and may be worth more money over time. It is because their sound gets better as they age.
  • When renting an instrument, it may not be in optimal condition. It may have some scratches or nicks on it. The strings and bow might also be used. And if the instrument sustains any damage, you are responsible for repairing it.

What Else Do I Need?

If you buy a cello, you will need some accessories too. Check out our Buying a Cello Checklist guide for a complete list.

  • Case: To store your cello, you need a strong case that can protect the instrument. You’ll need an even stronger case if the cello is for a student. Most beginner cello outfits come with a soft case. Still, if you want extra protection, Amazon has some great hard cello cases.
  • Rosin: Rosin is applied to your bow and used to create friction between your bow and cello. This friction is necessary for your cello to make any sound.
  • Bow: To get the best sound from your cello, it is essential to use the right bow. You should choose a bow that sounds good and is also affordable. Our guide can help you find the perfect bow for your needs.
  • Rock Stop: If you want to, you can use the rock stop to keep your cello from slipping.
  • Extra Strings: Cello strings sometimes break. It’s a good idea to keep an extra pair of strings in your case just in case. You can read our review of the best cello strings to find the right ones for you.

Protecting Your Investment

Once you’ve chosen the cello you want, it’s essential to protect it from loss, damage, and theft. Replacing a cello can be very expensive, so it’s necessary to have insurance for your instrument. You can learn more about buying insurance for your cello by reading our guide.


  • Frequent Misconceptions
  • How to Play the Cello
  • Important Cello Information
  • Myth 1: “If I Can Afford It, I Should Purchase a New Cello; I Do Not Want a Used Instrument.”

    The truth is that you do not require a new cello.

    Cellos that are a few decades old and have been well-maintained would likely sound better and be more accessible to play than brand-new instruments.

    Consider purchasing a brand-new baseball glove with firm, uncreased leather versus attempting the same glove after two weeks of a proper break-in.

    Over time, the wood and varnish of a cello will alter to improve its reverberation and tone. It is a break-in time, and we will state that the instrument is beginning to “open up” because the shift can be heard.

    Intriguingly, a cello that hasn’t been played in a long time might “go asleep” and must be “re-awakened” by constant playing over days to weeks.

    Keep in mind that the wood of your instrument is an organic substance that will change (for the better) with usage and care.

    Since instruments retain their value, it is worthwhile to test out a pre-owned cello of a lesser-known brand. The price may be comparable to that of a brand-new instrument. Still, the older instrument may already be in tune if it is in good shape without excessive wear or damage.

    Myth 2: “I Should Purchase the Most Costly Cello I Can Afford.”

    The truth is that a more costly cello is not necessarily a better option for you.

    Numerous elements influence the price of a cello.

    Once the price exceeds $10,000, some characteristics include the specific manufacturer, the year of manufacture, and the country of origin.

    It is a beginner’s guide, so let’s focus on cellos priced up to $8000. Typically, a given brand will offer cellos at several pricing points.

    The higher-priced cellos will have better materials. (bottom laminate, top aged spruce, and maple) don’t replicate famous creator(s) (The one at the bottom was made in a workshop by a dozen apprentices, and the one at the top was made by a single skilled craftsman).

    It is worthwhile to test everything in a store’s price range because you never know.

    Making instruments is an art, not a science, and the outcomes can vary.

    In addition, if a more expensive cello has a fantastic sound. But it is difficult for you to play (the size is too large; if the string tension is too excessively high or too low, you’ll have to choose between two bad options.

    Myth 3: “A Chinese Cello Cannot Be As Excellent.”

    In actuality, there is nothing wrong with a Chinese cello.

    From what I understand, China entered the cello manufacturing industry relatively late, quality control was poor for a long time, and there was a lot to be desired.

    Despite this, I’ve noticed that many Chinese student cellos I’ve tested recently sound fantastic.

    I would approach the shop owner (preferably also a maker/restorer/string instrument expert) and inquire about the cello issue, focusing on the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship.

    A true expert can reveal a staggering amount of vital information by merely glancing at an instrument. If you are concerned that the shop owner is not knowledgeable (maybe string instruments make up a small portion of the store’s inventory), attempt to bring a friend.

    It may be your instructor or a friend who has played professionally for years.

    Make friends with a professional player known to own various instruments and bows. They may be an excellent source of information. People who collect typically know what to seek, where to look, and what the current market values should be for various instrument levels.

    How to Try a Cello Before Buying


    A great bow borrowed from a friend might make a subpar cello sound and feel perfect. It is remarkable how drastically a bow can alter the sound and feel of a cello.


    Try out cellos with a composition that is technically easy to play if you are a first-time buyer. Suppose you’re having trouble playing the piece itself. In that case, it adds to the confusion surrounding the cello, which is what you’re attempting to evaluate.

    Here Are the Samples While Evaluating Instruments:

    First, do a few full bow strokes on open strings to determine the string tension and whether the instrument prefers a light or heavy bow stroke.

    Then I would perform a three-octave C major scale and the beginning of the Brahms sonata in E minor. Brahms is a magnificent work of lyricism. Still, it also crosses a broad spectrum of instruments in a short period (as does the scale). It helps me determine if the strings are well-balanced or if some strings are disproportionately prominent.

    I might then play a Bach piece to hear how the instrument sounds with lighter, baroque-inspired bow strokes that produce a softer, rounder, woodier sound.

    I might then attempt the beginning of a showpiece or concerto that tests the instrument’s tone and volume when I’m sinking into the string and trying to produce more projection.

    The entire examination might last up to 90 seconds, sufficient time for me to pick up and play additional cellos while maintaining distinct impressions of those I have already tried.

    To Summarize:

    • Perform the same compositions in the same order. Do not select pieces that are challenging for you to play.
    • Utilize the same bow for each cello. Employ your bow (if you already have one). You should not introduce a new variable!

    Cello Specifics: When I physically pick up a new cello, there are a few characteristics to observe visually.

    • The first has to do with the condition of the instrument.
    • Carefully inspect the cello for any visible fissures in the wood. Cracks in certain regions (where the bass bar or sound post is located, for example) might impact the instrument’s value if they are not fixed properly.
    • Essentially, know if the wood has any fractures or other defects.
    • Search for signs of woodworm damage, particularly on older instruments. It is a problem I encountered with a previous cello that I never want to experience again. Woodworm damage has a devastating effect on a cello’s health and stability and is a huge red signal.
    • Inspect the instrument’s color and lacquer on a superficial level.

    Although you wouldn’t mind playing on a physically unappealing instrument with a lovely sound, Examine the varnish to determine whether the builder used a soft varnish or one that dries hard and glossy.

    The Cello’s Size and Shape Are the Second Characteristics.

    To a first-time buyer, my first worry would be ensuring that the instrument is neither too huge nor too small.

    A player with small or average-sized hands may find a cello that is too large and physically demanding. A cello that is too little, while simple to play, may lack power, which can be problematic when the projection is required.

    Nevertheless, if you find a cello that is a dream to play and sounds fantastic but is of an odd size, you may wish to purchase it if it appears to be the best option.

    Different cellos require varying types of optimal setups. Therefore I’m not partial to any bridge type. If I like a cello but find it either a little too bright or a little too weak, a new bridge may be a simple solution to adjust the instrument’s tone to my liking.


    When you are buying a cello, make sure that you like it. Don’t buy it if it doesn’t sound right or feel comfortable. You will spend much time with the cello, so you must be comfortable with it. The cello chooses the player, just like in Harry Potter.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Cello

    Is It Worth It to Buy a Cello?

    Buying a cello is different than buying a car. A car loses value once you purchase it, but a well-built cello can last centuries. You can also try out a lower-level brand name cello, even if it’s not new.

    How Much Should I Spend on My First Cello?

    The price range for carved, high-quality cellos is between $1,200 and $2,500. Less costly laminated cellos cost approximately $500. As students grow as musicians, they will find it more rewarding to play the cello, which has better tonal quality.

    Is Cello Hard to Learn?

    At this pricing level, cellos must be hand-finished. It is not an instrument that will give you instant gratification like percussion. If you want to teach yourself cello, you need to be prepared for a lot of hard work.

    Why Is Cello So Expensive?

    Cellos are handmade, and they take a few months to make. It means that it takes a lot of manpower to make a cello. Cellos also have some particular parts that are made from relatively rare materials.

    Is Cello Easier Than Violin?

    Which instrument is more difficult to play: the violin or the cello? People who have tried both instruments say that the cello is less complicated because it is in a more natural position. The position of the violin can feel awkward at first, but advanced violinists insist that it becomes natural over time.

    How Much Is a Full-Size Cello?

    Cellos that cost this much should be made by hand. The instrument will have more delicate detailing and be more refined overall. You’ll need to consider the grain of the timber when making your choice. The grain should be very even across the top plate of the instrument.

    Can You Learn Cello on Your Own?

    It is possible to teach yourself how to play the cello, but it will require a lot of practice and dedication. You can improve your skills by watching videos of lessons and players, studying sheet music, and just putting in the time.

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