Cello Shopping: Round One

I test drove three cellos at Olsen Violins over the weekend, which turns out to be one of the most delightful strings stores in the area. I’ve been in and out of a few on the endless CC saga and I wish I had come here sooner. We talked a little bit about what I had, where I was at and what I was looking for, then I was set up in a private room with three lovely cellos and a bow. Two cellos were European and one Chinese.

I confess, surrounded by over ten grand worth of instruments, I was a little overwhelmed. I sat on my chair for the first few minutes, pretty much afraid to breathe lest I knock something over. Who in his right mind would let me goof off with three beautiful cellos? (There is something oddly reassuring about knowing your instrument is the “internet special” – it definitely eliminates the that comes with playing something worth as much as my car)

Anyway, I picked one – the prettiest one of course – and then sat there for a minute. My mind went absolutely blank of music inspire of the fact that I have three of my orchestra pieces and a handful of Suzuki songs pretty much memorized and. Sound familiar?

I am so going to have to get over this performance anxiety thing.

Which is why it’s good TBF is there to prod me (and take pictures, apparently) and provide feedback. All in all it was a good experience – an auspicious start to my cello search. It was interesting to see how different three cellos can be played back to back.

The first one I promptly re-dubbed “Handsome” instead of “pretty” after the first scale and discovered this sonorous, almost masculine tone. It was dark and rich but kind of like 91% chocolate – it was almost too rich. TBF confirmed my feeling with the apt statement, “it sounds like an old man.”

Number two was dubbed “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” because we both had the same reaction to the garish varnish job – blech! Of course then I felt guilty so I played with it extra long to make sure I wasn’t just dismissing it because of looks. It was lighter sounding than Handsome but still not quite me. To be quite honst, I just couldn’t get past the varnish – damn thing looked like fresh meat – and in the end, if that much money is going to be spent, I should probably like the look of the cello.

Inspired by Goldilocks I called number three “just right.” I loved the finish, not quite as much as Handsome but it was even and not bloody looking. When played it had airy yet full sound that made TBF look up from doodling on his phone and nod appreciatively. Of the three, it was the closest to what I would want my “cello voice” to sound like. Just Right was a Martin Beck and the least expensive of the three. There was something missing though – or at least I wasn’t certain that I was quite ready to land yet. After all, I just started shopping!

Part of that might be fixed by the next step of the process, which is to take one home and get to know it better. I’d also like to hear someone else play it – because I’ve found with Cecelia – what I hear isn’t always the same as what a listener might. But all of that with time. This was a pretty casual shopping trip, mostly to get a feel for the process.

I didn’t walk out of the store with a cello (obviously) but I did get a lot out of the experience. I learned what I liked in sound of a cello and that I really need to have a “tryout piece” all zipped up in my brain to compare cellos in addition to scales.

It’s exciting to be considering bringing a new instrument into my life and I intend to enjoy meandering through the process as much as arriving at the end result. (On the other hand, TBF is pretty determined to get this all taken care of by my birthday. Project, goal, timeline, execution: he’s all bidness. We balance each other well)

In the meantime, it’s back to work the final kinks out of Brandenburg and the Quartetto in F Major with Miss Cecelia. We will be playing at the benefit auction on May 7th and I have work to do.


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
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7 Responses to Cello Shopping: Round One

  1. Yee says:

    Excited for you! Martin Beck is Romanian? Was the ugly one the Chinese cello?

    • Eddie says:

      Yes, the Martin Beck is made in Romania – which besides China is one of the primary sources for less expensive cellos. I’m pretty sure the “bloody” one wasn’t the Chinese but I didn’t take great notes (something I also learned the value of). We looked on line at a few comparable to the Beck in sound and value. Next post will have to be about that exercise:)

  2. Yee says:

    While researching cello values, I found this great site


    It’s interesting that tone is one of the least important factors in terms of appraisal value of cellos. Sort of interesting that just by random happenstance that a great sounding cello can be manufactured.

    • Eddie says:

      Oh I love this site! What a great resource. Tone seems pretty subjective to a certain point – much like wine – and I think it’s an interesting point that two of the same kind/model/brand of cello can sound very different. I also think that fact is kind of awesome – it makes me feel even more strongly that each cello is an individual, much like the cellist.
      It also makes me very leery of shopping online, though I do a fair amount of research and reading about new cellos on the web. One thing TBF and I have agreed on this go round is that the cello absolutely has to be tried before being purchased.

  3. Yee says:

    Read this old Zoe Keating article and her cello “dating” experience… Thought you might be interested….


    • Eddie says:

      I love this analogy! Although I probably have a much less sophisticated sense for a cello’s sound and potential at this point, I’m more like finding the high school boyfriend than a husband. My last last experience felt a little bit like speed dating, though. I haven’t yet moved to bringing anyone home to meet the parents 🙂

  4. Pingback: Words, New Cellos and Life « strings attached

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