Now that I’ve had a few weeks to get used to the idea, I thought I’d reflect on a few impressions I gained from the process of speed dating, er…I mean, upgrading, my cello. I’m no expert, so if you’re looking for practical advice or professional tips, there are probably better places to go on these here interwebs (I’ve listed a few of them at the bottom of this post*)
I realize I have a lot to be grateful for, the least of which is a sexy new cello occupying the music room. The whole process was a delightful (and sometimes trying) learning experience. I know more now about cellos and the cello purchasing process than I ever did. Here are a few of my favorite things:
1. Have some idea of what you are looking for. What do you like to play? Where? Solo or ensemble? Orchestra or quartet? Even if you’re not playing at that level yet, it never hurts to know what kind of playing you’re interested in doing. Different cellos fit different settings.
2. Take your time and try everything you can get your hands on. Go to as many shops as you can, be honest about what you’re looking for and try every cello that’s available. Don’t let anyone (parent, teacher, luthier) talk you into, or out of an instrument or rush you along the way. This is a process that takes time – possibly months. Ask lots of questions (even the “stupid” ones)/ Try cellos that are above and below your price range. Get a feel for the sound you can expect for what you are willing to spend. Speaking of budgets…
3. Build some wiggle room into your budget. It was enough to make me want to spend a little more – and I am so much more happy than I would have been if I just stuck blindly to my budget. As a reader reminded me, it’s not like I’m ten and going to quit next week – I’ve already made the biggest commitment of all: time. What’s a little extra cash?
4. Visualize what you want. BUild the image (and the sound) in your mind of exactly what you want. See yourself playing it. Hold it in your mind with intention as you shop. Don’t be afraid to let a cello go if it’s not “quite” right. But…
5. Let go of your expectations. As you all know I’m obsessed with dark varnishes. Indeed, at one point I thought I had blown the whole thing because I let that first Zuber, a chocolate brown, slip through my fingers. Then, four weeks later, along came this little red devil that brought the hair up on the back of my arms in a way that old Chocolate hadn’t. When I held the image in my mind of my “perfect” cello it was that “hair standing up on end” trick that I knew would be the sign that I’d found the right one. Then it happened: the funny part with the varnish was that I let go of my jones for chocolate when I heard that sound that moved me. I’d made a compromise that didn’t feel like I was giving up a thing.
Most of all, enjoy it. I mean, how often will you get to play a dozen or more cellos? Soon you’ll have found Mr or Mrs Right, and you’ll be settling down. Might as well play the field!
*If you are looking on practical tips and “how to” advise for upgrading your cello, Paul Perley Cellos has a great series of articles about everything from finding a quality cello in a decent price range to “old” versus “new” when it comes to cello selection. Also check out Strings Magazine. Finally, the Internet Cello Society Forums proved to be a phenomenal reference point for questions and issues that arose during the process. Who knows better about buying a cello than others who have been there?