Buying a cello should be considered as an investment. The right choice at each level should not only allow you to progress as a player but hold its value for resale purposes when it’s time to upgrade.
This guide to the some of the best beginner and advanced student cellos available on the market in 2019 will give you some assistance towards finding the perfect models for any level from early grades to student life.
We have selected some of the best and more readily-available models on the market, ranging from beginner instruments through to suggested cellos suitable for more advanced players. Here are our recommendations
Best For Beginners & Students
Crescent Beginner Cello
The Crescent is a good choice if money is really tight, or if you are unsure whether the student will continue with the cello beyond the early grades or not.
The pros first of all; it comes with a range of extras that you might have to pay money for elsewhere, such as a padded case and extra strings. It is also available in half-size as well as full-size options, making it ideal for younger and physically smaller players to try out. It’s an attractive-looking instrument, with the combination of spruce top and maple neck, back and sides providing considerable durability for a younger player who might be a little rougher than is ideal with a musical instrument.
The downsides are that the bow supplied with this cello isn’t very good quality, and the strings are just about the cheapest on the market. However, this does mean that the immediate upgrade option for a student who is keen to keep playing beyond the first grade or so is to shop around for a better bow and to invest in more expensive strings.
The Crescent is a good choice for students and beginners and is excellent value for money. Quality aesthetics are matched by its durability, with a crack-proof spruce top and maple neck, back and sides.
This instrument is widely available through a range of online and high-street music shop options, although instruments – especially for absolute beginners – are always best tried out before purchase.
Stentor Student Cello
A step up in terms of price but with an additional significant leap in quality for a beginner instrument is the Stentor. Available in a range of sizes from 1/16 up to full size, this cello is ideal for very young and small players who are keen to enjoy music-making early.
Again, this cello is supplied with bow, case and strings, and the Student 1 and Student 2 ranges could both be expected to see you through to Grade 5 or 6 standard, especially with an upgraded bow and strings. Additionally the Stentor Harlequin range offers – as the name suggests – a range of different coloured instruments for the student wanting something a little different (although do be aware that some youth orchestras aren’t keen on instruments that stand out visually).
This is ideal as a beginner or as a step-up instrument for the young cellist who is more certain to carry on, especially with better strings and the assistance of a luthier to adjust the bridge for a better sound.
Cremona SC-165 Premier
A cello with a different visual appeal is the Cremona. Not the cheapest beginner student model on the market, it nevertheless represents a good ratio of price to quality. The antiqued-finished maple and spruce body and neck make for an expensive look. In terms of added value, the Brazilian rosewood bow is of notably better quality than those usually supplied as standard with students instruments, so that’s an expense you might reasonably avoid later on as you progress through middle grades.
The spacing of strings and the ability to fine-tune is also a cut above most cheap student cellos. Effectively, this is a higher-end set up without being a professional model.
Some of those pros also present themselves as cons where less careful younger players are concerned. The bow will need relatively frequent rehairing and isn’t as hard-wearing as a synthetic model. However, the trade-off is a consistent and more pleasant tone production, which in itself might be the impetus to keep playing and improve more quickly.
The intermediatee level choice:
The intermediate level Cecilio CCO-500 cello represents astonishing value. This handmade, solid wood instrument is high-quality throughout, including grade one ebony for tailpiece, fingerboard and pegs; something that is far from typical for an intermediate student cello.
More advanced players might quibble at the “high-quality” strings that it’s provided with, and prefer to go a step further, especially if the Cecilio is intended to take them through higher grades, and perhaps even to university (conservatoire-bound players might want to seek a further upgrade at this stage). Additionally, the bow provided is unlikely to get the very best that the instrument is capable of.
Again, a luthier could make further improvements to a Cecilio that would tailor it to the player, and to set it up to get the best out of the exceptional value for money it already represents.
Best Cellos for Professionals
Of course, if you’re in the market for an actual Domenico Montagnana cello, you’ll be talking telephone numbers in terms of cost. The master luthier was working during the early part of the 18th century in Venice, the home of fine instrument making, and his instruments are highly sought after by some of the top solo, chamber and orchestral musicians in the world.
However, there are many fine Montagnana copies on the market, all aiming for the same kind of projection and even-toned quality that the originals are famed for. They are ideal conservatoire and postgraduate student instruments, and again, professional-quality strings – Larsen or Helicore – make all the difference. A separate search for a bow which suits the individual’s specific playing style will improve the instrument’s qualities even further.
Choosing the right cello can be a minefield, even for the relatively experienced student player. What appears to give a rich and consistent sound in a music shop’s try-out room can prove inconsistent or lacking in projection when sitting in an ensemble.
Always try to look for purchase avenues where you can try on approval for a few weeks or can rent to buy – even two apparently identical factory-made instruments can have wildly different qualities! Your teacher will always be able to offer good advice and will be able to guide you away from being solely swayed by aesthetics – something it can be difficult to do on your own or if you’re lacking in experience of what really constitutes a good instrument.
Finally, you should always factor in an extra money for paying a luthier to set up the instrument for you. Even the most basic student cello will be improved by a few expert adjustments, and a more satisfying playing experience is likely to encourage the joy of music-making for years to come.