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#1
Old 05-16-2018, 06:29 PM
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Any cello players here? I have questions

We just got my 12 year old a cello for music class. When I got home from work today it had just arrived and my wife was helping him get it set up, but there was some frustration. They had broken a string right off the bat, but fortunately the cello came with 2 sets of strings. The cello played very quietly, but that's likely because the bow wasn't adequately rosined. My wife said the rosin was supposed to have a stickiness to it, but it just seemed like a rock to her. I tried rosining the bow, and after several applications, the cello is sounding much better.

So, our questions:

What's up with the price of strings? I called a music shop and they said a set of student strings were $120 something bucks. I said wha-what? Guitar strings are like $20 for a set of 6! He said yeah, guitar strings are much cheaper. The cello strings he quoted me were just the cheaper student strings; professional-quality strings were $300+. So I checked Amazon and cello strings were all over the map, from $15 for a set of 4 to the $120 set the guy at the music store was probably selling, up to the $300+ strings. So what's the difference between price points and string quality? Are the $15-20 strings just garbage, even for a beginner?

How about rosin-- would better quality rosin than what the cello came with make a significant difference?

Any other advice you can think to pass along to a beginner cello owner will be much appreciated!

Last edited by solost; 05-16-2018 at 06:30 PM.
#2
Old 05-16-2018, 07:16 PM
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I didn't play cello, but one thing I remember from my viola days was that it's common to loosen the tension on the bow before putting it away. If you're playing without tightening the bow, that might be one of the reasons it's quiet.
#3
Old 05-16-2018, 08:03 PM
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Cello strings, like bass strings, don't have to be changed nearly as often as guitar strings. You won't need more strings for quite a while. Ms. P played for a long time, so if you have more specific questions I can ask her.
#4
Old 05-16-2018, 09:12 PM
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Robot Arm, the bowstring did seem pretty loose to me when I was rosining it. But I have no idea how loose or tight the bowstring is supposed to be. My son said he tigtened the bow, but it's probably not the best quality bow at any tension. I thought maybe I'd look into a good deal on a new or used higher quality bow online. Does the bow quality make a huge difference if the cello itself is a fairly low-quality starter model? The cello does seem to hold a tune pretty well so far.

P-man, good to hear cello strings don't need to be replaced as often as guitar strings! But I would like to get my son a backup set of strings. If you could ask Ms. P-- what is the difference between the wiiide price range of $15-20 vs. $120 vs. $300+ strings out there? Keeping in mind this is for a beginner. And same question for rosin-- I've read online there's a big difference in sound quality between the cheapest rosin and a mid-priced rosin...but the difference between mid-priced and expensive rosin becomes much more subtle and only noticeable at the professional level, they say. Which I'm guessing is the same story for strings.
#5
Old 05-17-2018, 03:05 PM
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Update: I picked up some mid-priced $20 rosin. The guy at the music store said for a beginner it wouldn't make any difference from the $5 rosin but I thought I'd give it a try.
#6
Old 05-17-2018, 03:46 PM
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Is there a cello teacher involved?

For better or for worse, the world has decided that self-taught guitar players and self-taught singers are usually OK, but that self-taught electrical engineers and self-taught cellists are usually not.

I would hate to be the kid who got a cello, learned everything "wrong", and had to start again from the beginning.
#7
Old 05-17-2018, 03:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solost View Post
Robot Arm, the bowstring did seem pretty loose to me when I was rosining it. But I have no idea how loose or tight the bowstring is supposed to be. My son said he tigtened the bow, but it's probably not the best quality bow at any tension. I thought maybe I'd look into a good deal on a new or used higher quality bow online. Does the bow quality make a huge difference if the cello itself is a fairly low-quality starter model? The cello does seem to hold a tune pretty well so far.
I wanted to learn to play guitar several years ago. I decided to buy a guitar, and took along a friend who already knew how to play, hoping he'd be able to give me some advice on picking one out. And he was helpful (hi, if you're reading this), but it also comes down to personal preferences that I didn't have, yet. I tried a particular guitar, and he asked "how does that feel?" My only answer was "I don't know." I didn't know enough about playing to know how it was supposed to feel.

So I suppose my advice on a cello bow would be the same as I wound up doing with a guitar. Start with what you need, and use that to learn what you want. Maybe your son won't be a virtuoso with this cheap bow, but hopefully he can learn from it what a good bow is supposed to sound and feel like.

It sounds like he'll actually be in a class. Has that not started yet? I assume the teacher can help with things like how tight the bow should be.
#8
Old 05-17-2018, 04:36 PM
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The rosin needs to be "roughed up" a bit. My daughter uses a key to scratch up the surface of the rosin before applying it to her bow.

We had D'Addario Prelude strings recommended by teachers and through various musician's sites, and my daughter has been happy with them now for four years.

ETA: For quality of life, you might need to pick up a decent rock stop if the beginning cello kit didn't come with one. My daughter lost hers and it made her miserable until I got a new one!

Last edited by krondys; 05-17-2018 at 04:40 PM.
#9
Old 05-17-2018, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krondys View Post
The rosin needs to be "roughed up" a bit. My daughter uses a key to scratch up the surface of the rosin before applying it to her bow.
Only when you find that it needs it, not every time.
#10
Old 05-17-2018, 08:34 PM
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My experience with string instruments is playing double bass for a couple of years in college, a little violin in a string methods class, and just enough cello to play for one piece that we did in choir one year. One thing I remember is that you can't just start sawing away with the bow and get a good sound. Most of us got no sound at all at first try. And that was college music majors with the guidance of a teacher. I can't imagine a 12 year old being able to get anywhere near a decent sound without a lot of guidance.
#11
Old 05-17-2018, 09:49 PM
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Thanks for the replies! Krondys, thanks for the recs for the affordable strings and rock stop. also thanks for the tip of roughening up the rosin-- the music teacher also passed along that tip when I bought the rosin at lunch and it made a big difference- the cello plays much louder and smoother.

And yes, he's been getting lessons through a music class at school using a school cello. He wanted to get his own so he could practice over the summer. Since he was doing all his practicing at school until now, I was really blown away at how good he is already! Yeah, I'm biased, but the kid is a natural.
#12
Old 05-18-2018, 05:17 AM
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Ms. P says beginning students usually use the cheapest strings.
#13
Old 05-18-2018, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solost View Post
Thanks for the replies! Krondys, thanks for the recs for the affordable strings and rock stop. also thanks for the tip of roughening up the rosin-- the music teacher also passed along that tip when I bought the rosin at lunch and it made a big difference- the cello plays much louder and smoother.

And yes, he's been getting lessons through a music class at school using a school cello. He wanted to get his own so he could practice over the summer. Since he was doing all his practicing at school until now, I was really blown away at how good he is already! Yeah, I'm biased, but the kid is a natural.
This is commendable. Learning an instrument is a wonderful thing, especially for a kid. A stringed instrument (with no frets!) is an extra challenge.

I'm wondering if finding a cello teacher for him over the summer would be a good idea. Just to make sure he doesn't go off in a bad direction and develop some habits he will then have to unlearn in the fall? My 2 cents.
#14
Old 05-18-2018, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I'm wondering if finding a cello teacher for him over the summer would be a good idea. Just to make sure he doesn't go off in a bad direction and develop some habits he will then have to unlearn in the fall? My 2 cents.
Good point ThelmaLou! I think my wife is looking at getting him some cello lessons over the summer.
#15
Old 05-18-2018, 05:27 PM
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While I am a guitar player, rather than a cello player, your question interested me.

A little google action tells me that professional quality cello strings have a gut core, wound with various metallic substances. The cheap strings I see appear to all be steel core. That is probably the largest factor in price.

I think it's great that he wants to play cello and that he's getting lessons. Exact finger placement is crucial on an instrument without frets.

FYI - a $20 set of strings for a guitar, while they exist, would be pretty expensive. You can get a good quality 6 string set for as little as $5.
#16
Old 05-18-2018, 06:07 PM
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I will page my wife to this thread, who not only plays cello, but worked for Shar, a major string instrument company.
#17
Old 05-18-2018, 06:14 PM
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The real trick is learning to march with it

https://youtube.com/watch?v=4smgVpcFMp8

Brian
#18
Old 05-18-2018, 06:21 PM
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Nothing beats a good clavichord player in a marching band though.

(It's sort of like a little piano with no legs, but it's so quiet that any loud-voiced singer can drown it out.)
#19
Old Yesterday, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N9IWP View Post
The real trick is learning to march with it

https://youtube.com/watch?v=4smgVpcFMp8

Brian
That indeed made me giggle. But, I think, if it were for real, they'd probably figure out a way to put the thing on a wheeled stand or something, so you could play standing up. Sure, it would be different, but I think it would work.

Well, at least, as well as it could. I'm not sure how well it would be heard with the other instruments. I played Clarinet. I know the feeling.
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