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Advantage Series 1/4" Angled - Straight Instrument Cable

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How To Buy a Cello


Before making a purchase of a new instrument, it is wise to check out a few details of construction and condition. If a carved instrument is being considered, look over the top and back to see if there are any cracks. Sometimes cracks are hairline and will appear as a faint white line running in the direction of the grain on the top. Check to see if the plate-to-rib seams are tightly glued. This is easily done by tapping lightly around the edge of the instrument with the index finger bent as if gently knocking on a door. An open seam will make a clicking sound as if something is loose. This is not a serious problem, however it should be glued so that the instrument does not suffer a loss of sound. A gun barrel view down the neck with the eye centered at the top of the scroll will reveal the squareness of the neck position. The fingerboard at this view should appear exactly between the two F holes. If it leans toward one hole or the other, the neck is not squarely set and the instrument will not be able to be played in tune as the fifths across the strings will not be true. The bridge and nut should have sufficient height so that the strings do not vibrate against the fingerboard during forte passages. The curvature of the bridge should be sufficient so that the bow doesn’t catch two strings at once while being drawn. Also, the curvature should not be too extreme as to make the bow arm or wrist travel excessively to cross strings. Pegs should be checked to see that they turn smoothly and stay put. It is a good idea to have four string adjusters on the tailpiece, either as an integrated part of the tailpiece or as four separate adjusters installed on an ebony tailpiece. Some players prefer to have adjusters only on the upper two strings, especially where perlon string are used for the two lowest strings (G and C).


The endpin on a cello serves a similar function as the chin rest on a violin: it helps to support the instrument. The endpin rod should not be too short (so as to impede the height adjustment of the instrument) so that it can be played comfortably and with correct position of both the left hand and the bow arm. A rod of 18 to 22 inches is ideal for most players. This length allows for good height fl exibility. Some cellos are now imported with very long endpin rods so that the instrument can be placed in a more horizontal position. These very long endpin rods can cause unwanted vibrations inside the cello from the unextended portion. If considering an extra long endpin rod, test the instrument throughout its range to see if any sympathetic vibration is being produced by the endpin. The endpin rod should also be anchored to the wooden portion from inside the cello so that the rod does not fall out of its mounting when the rod is being extended. This may seem to be a minor point; however, if the player uses a sharpened point at the end of the rod to steady the cello on the fl oor, that sharp point can be dangerous if the endpin rod falls out of the cello onto the player’s foot.


Selecting the right bow can make a big difference in the sound of a cello, and also in the way a person plays upon the instrument. When selecting a beginner’s cello, a bow is usually supplied. These low-end bows are usually quite problematic. They are crude-looking to the eye and usually are not straight and don’t hold the hair well. A fiberglass bow, or equivalent, is suggested for beginners. This type of beginner bow is quite reliable, fairly inexpensive, easy to find, and replacement parts are readily available. They are always straight and maintain their proper curvature. When a more advanced bow is required, there are a number of possibilities from a higher-grade brazilwood to a professional grade pernambuco wood bow. Also, as of the last few years, a number of carbon fiber bows have appeared on the market from several manufacturers. These are also quite reliable and are liked by many players, although some brands can be pricey. The bow must feel comfortable in the hand and not too heavy at the tip. Remember, the cellist is bowing against gravity, and extra weight anywhere on the bow makes maintaining a straight bow stroke much more difficult.


The same rules apply for the selection of a used cello. However, the buyer must be aware of prior repairs and how they were accomplished. Usually an older cello will have had some visible repair work. A crack on the top is not unusual in an older instrument and, if repaired well and properly, it should be of no concern as long as it has not affected the sound of the instrument. Cracks on the top plate should be repaired with small cleats placed along the crack on the underside of the top.
This requires the top of the instrument to be removed and is a procedure for only a professional violin-maker. A repaired crack should be perfectly level and the only remnant, if any, should be a dark line along the grain. The two edges of the crack must be perfectly level to the touch. A crack that is not level has not been properly repaired. Because of their size, cellos often have cracked ribs. The same standard applies to rib cracks with regard to being perfectly level. The “angle of projection” or “neck angle” tends to change with age. The aging process usually causes the neck and fingerboard to slowly fall toward the top plate thus lowering the projection. To fix this, the bridge will have to be lowered to readjust the distance between the strings and fingerboard so they are properly proportioned. If the neck falls too low, it will come to a point where the bridge cannot be lowered any further and an expensive “neck reset” will be required. When considering a used cello, be sure that the neck angle is within reason. Look at the bridge: If the top of the bridge where the strings rest is almost on top of the heart-shaped cut out in the center of the bridge, the neck angle is too low. A used older cello can be quite a joy to play as it has had its voice developed, but it must be a good strong instrument with any repairs necessary done properly. An older cello in poor condition and with poorly done repairs will probably spend more time in the shop than making music.

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