There are a million ways to spend money on cello stuff: cases, stands, stand lights, strings, premium rosin, super premium rosin, bows, bridges, time spent at the luthier’s table- you get the idea. When I was a young cellist, buying a set of new strings had not yet become the momentous decision it is now. Prices exploded in the late 1990s, and it seems like the cello is ever more a sport for the rich. The next few posts will focus on where to spend and where to splurge, based on my experience and that of my students.

Spend: a hard case

If you bought a cello, you don’t want it smashed. Whether it’s an $800 steal or $50k credit decimation, it needs to be housed in something that will protect it, if not from your own clumsiness, that of other people- not to mention all manner of household disasters. Get the best case you can afford- and I’ll die on this hill: get one without wheels. There are so few surfaces that don’t judder and shake the instrument. You should be carrying the thing on your back most of the time, and wheels add cost and weight. Get rid of them, use the two backpack straps (you can buy puffier ones online if the ones that come standard are lousy), and keep your cello off the ground.

Carbon fiber is great, but so pricey. It’s what I have, but my case was a gift that I absolutely could not afford to replace, should something happen to it now. Ask your local luthiers if they have used cases, if you’re looking to save money.

Save: rosin

Seriously. There’s some insane rosin out there, and it may well help things. But if you need $100 rosin to create a bearable sound, your technique could use some work. My favorite is Millant-Deroux, but Hill does just fine. Heck, I won’t turn down a broken bit of Sherman’s if I really need it.

Spend: lessons

Taking from someone who has seen a ton of students and has had the time to see how things pan out for those who apply their methodology is priceless, even if it’s only occasionally. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m grateful for the people who took from me when I was just starting out. I don’t think I ruined their cello lives. But you better believe I have a better handle on things now. And even if you’re taking from me now, if you can steal away for a lesson from someone who has been teaching for 50 years- DO IT.

Save: tuner

Grab an app and be done with it. While I have a sentimental attachment to my old Korg analogue unit, tuners are like cameras: the best one is the one you have at hand. I use Trace Tuner, but there are lots of other excellent ones below $5. Whichever one you choose, use it. Every day.


Featured image: the silliest scene in all of the James Bond series, and that’s really saying something.

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