Continuing yesterday’s theme:

Spend (sort of): strings

Don’t ever put the lowest end strings on any cello that will be played. They’re just terrible, and also are not made with any kind of quality control- they break, sometimes don’t even go up to pitch, stretch out, and sound like absolute ass.

When I was growing up, the standard setup in the US was Jargar A and D, and Dominant G and C. Now, there are a several ubiquitous setups: with few exceptions I recommend a Larsen A, and then you have to do some research based on what you want to adjust or emphasize on your axe. For student setups, Kaplans are I think the best value for money. Make sure you install new strings correctly (winding carefully so as not to pinch the string against the side of the pegbox), and give them a week to stop being insane and boingy sounding (aka don’t put new strings on right before a concert). Low strings tend to last longer than the upper two, but when they go, they go really bad.

Spend: Barenreiter or other urtext Bach suite editions

Soft yellow paper, space between notes, thoughtful, minimal editing of what is still the magnum opus of our repertoire. This is not the place to skimp.

Spend: a solid head stand and incandescent stand light

Not only does this solve some of the more annoying logistical issues surrounding sheet music, but being able to play in a dark room with the page bathed in soft light is a simple pleasure that entices you to sit at the instrument more frequently.

Spend or save, depending: metronome

The key is that you like it. My metronome of choice is one of those old Franz boxes that makes a very satisfying wood-on-wood clacking sound: I can’t stand a beeping metronome, because the sound is a pitch, and rarely one that is in tune or organic. But if the beep helps you, beep away! Like the tuner, the metronome that is close by and pleasing to use is the one to invest in. I usually caution against the ones that have a swinging pendulum, simply because their mechanism is touchy, and uneven surfaces produce a lilt or dotted rhythm, which is deadly when trying to cultivate a reliable sense of even pulse.

Save: cello chairs

While they’re neat, they’re also so expensive. You can mimic the effects of a cello chair with a wedge for about 90% less money. Don’t get me wrong though: if you can get a brand name cello chair for cheap or free, they’re great to have.

Save by spending: get a humidifier and use it, nearly all the time! 

Doing this keeps your instrument healthy: fewer snapped strings, open seams, cracks, bendy bridges.

Save by spending, part 2: geared pegs

Prolongs the life of your strings SO MUCH! Also reduces the stress on the arm while tuning in playing position. Also helps you not be that guy who is tuning 45 seconds after the rest of the ensemble has finished.

Last one in this series à demain, mes amis. 

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  1. A shower stool makes a very reasonably priced cello chair. ($30 or less) It is good for students as the length of the legs can be changed. The stools have an aluminum frame, and are quite light weight. I padded and covered the bench so that it looks somewhat reasonable for a gig.

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