The age and size of the student are major considerations when buying a cello. Like the violin, cellos are available in a number of sizes. (The average height of a full size cello is 46 to 48 inches.)
How to buy a cello based on size? The following is a general gauge of how to match the size of a cello to its player:
1/8 size: 4 to 6 years old
1/4 size: 5 to 7 years old
1/2 size: 7 to 11 years old
3/4 size: 11 to 15 years old
4/4 size: 15 and above
When buying a cello, bring along a cello teacher or professional cellist if possible. Let them play and test the instrument before buying.
Factors to consider when deciding on what to buy. Typically, a good quality cello is constructed with a spruce top and a maple back and sides. Be aware that there is a wide range of quality for these woods—woods from certain areas of the world are sought for their tonal qualities and can be quite expensive.
Only the beginning player should buy a cello made of laminate (layers of wood glued together) as this can greatly affect the tone of the instrument.
Be aware that some manufacturers say that the instrument’s top is made of maple, but fail to say it is maple laminate. The best quality tuning pegs are made of ebony but many players find that rosewood works just as well.
Be aware that if the tuning pegs (and their slots) are not properly shaped, the instrument will not stay in tune.
Make sure the endpin (the thin post that rests on the floor and elevates the cello for playing) is adjustable and can be easily adjusted. In some cases, endpins have to be purchased separately.
Another way to determine the quality of a cello is whether the top and back are hand-carved or not (less expensive cellos are machine produced and this not only affect the tone of the instrument but its strength as well.) You may need an expert to be able to tell the difference before buying the cello.
Don’t forget to carefully examine the cello’s bow as it’s crucial to the tone of the instrument. Some cello makers include high-quality bows with their instruments while others don’t. You may decide to buy a different bow than the one the came with the instrument.
Of course, cost is a major factor when buying a cello. The first consideration is the player’s age and his desire to play the instrument. Low-priced cellos are a good choice for those who want to try the instrument but are not sure if they’ll stick with it (renting a cello is also an option).
More serious and experienced players require a quality instrument while professional players often look for the best cello possible.
Good luck in buying a cello!