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THE CELLO PRIMER
All cellos are not created equal. It is a complex blending of component parts, each fashioned from specific types of materials which should be chosen for their tonal and structural qualities. As in most manufacturing processes, components are available in inferior to superior grades, priced accordingly. Some of these parts you can see, such as the body, bridge and fingerboard, but others, such as the bass bar and soundpost, are inside the cello and many people don't realize they exist. The quality and age of the wood in each piece contributes to the overall sound, as does the workmanship in crafting each piece. Plywood is a cheap wood with little resonance, but its durability and price make it the choice for many rental instruments. Since you have the same wood throughout, rather than lighter and denser, your "speaker" isn't really functioning well. While a plywood cello can certainly provide you with the proper dimensions and proportions to establish your posture and beginning technique, Cellos2Go will not rent one. From plywood, you can move up in price to a factory carved instrument, then to hand carved. "Carved" generally distinguishes the plywood laminates from the spruce/maple instruments, but is still only a term, and there are poor-quality carved instruments as well. Depending on what route cellos take from the factory to the music store, they may be set up with different bridges and strings along the way. So two cellos with the same name but from different shops may not sound at all like the same instrument.
The back and ribs of the cello are generally made of maple, and the top, or face, of spruce. Both are resonant woods, and the denser maple wood works with the lighter spruce, the way a woofer and tweeter work in a coaxial speaker. The difference in sound between instruments comes from the quality of the wood, its age, proper drying procedures, varnish, carving and workmanship. It is not just the shape you see on the outside, but the planing on the inside. Varnishing techniques do affect the sound. While some cellos may have an exotic "flaming" pattern on the back because of the quality of the wood, others are painted to simulate the aesthetics; thus an increase in price without an enhancement in sound or value. The soundpost, which is best described as a dowel, is wedged between the back and face of the cello. As you face the cello, it would be on the right-hand side slightly beneath the foot of the bridge. Proper placement of the soundpost is important to get the best tone from your cello, and proper size assures that your cello is nicely curved and supported, but with no "bumps" in the top. Under the opposite foot of the bridge there is a long, slender bass bar running nearly the length of the instrument, which is shaped to the contour of the face and glued in place. Also inside the cello is the housing for your endpin, which allows you to adjust the instrument to proper playing height. If you peek through the F-holes on your cello while holding it at an angle, you can see these parts. The bridge is very important! A soft bridge will allow the strings to cut into it over time, ultimately choking sound. A bridge that is too high causes the strings to sit too far above the fingerboard, making the student work unnecessarily hard to "stop" the strings. Poorly-cut bridges can make it difficult to bow on one string without hitting another. Warping can result if the bridge's center is cut too thin, and the resonance will be subdued if it's cut too thick. The feet need to be specifically cut to fit the curvature of the face. You cannot just replace one bridge with another. To further complicate matters, changes in temperature and humidity can cause parts of your cello to swell and shrink. A less expensive cello may not tolerate such changes well and seams will start to open, or the bridge height may change drastically, giving you problems in one season you didn't have in another season. Many cellos need more than one bridge to accommodate these changes. The tailpiece, which holds the strings at the bottom of the cello, can be made of plastic, metal, or a variety of woods from ebony to rosewood. Some contain screw mechanisms called fine tuners. These are to be used for minor adjustments in tuning where a turn of the peg is more than you need to get your string to the proper pitch. Not all cellos have fine tuners, and some only have them on the upper strings. This is because strings come in different types of cores: gut, steel, and synthetic. It is the type of string that generally dictates whether you need fine tuners or not. More about that later. The nut is a small slightly rounded piece which serves as a bridge between the top of the fingerboard and the bottom of the pegbox. Like the bridge, it needs to be fashioned and cut with care because the strings should just be guided across the top of it, but not be embedded in it. Poorly-cut grooves can serve as a guillotine for your strings which you may discover when your string pops during tuning. There may be other reasons for a breaking string, but this is one possibility.
Though frequently viewed as an accessory, the cellist's bow is very important. Weight and balance are among the factors that contribute to how well the student can control the bow; properties of the stick will affect vibration and sound. Therefore while fiberglass is the affordable generic choice for most rental shops to complete their cello package, it can frustrate the poor student who has no clue what she is working against. Cellos2Go continues to provide equipment that gives the student the best chance at success and enjoyment. Bows range widely in price. We offer a selection commensurate with the value of our cellos. While developing a good bow grip is difficult and a little awkward in the beginning, a bow that is made well will feel more comfortable in your hand and enhance the learning process.