It might seem almost any cello would work for a beginner, but actually the correct type and size makes a big difference. A beginning cellist struggles to make the first sounds and find the initial notes. The first few months are the most difficult and are critical for a young cellist. A cello that is hard to play or won't perform properly, even when the cellist does, is too much of a discouragement for most beginning musicians. Music teachers often say they can predict which students will drop out of music by looking at the quality and condition of the instruments they begin on.
A beginner doesn't need the finest or most expensive cello, but he or she does need a cello that plays easily (doesn't require pressing down too hard on the strings to get the note), will tune up and stay in tune (the tuning pegs fit properly and don't slip), has appropriate strings that respond correctly when played, has suitable bow hair in good condition to sound the strings, is set up and adjusted to play properly, and can be repaired and adjusted as it (inevitably) needs it.
Appropriate beginner cellos are available from many sources:
- Buying outright. If you're sure your child will like playing music and will want to stay with the cello, you could purchase a cello outright. However cellos that are appropriate for school orchestra aren't inexpensive, and students regularly move up in cello sizes as they grow and progress. The cello a student begins on isn't likely to be appropriate in a few months or years.
- Renting. Renting gives the child (and parents) time to see how s/he likes playing
music, consider whether cello is the correct instrument, move up in size as the student grows, and consider
what type of cello is right for the longer term. The music teacher knows and usually advises beginners' parents where they can rent the right kind of cello, considering not just the cost and quality of the cellos rented, but also the condition they are kept in and the support the company provides to keep the instruments playing properly. Rent paid is usually applicable to the later purchase of an instrument. (This is the most popular way to get a student started in music. )
- Buy (or borrow) a used one. When a good used cello can be gotten at a low enough price, it might make sense to take a chance on the student and buy it outright, even though the student will move up in size before long. But always check first with the music teacher to assure the cello you're considering is the appropriate quality. Then take it to a string repair shop to see what it will take to put it in playing condition. (Cellos that have been put away for a year or more are likely to need new strings and some adjustments to play properly. )
- Internet. Although the Internet is considered a dangerous place to buy a musical instrument, especially a string instrument, someone who really knows cellos and is careful can sometimes find a bargain. By some estimates 95-98% of the stringed instruments sold on the Internet are very low quality and not appropriate for school orchestra use; indeed many music teachers say they are the students' and teacher's worst nightmare. However appropriate cellos can occasionally be found on reputable Internet sites, sometimes at good prices, for those who really know what they're doing.