How to Rent a Cello – Everything You Need to Know!

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Having a good cello is very important at any stage of learning. The sound the cello produces will either motivate you or discourage you. And obviously, motivation is a big ingredient for success. Here are the answers to common questions when renting a cello.

Where do you go to rent a cello?

I suspect if you don’t already have a cello, the next logical step you will take is to rent or purchase a cello. Renting is the best choice for beginners and many string instrument shops have terrific beginner through intermediate level cello rentals.

Go to a reputable string shop – one that specializes in stringed instruments.  Most metropolitan areas have several music stores to choose from. But a lot of the time they focus on band instruments or electronic instruments like keyboards or guitars.  A reputable string shop will employ people who are knowledgeable about string instruments and can guide you to the best beginner instrument.

Renting an instrument online is another option but it’s important to rent only from a well-trusted string instrument shop. Shar Music is tried and true and they really know stringed instruments.

Will a cheap online cello work for a beginner? 

People often make the assumption if you are just beginning your studies on the cello you don’t need a good instrument and that anything will do from the start. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yo Yo Ma once said that it’s a shame beginning cello players can’t play on the best instruments. If they did, learning the cello would be so much easier for them. So, get the best rental instrument you can afford.

Many people are tempted to purchase a cello vs. renting one. And that’s because there appears be a whole lot of affordable options on the internet. You’ll find full cello outfit deals for $120 and up. The logic here is, “Why should I spend $50-$70 month on a rental when I can purchase one for $120?” There’s a good explanation for this.

These internet cellos are new and pretty and shiny and void of any scratches and dinks. And that combined with the crazy low pricing is what makes the idea so compelling.

BUT – those are not cellos you can play and improve with. Those cellos are what us seasoned teachers call “Cello Shaped Objects” or CSO’s… It doesn’t perform in any way like a cello. It’s not set-up properly and it CERTAINLY won’t sound like the rich, warm tone we know should come from the cello.

In fact, some of these cellos arrive at your home without the bridged carved. Keep in mind, when a brand new cello arrives at a quality rental shop, it is the duty of the luthier (instrument maker/repair person) to set the instrument up properly.  And this means they need to carve the bridge to fit the cello.  

The bridge supplied with any new instrument is simply a factory-stamped bridge.

A luthier will carve the legs of the bridge to fit the belly of the instrument correctly. They will carve the top so that it fits the height of the strings and the angle of the fingerboard. They also need to carve grooves in the top of the bridge (the grooves are where the strings settle once they are attached to the instrument). 

The cost you will incur getting the new internet cello fixed and ready will far exceed your initial purchase price. It will cost you more to take one of these CSO’s the luthier to have it properly adjusted than it will cost to BUY THE WHOLE package deal.  Something is not right about that.

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Getting sized at the string rental shop:

At the string shop, make sure you get the right size. Typically, in a good string shop, the employees have been trained to size you for the correct instrument. Make certain you get the size that is right for you, NOT one that is too big.  Always err on the smaller size. The size has A LOT to do with your hand size, but more on that in another post…

Most men are going to fit a full size instrument (4/4) and many women will be able to fit a full size as well. However, MANY women will comfortably fit a 7/8 size cello (and some men may be comfortable with this size, too). If you are a small person with very small hands, you may look into a 3/4 size cello.

Again, err on the small size. You won’t regret it!

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What should be included in a cello rental?

  • When you rent the cello, make sure it has a one-piece tailpiece. The tailpiece is the triangular-ish piece of wood which anchors the strings to the body of the cello at the lower end of the instrument. If the tailpiece is one-piece and the fine tuners are built into the tailpiece, the instrument will resonate so much better with a one-piece tailpiece and it will be less prone to “rattles”.
  • Also make sure the package deal comes with a cello bow and that the bow has fresh hair. If the hair is REALLY dirty by the frog (the part of the bow you hold), or if it’s missing half of the hair, ask them to replace it with a new bow.
  • Find out if the cello has a new set of strings (no more than 6 months old). Most rental shops include that as part of the initial cost of renting the instrument.
  • The cello must come with a case.  Usually this will be a soft, padded case but occasionally a string shop will have a good hard case or a hybrid case (much better protection than a soft case but lighter than a typical hard case).
  • Often times rosin is included in the package deal.  Rosin is a little cake of hardened sap which is used to give the bow hair an element of stickiness. Ask about that too.
  • Keep in mind these rental cellos are not professional level instruments, but they are going to be MUCH better than a random internet cello.

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Cello rental cost:

So what does it cost to rent an instrument? You will pay anywhere from about $45/mo to about $70 a month – depending on the location of the shop and the availability of the instruments. But the cool thing is that MOST rental shops apply your rental fee towards the purchase – should you decide to purchase at some point. 

Often times the rental company will allow you to upgrade your cello (when the time comes to purchase) and use the rental credit. It’s a win-win situation. You get to rent a good instrument, and much of the rental cost goes towards purchase!

In summary:

Again, locate a local reputable string shop (not a generic music store) and get set up by a professional. Most major metropolitan cities have several options to chose from. 

If you want to rent via the internet, there is only one logical choice and that is Shar Music. There you can get HIGH quality instruments and they will ship it to your door.  And I don’t even think there is a shipping fee.  AND they are fast. Shar is the go-to for many professional cellists and teachers. They have hired very talented string experts to work there. 

I hope this information helps you on your quest for find the right rental instrument.  A good rental cello is key to your success. Good luck!

For information on learning the cello as an adult, look here!

Carolyn Hagler

About the Author: Carolyn Hagler is the founder and director of www.CelloDiscovery.com – “The Home for Beginning Adult Cello Students”. She is a tenured member of the Austin Symphony Orchestra and earned a Master of Music degree in cello performance from the University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a K-12 teaching certificate in the state of Texas. Carolyn has focused her pedagogy on teaching adults the joy of learning the cello through a natural, relaxed body, achievable goals and fun, engaging interactive music scores. Carolyn spent decades honing her skills as an expert teacher of beginning students. Throughout her many years as a public school orchestra director, she was able to teach hundreds of students the skills necessary to win top honors in contests and festivals throughout the state of Texas As a cellist, Carolyn has performed on numerous recordings and soundtracks, toured internationally and explored many different styles of music. Though raised in Northern California, she currently lives in Austin, TX with her husband and their dog, Annie.