Cello Contemplations

This is partly in reply to a posting in the cellists community, partly not. “Tell us about your cello,” someone wrote.

The part they want to know: My cello is a baby, only a year old (just this month). I hadn't played since high school, and missed it. So I did research, and found Stringworks, and ordered an Artist cello. I'd initially made inquiries about 3/4 sized and 7/8 sized instruments, because I'm five feet tall, and I have small hands. Email went back and forth. “If you're a reasonably experienced player,” they said, “you won't like the 3/4. We don't have a 7/8 line right now. It's something we're considering.” I'm a hobby-player, so I listened, and contemplated, and ordered a regular 4/4 cello. They said I'd be added to the wait list for the next batch. Then a bit later they said, “Hey, we're coming out with this Maestro line. It's more expensive than what you ordered, but you might like it. Want to try?” I looked at pictures, and agreed. A bit later, on a Sunday, after five pm, I got another call. “I'm only a couple inches taller than you. The Maestro is wonderful, but it's hard to play for someone our height.”

So I ended up going down a level, to their Virtuoso line, which is in-between Artist and Maestro. It's the sort of cello that might be used by a professional as a second instrument, for travelling, etc. The surprise came when I got it – it had the rosewood fittings I'd requested. Others prefer ebony, but I really like the rosewood – but they'd stuck in a note telling me they'd given it to me at the Artist price. And the cool thing is that they have a trade-up policy, as well.

So that's the generic 'about'. But then there's the personal 'about'.

Breaking in a new instrument is like getting to know a new lover. At first, everything is new and wonderful and total bliss. Oh, look, the abalone in the bow is still shiny. Smell that? You can still taste the varnish in the air. See? The case is plush and green inside, and there's rosin hidden back here.

Then there's the comparison stage. “Well, yes, I love you but, you do this just like X. And Y used to do that other thing.” It's the same with my cello. The bow I remember from my first cello had black hair. This doesn't. And somehow that's a flaw, even though this bow is really a better bow. This instrument has strings that do not like the summer heat here in California. They slip when the temperature gets too high, and the air too dry, and I've had to grow comfortable with more frequent adjustments than I had to when most of my playing was in an air-conditioned environment.

But eventually you move into the easy familiarity of old lovers. I know now, just how to dampen that persistant wolf-tone, how much I can rock the cello when I'm playing, exactly how far I need to extend the end pin. The weight of this bow feels natural, now, as well.

I admit though, now that we're comfortable, I've started flirting with other cellos. Yamaha makes an electric that I'm really intrigued by. And those graphite bows call to me often. And when I don't play, I feel guilty, like I'm cheating on someone. “You wanted this relationship,” I hear it taunting me. “You have to meet me half way.”