There are a lot of factors at play that determines the cost of a cello. The construction techniques, the materials used, the quality of sound, and even the fame of the cello maker can all influence the price. So, how much does a cello cost? Well, it depends on what kind of cello you need.
What Is a Typical Cello Price?
There are three basic categories for pricing out a cello: student cellos, intermediate to advanced cellos, and professional cellos.
Student cellos are low-cost cellos specially made for beginners. These sorts of cellos are often constructed with laminate wood instead of the traditional carved wood and use maple in place of ebony for the pegs and fingerboard.
You can find student cellos constructed with the traditional carved spruce, maple, and ebony in higher price ranges, but probably not for less than $1,200. Additionally, student cellos are typically machine-made to keep costs down. You can find new student cellos priced between $200 and $2,500.
Intermediate to advanced cellos is mid-range cellos designed for players who have some experience with the instrument. These cellos’ are typically at least partially handcrafted. They’re usually the traditional solid carved spruce and maple and feature pegs and fingerboards carved out of ebony.
Due to the higher craftsmanship, these cellos should have a much better sound quality than student cellos. They typically run between $500 and $10,000.Professional cellos are top-tier cellos that should only be handled by professional-level players.
Expert Tip: Completely handmade with the highest quality materials, these cellos usually start at about $10,000 and can go up into the millions.
What Determines the Cost of a Cello?
The cost of a cello is determined by several factors.
The quality of the wood
While most cellos are made with spruce, maple, and ebony, many cheaper cellos are constructed with laminate wood. Additionally, the way the wood is processed can impact the tone the cello produces, which in turn impacts the price.
How much of the cello is handmade? Even cellos upwards of $3,000 typically feature factory-made parts. Higher-end cellos are entirely carved by hand, created with an attention to detail that impacts both the aesthetic and the sound quality of the instrument.
The cello maker
If a cello maker is particularly well known and trusted within the cello world, it’s likely their instruments will come at a higher price. For example, one of the most famous stringed instrument makers in history is the Italian Stradivari family, who made instruments throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
Their Stradivarius instruments are popularly considered the best in history, though this claim is disputed. Regardless, Stradivarius instruments have sold for millions of dollars.
How much should a beginner spend on the cello?
If you’re planning on buying a cello outright, you’re going to be spending at least $200 for a new student cello. However, many shops have rent or financing options that would allow you to pay lower monthly fees. Think in the ballpark of $30 to $60 per month.
How much you “should” spend on a cello depends on a number of factors that can be difficult to quantify. First and foremost, you need to take stock of your needs or the needs of the player you are buying for.
What is the player’s level? Are they absolute beginners or do they have a year or two under their belt? What is your budget? How much could you reasonably spend right now? How much could you reasonably spend monthly?
Expert Tip: For absolute beginners, you shouldn’t worry about finding the perfect instrument that the player will grow into. In fact, it’s better for beginners to play on student instruments. They’re easier to play than cellos in the higher-tier pricing categories and will create a better playing experience for inexperienced players.
For players who have been playing for a couple of years, it’s best to consult their teacher. The teacher will be able to advise on whether the player is ready for an intermediate instrument. If they are or soon will be, you may want to hold off on buying and instead rent something until you’ve saved up enough to invest in an intermediate instrument.
If they’ve still got some time before they’re ready for an intermediate instrument, then you may want to look for a slightly more expensive student instrument. With that in mind, though, you need to be honest about how much you can spend. There is nothing wrong with buying a cello for $200.
In fact, you can find some solid instruments in that price range. If the player is an absolute beginner and $200 upfront makes you nervous, you could even rent an instrument for a monthly fee instead. Some instrument shops even let you build credit with them, so you can apply your rental fees on a future purchase.
Once you understand the player’s level and your budget you can start taking a few other things into consideration. The comfort and personal preferences of the player play a huge role in the type of cello they want to play. For that reason, we highly recommend you take your player to a violin shop to try out different types of cellos.
The store employees will be able to show the player how to hold the instrument so they can test whether it’s comfortable and whether they like the sound. Even absolute beginners are likely to find they have a preference. Employees will likely be able to find something comfortable that is within your price range and appropriate for your level.
How old is the player?
Cellos come in several sizes, and smaller players tend to need smaller cellos. While smaller cellos are slightly cheaper than their full-sized counterparts, the main consideration here is how fast the player will be growing. For most folks, it won’t make a ton of sense to shell out $2,500 on a cello your player may outgrow in a year.
Where will you play the instrument?
Cellos are fragile, so traveling with them can be nerve-wracking. If you plan on traveling across the country, or even across oceans, with your new cello you’re definitely going to want to start with something cheaper and/or make sure you have a solid maintenance plan.
The cost of supplies.
If you’re a beginning cello player, you will need more than just the cello and everything it comes with. You will also need a music stand, music books, and rosin and will need to be prepared to replace the strings every couple of months. These costs can add up and may impact how much you can reasonably spend on a cello.
What is a good price for a cello?
Judging a good price for a cello comes down to quality. Generally, more expensive means better quality. But as mentioned above, sometimes you’re also paying for a brand name.
If you find a cello you’re considering purchasing, do your research. Look into who made the instrument and see how their cellos are reviewed.
If you know the make and model of the cello, you’ll likely be able to find out details like whether the fingerboard is made from ebony or maple and how much of the instrument was handmade instead of machine-made. You should also look for similarly-priced cellos and look into how they are made and how they are reviewed.
While so much subjectivity goes into what makes a cello ‘worth the price’ here are a few general guidelines:
- Cellos less than $500 are likely made with laminate wood instead of carved wood. There’s a bit of a grey area, but once you hit about $1,200 you should exclusively be looking at carved cellos.
- There is no reason to purchase a student cello for more than $2,500.
- If you’re looking in the intermediate range and up, you want a cello with pegs and a fingerboard made out of ebony. If they don’t use ebony, they likely aren’t worth the price.
- In the best-case scenario, you’ll also be able to play the cello before deciding whether to purchase it.
If it doesn’t feel good to play or you don’t like how it sounds, then no price is a good price. You won’t enjoy playing that particular cello so you shouldn’t buy it. Even if it’s incredibly well-reviewed. Many players are successful in playing on lower-priced instruments.
Even if the higher-priced cello may objectively be of a higher quality and level of craftsmanship, the cello you enjoy playing on is always going to be a better deal.
When buying a cello, the absolute most important factor to consider is whether or not you like that cello. There are a number of practical considerations to take into account as well, but just because a cello is technical of high quality doesn’t mean you will enjoy playing it.
The most concrete idea for how much a cello should cost comes down to the level of the player. Beginners should look to spend anywhere from $200 to $2,500 depending on their needs and preferences, intermediate players should look to spend between $500 and $10,000 and professionals will likely spend more than $10,000.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
As a final thought, buying a cello is personal. Figure out your budget and spend some time in a shop figuring out what you like, and you’re likely to find something that suits you within your price range.