Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick String Review & Changing Strings

I had Larsen mediums on my A&D and regular Spirocores for G & C but decided to switch them out because D was too quiet, G wasn't very responsive and C & G didn't have very clean chords. Even to a beginner like me, the strings didn't sound very balanced. Although I definitely like how warm and rich the strings make the cello. 

Looking for strings is a little more fun for me than looking for a cello! First of all, its not as expensive in comparison and its kind of interesting trying to figure out how different string combinations affect the cello, the strings nearby and my playing! Secondly, I don't feel like I'm making HUGE decisions - I'm totally wishy washy when it comes to making big decisions, I'm one of those types that make checklists and comparison charts! Seriously, I did it for the cellos I was looking at!  hhmmm...I wonder if I should post my comparison chart... And third, I'm learning a bunch of new stuff on cellos! It's never ending!

Changing cello strings:
  • I've got this down - piece of cake! :). My teacher kind of showed me how to do this during my previous lesson, but I had to look it up to make sure I didn't completely blow up my cello! Yes, I can blow anything up - I'm very accident prone...
    • I wasn't really paying much attention because I wanted to try out his cello! So while he was changing strings, I was playing some songs on his professional cello. I definitely can appreciate his cello more now that I've done quite a bit of research and cello searching for myself! Of course, mine is no where close to his... *sigh.* The cellos I'm looking at are only intermediate/advanced student cellos. Then again, I'm only a beginner student. LOL ~ chicken before the egg! ;)
  • The most important part of changing strings: 
    • ALWAYS change cello strings one at a time
    • NEVER take off all of the strings at once!
      • If I were to take off all of the strings at once the soundpost would fall because the tension from the strings is what holds it up.

Quick string review
  • I currently have Evah Medium for A & Evah Soloist for D on the Eastman cello and Spirocore Tungsten on G&C. I think the A&D is a bit too bright for me and I’m hoping they’ll warm up a bit more, but I don’t think they will as the description for these are for added “brilliance.” I have found the strings are much more balanced on this cello with this combination. But it also has brought out a small wolf on E, which disappears if I switch the D string back to the Larsen Mediums that were on there previously. Adam mentioned that the more open the strings are, the probability of a wolf appearing increase – I think it has to do with the tension of the strings.
    • However, the response and ease from the Evah strings is remarkable!! Getting more projection out of the A&D is extremely easy! It may be in part due to the fact that I’ve learned to drop my elbow more, but I don’t get the same response and ease of playing with the Larsen strings. Also, playing very quietly, is easy and sounds quite lovely! At quieter volumes it still retains a rich tonal quality! I don’t know, it may be too bright for me, but I may have to switch over because of these factors. Plus, its only been a week, so maybe it’ll sound better to me after another week.
    • I read that there are two main groups of A and D strings. The first group is typically Jargar and Larsen Soloist which are designed for HEAVIER bow pressure and a more powerful core sound. I’ve discovered when I switch back from Evahs to Larsens that I definitely need to use more pressure and my bowing needs to be more accurate. While the second group, which are typically Permanent, Evah Pirazz and Dominant, are more pliant which makes faster bow strokes easier, but are also brighter and more resonant. For me, Evahs are definitely more forgiving and easier to play. Although when I get nervous my hands start to shake and that's more noticeable on the Evahs! :). I didn't realize that strings make that huge of a difference in playability! I may have to try out Permanents or Dominants next.

I've read through a lot of forums regarding strings, and I thought they were being a bit picky about strings, but they really do make a difference! Along with my teacher's advice and a couple shop owners recommendations, I came across some good reading on picking out strings from the forums below:

      I've been referring back to these forums to figure what strings to try out and had to keep searching for these over and over again!  This should save some time! I signed up to the forums, but I have no idea how to search through either of the website forums! I'm going to have spend some time on those websites and figure that out. 

      Lesson #21( 08/16/11): Strings, Bowing & New Repertoire: Song of the Wind

      I didn't have a lesson last week because my teacher was busy, but during that time I was working on my bowing, specifically dropping my elbow. I think I figured out a way to do that, but wasn't sure it was correct, so it was nice to finally go over it with him. And, that it was correct! Yaay me!! :). Otherwise, I'd be spending some time un-doing what I thought was correct from muscle memory - which is such a pain!

      1) Strings
      • My teacher went over some information about different strings and their construction. He mentioned that Belcantos were originally made because a cellist was allergic to a commonly used material found in a lot of strings (I think he said nickel) so Belcanto came up with strings that didn't use that particular material. He also went into the different windings and how different string makers create the strings and such. This is another interesting topic I'll have to look into further! 
      • I'll post another blog on my string review so far and other information I've come across.

      2) Scales
      • Left Hand
        • I’m off on my left hand again. I was focusing mostly on my bowing for the past week. I had figured out how to drop my elbow to get more volume, but the sound wasn’t coming out very smoothly so I was concentrating on that and neglecting my left hand. It kind of sucks, if I change one aspect (e.g. my elbow), I have to readjust everything! I’ll have to work on my left hand intonation with my new bowing so I can do them simultaneously! Right now I can only work on one or the other, but not both at the same time.
      • More internal rhythm
        • When I concentrate on timing, I do much worse! Its funny, I have to sit there for a few minutes (actually only a few seconds, but it feels interminably longer) thinking about the beat and tap it out with my foot. At the same time, I’m thinking to myself, “he must think I’m totally SLOW for having to think about the beat so hard!” At least, that’s what I’d be thinking, but then again I’m fairly impatient. Seriously, it shouldn't be that hard... but apparently its fairly hard for me! 
        • It’s ironic, it comes easily and naturally for me in dancing, but applying it to playing music – not so so much! Maybe that's where the issue stems from: rhythm has always come naturally to me so I haven't really had to put much thought or effort into it, but now that I do, it completely eludes me! Darn you rhythm... hmmm...that reminds me of a song... I've got rhythm, I've got music, I've got my man - who can ask for anything more?... :). lol..
        • Back to reality - Adam recommends tapping the beat out with my foot. This way, I have an internal and external clock to keep the beat.
        • I think I may want to use the metronome, turn it ON and match the beat and then turn it OFF and continue with beat, and then turn it back ON to see if I’m still on the beat. I think for the most part I panic because I think I’m too slow and am falling behind so I speed up the tempo!

      3) Bowing
      • G String
        • I’m pushing out with the bow again which is making my bow point upwards instead of down. I had it correct during the last lesson, but for some reason changed it... I think it may have been because it feels different with my elbow lowered so I was compensating by pushing it out.
      • First Finger
        • I’ve noticed that dropping my elbow puts more pressure on my first finger which has made my pointer finger a bit sore. Not so bad that hurts, but I feel like I have to pop that knuckle. Yeah, I’m one of those people who pop their knuckles a lot! 
        • I asked Adam about the soreness and he said it’s normal, just as long as it doesn’t hurt. If its different or uncomfortable that’s fine, but if it hurts than I need to stop immediately. He showed me his callusses on his first finger and the indention on his bow from where his first finger rests. Apparently, there is a lot of relaxed weight on the first finger! 
      • Keyhole analogy
        • I forgot that the bow’s position should be so the end of the frog would fit into an imaginery keyhole to keep a good amount of bow hair on the string. 
        • See there it is again, change one thing and I have to revisit all the other stuff and reincorporate it! With lowering my elbow, I think I need to almost have my fingers more straight to get the key to fit... I'll have to test this out.
      • Wrist should move laterally
        • I’m pushing my wrist up again and way too soon. The wrist should want to bend naturally and I should allow my arm to do it. The wrist shouldn’t pop up until it reaches very close to the strings. He said its helpful NOT to concentrate on the wrist but to focus on the arm and forearm area so I don't unconsciously shift my initiation point to the wrist because I'm focusing on it so much. 
        • Another interesting thing I should try: Adam normally wears this yellow band on his wrist (which he's recently changed to a men's silver chain linked band) and he uses it to remember to keep his wrist flat. Its a good way to figure out if the wrist is moving laterally/correctly because if its not, than the bracelet will shift around on the wrist or drop to the forearm.

      4) Repertoire
      • O Come, Little Children
        • Take more time and more bow on the small notes. Adam’s teacher had also told him to emphasize the smaller notes more, which often times gives it the correct amount of bow and timing for people like me who like to rush through it. With shorter notes I  think, "oh crap, get that note right and then hurry up and get off it before I mess up!" I guess I should be thinking, "Here comes that note again, lets spend some time with it and use more bow!" ;)
      • Go Tell Aunt Rhody
        • Nice smooth bowing for everything. Same thing here, take time on the smaller notes and don’t rush it.
      • New Repertoire: Song of the Wind
        • Same thing here – don’t rush the short notes! My reoccurring theme for the week and what I'll be working on! We didn’t really have time to go over this one. I’ve been forgetting to take videos of my teacher playing the songs. I’ll have to take videos of the last three. It helps to play along to get the timing of the songs to see how he wants me to play them. Otherwise, I always seem to rush through everything. 

      5) Summer overview 
      • Hmmmm…. I learned 3 songs over the summer, 4 songs if I include Song of the Wind. Maybe I’ll be able to finish the Suzuki book by the end of the year! :). I was talking to my husband and he reminded me that technically I really didn’t start practicing until April 13th when I rented my first real wood cello (the other being laminate). In fact, I only had 1 lesson in January where we just went over cello parts, 1 lesson in February to go over hand position and pizzicato, and 3 lessons in March where I started to learn how to bow, and during this time I didn’t practice at all! Well, kind of, but not really... I was pretty much AVOIDING lessons! LOL ~ I was NOT a very good student then!!  Good thing the lessons were for a grade, otherwise I don’t think I would have continued playing and eventually start to LOVE practicing! Go figure! Funny how things work out…

      Sunday, August 14, 2011

      Cello Practice Log #7: Go Tell Aunt Rhody & Come Little Children

      For the past few weeks I've just been practicing repertoire, so my practice log doesn't have a lot of technique books listed. I'll update my post tomorrow and post my log.

      This is the cello I'll probably be buying. I just put new strings that morning (Saturday). Evah Pirazzi's on top and Spirocore Tungstens on the bottom. I used to have Larsens on top and Spirocore mediums on the bottom, but the D was to quiet and C & G didn't have a very clean chord.

      I'm not sure I like the Evahs yet, but they should mellow out quite a bit after they break in. I've heard that they need about 1-2 weeks to break in and the Spirocores 2-3 weeks. If the Evahs don't mellow in a couple of weeks, I'll probably switch them back to Larsens. However, the D string is definitely a lot louder and more balanced and the C & G chord sound a lot better.

      Below is the YouTube log for Go Tell Aunt Rhody & O Come Little Children:

      Lesson #20 (8/2/2011): Strings, Bowing for volume & G Major Scale

      I thought this was a fairly relaxed lesson and we just went over a bunch of information and not much playing.

      1) String Recommendations

      • I asked for some string recommendations from my teacher for the cello I was trying out and thinking of buying. What I was looking for:
        • Strings that don't change the voice of the cello too much because I already like how it sounds. I just need the strings to talk to each other better: D is too quiet, G doesn't want to talk. C argues with G and doesn't work well together (not a very clean chord).
        • For A&D - strings that make it sound warm and smooth (nothing bright).
        • For G&C - dark and meaty, but not so meaty that it sounds "messy." However, I also like warm and buttery, but I guess that depends on the cello and how the other strings sound.
      • For A & D Strings
        • The current setup is Larsen strings for both A & D, the main issue here is D is to quiet compared to the other strings and compared to other cello's D strings.
        • Adam recommended Kaplan Solutions for A & D Strings since my rental had a set of Kaplan Solutions and I really liked how they sounded on that cello. 
          • We tried one of his used Helicore strings but it sounded a little bit too bright and tinny to me, and it brought out a wolf on the D string.
        • Luthier's recommendations: For more brilliance on A & D, I should try Evah Pirazzi strings. First, try changing the A string only because a lot of times changing the A string can open up the D string. 
        • Good article: Review of A & D Strings
      • For C & G Strings
        • The cello's current strings are Spirocore mediums which sound nice and warm, but they have a very sluggish response and I have to put a lot of weight to make them speak and the chord sounds fairly muddled. 
        • Adam recommended Tungsten Spirocores instead to get the strings to speak faster, the current strings are quite a bit thicker than the A & D strings and the Tungstens will make the strings thinner. Adam uses Belcanto for his C string.
        • Luthier's recommendation: Tungsten Belcanto or Tungsten Spirocore will give me more on C & G. Some ideas:
          • For a cleaner, warm and smoother sound Permanents on G with Spirocore Tungsten on C with Permanents on D and perhaps Evah Pirazzi on A.
            • Permanent C is responsive when Spirocore is not, and vice verse.
          • If using Belcanto - she recommends using them on both the bottom strings.
            • Belcanto G isn't as raspy and Belcantos generally have a dark meaty sound. 
        • Good article: Review of G & C Strings

          2) G Major Scale
          • Things to work on:
            • Make sure the volume stays the same when moving from the C string to the G string. Most beginners like me will add more weight because its easier to add weight due to the position of the bow and string. Therefore the notes on the G string are often times louder, so the volume needs to be controlled to ensure they notes are consistent.
            • Watch the bow angle moving between strings, but for the most part it was correct and I was aware when it wasn't right and corrected it.

          3) D Major Scale
          • Some improvement (yaay!). My fingers seem to be much better and he didn't have to adjust as much with the accompaniment, especially for F# where I was having some issues before.

          4) Things to work on for Bowing 
          • More volume (of course) - I should try using longer, faster fluid bow strokes.
          • Bowing and breathing - I tend to hold my breath when I get nervous which tenses up my muscles. Also, breathing should help my nervousness.
            • Adam recommended during scales to inhale when I'm ready to start and then exhale with the down-bow using two beats, and then inhale with the up-bow during two beats.
            • I ended up exhaling way too fast so I was still holding my breath near the end and then inhaling too quickly so I was holding my breath for a beat! I definitely was getting light headed at the end! :)
          • Use my whole body during bowing - initiate from the back, open up the armpit area, forearm leads and then wrist and bow follows.

          6) Repertoire
          • O Come, Little Children
            • Make the sound more fluid with not so many stops.  
            • Bow management - I kept running out of bow because I was using too much bow when I should have used less. So I need to be conscious of how much bow I'm using and should always be aware of how much bow needs to be used and is available. Time to add those lines back onto my bow!
              • I keep taking them off and then putting them back on because I don't want to become dependent on them, but they're really helpful. Once I get the specific bowing into muscle memory I take it off, but if I have to change something its much quicker to put it on and then figure out what I need to do to for bow management, i.e. bow to a specific line or slow between two lines, or stay within certain lines or whatever I need to do to accomplish correct bowing.
          • Go Tell Aunt Rhody
            • More bow! Work on using dynamics.  

          7) Objectively  
          • So I was a bit negative during this lesson because things just weren't working for me! Really frustrating because that weekend I had nice consistent bowing and sound, and for some reason during this lesson everything went out the window...again!
          • My teacher said to look at this objectively:
            • 1) My left hand has much improved and he doesn't have to adjust his playing as much when he does the accompaniment
            • 2) My bowing is better
            • 3) Overall my technique has improved in the last 6 months that I started practicing more seriously
          • My teacher is super nice! ...BUT...a monkey can improve with as much practice that I do! I was just hoping I would see improvement a lot faster. Yeah, I know - I'm the impatient type!

            Lesson #19 (7/26/11): Go Tell Aunt Rhody & O Come, Little Children

            I've been learning some songs that weren't assigned to me yet. I get fairly bored doing the same ones over and over, and I wanted to do some fun pieces over the summer, so I haven't really been focusing on the technique books for the last few weeks. I've been mainly focusing on repertoire, especially since we'll be going over all of the pieces at the end of the summer with a mini, informal recital.

            I've discovered that learning additional pieces from the Suzuki book has become more easy since I've been using the technique books. I'll have to start the technique books again at the end of August.

            Also, I thought learning the pieces will help me learn the fingering and bowing beforehand to help familiarize myself with each piece before I cover them in the lessons. Then the lesson would fill in the gaps and proper technique. Well...that's the excuse I've been using anyway!

            Lesson notes:

            1) Dynamics - some fun stuff!
            • We went over dynamics, i.e. being louder or quieter in different sections of pieces. I've found this to be really helpful because trying to do volume changes has really helped me understand what needs to be done (or whats lacking in my case) to get the correct volume. 
            • In Go Tell Aunt Rhody, on the second line with the repeat of notes, it typically is played more softly. When I played it with my teacher he was confused as to why I didn't play that section more softly until he noticed that it's not written in the updated version of the Suzuki book I have. During this part, I'm supposed to play more quietly and he plays more loudly.
            • I really enjoy playing around with this, especially since I don't know vibrato yet. It's given me some motivation to figure out how to control my volume! Where before controlling my volume was something that just had to be learned, now I WANT to learn to control it so I can determine how soft or loud something is played and interpret a song my way. Since my playing is medium to medium-soft only, I'd better figure out how to increase my volume so its more distinct.

            2) Reading music notations 
            • I was curious how to read the music notations in the Suzuki book. I looked up the information online but wanted to go over it with my teacher in case I didn't completely understand it. My teacher was taught through the Suzuki method, but doesn't exactly teach the curriculum. 
              • Different speeds listed in the book: moderato, andante, allegro, allegro moderato, grazioso, allegro giocoso and a tempo
              • Different dynamics: mf, f, dolce, meno mosso, rit. & poco rit.
            • We also went over what the little dots and lines meant over a note, and other symbols.

            3) Bowing
            • I was also curious about the different bowing technique, since there are quite a few bowing techniques mentioned for specific pieces in Teaching Suzuki Cello: A Manual for Teachers and Parents by Charlene Wilson that I haven't learned yet. Specifically:
              • Martele "Brick-wall bowing"
              • Detache -"Paint brush bowing"
              • Hooked bowing
            •  Adam demonstrated the different bowing types which I found to be really cool!! Can't wait to start doing those! However, I don't think I'll be learning any of those yet. I think I may request that he teach some of the ones that are mentioned in the book for the specific pieces I've already learned.

            4) Repertoire
            • We went over Go Tell Aunt Rhody and O Come, Little Children - this was much better, but I still need to work on my smoothness, volume and bowing.

            5) Need to work on:
            • Smooth bowing 
              • Notes should not have a distinct stop and start
            • Internalize rhythm 
              • Before playing scales I should stop and think about the timing and how each note will sound before starting the scale. This way the length of each note will be consistent. 
                • He mentioned that when I'm doing scales, the length of each note isn't very consistent so he has to adjust to it, and that it would be fairly confusing to other beginner cellists if I was to play with them. 
            • Internalize volume control
              • I always seem to adjust my volume accordingly and play louder when he's playing with me to match his volume, but when I'm on my own, I play too quietly. I have to learn how to have better volume control when playing on my own.
                •  Same thing here, know how loud each note should be. Expect a certain volume before playing each note, and make sure the volume matches what I envisioned it to be.
            • What I learn technique-wise from doing scales, I should transfer to repertoire
              • That's a no-brainer, right? But for some reason, I'll learn something on scales but it doesn't transfer over to other pieces that I'm working on. I think unless I intentionally focus on that specific technique for that piece, the technique doesn't automatically gets updated. Especially since I've played those pieces more than a few dozen times and its already in muscle memory. Therefore, I have to remember to rework that technique into each piece.

            Saturday, August 13, 2011

            Lesson #18 (7/20/11): Finding a Cello

            I'm currently in the process of finding a cello in the $3,500-$5,000 range, so we didn't go over any technique during this lesson, just tested out a couple of cellos I had out on trial: a Y. Chen Solo Montagnana cello and an Eastman 502 Lombardi Stradivarius cello. I don't want to mention any shop names until I make my decision on the cello.

            We took some recordings of the cellos so I could listen to them later and  we discussed what we thought about each cello. I'd like to post the videos, but my teacher doesn't want them up.

            My rental cello: Angel Taylor C110 Strad 4/4 Strad Model:

            For the price $1,800, this cello had a lovely grain and had a lot of volume, but I returned my cello rental because:

            1) It had a really bad wolf and it was a bit difficult to play. Even with a Lupx Wolf eliminator I could feel a wolf ready to come out on certain notes. Perhaps if I purchased a heavier eliminator it would have helped.

            2) I couldn't make any changes to the cello, that is add posture pegs, update the endpin, etc. And did I mention that the C peg touching the back of my head was driving me nuts? ;). And causing my posture do do weird things because I was trying to avoid the peg.

            3) When I played chords, there were a lot of notes that rang when they weren't supposed to! My teacher said he'd never seen a cello do this before.

            Measurements (helpful to know when looking for a new cello):
            Length: 29 3/4
            Lower: 17
            Upper: 13 1/2
            Center: 9 1/4

            I’ve learned so much about cellos – more than I expected and more than I wanted to know! I’ll have to post some of my findings in more detail. But some information for now.

            Also, some good articles I found regarding finding a cello

            What I’ve learned so far:
            • Find a knowledgeable luthier, friend, teacher, cellist, husband, etc. that can give you good honest advice.
            • Know what I want before shopping. I thought I knew, but apparently not!
              • I wanted a cello that "sounded good." Apparently, for me that's equivalent to "good tonal quality which is complex and rich." Also, I found out recently that I don’t particularly like “bright” cellos and that I prefer warm or darker sounding cellos!
              • I wanted a cello with good “playability” – my rental had a bad wolf and I couldn’t bow very fast without applying a lot of weight because I could feel the wolf ready to spring into action. I didn’t realize that it affected my bowing so much until I played a few cellos. I could bow faster much easier and still retain a good quality of sound. And, I was louder because I could bow faster!
              • I didn’t know I wanted power and projection until later. My rental cello was really loud and boomy. In fact, my husband says that it vibrates the walls upstairs. I assumed that all cellos were loud, but apparently not.
              • I know that sound is the most important part of picking out a cello, but I had reservations about cellos that looked “bad,” i.e. bad varnishes, lots of knots, lots of dings and scratches, etc. I know I’m a newb! I’m getting over that because the cellos I’ve tested all have some kind of weird aesthetic "issue." Trust me when I’ve heard the comment, “it adds character” more than a few dozen times.
                • The cello I’m currently thinking of buying has really bad varnish issues but has beat out cellos in the price range between $2,990 - $9,000! Although I haven’t tested it against anything more than $9,000.
                • It was discounted because of varnish issue (weird streaking on the cello, but not that noticeable), so it was only $3,200, but with all of the fittings I wanted its going to end up being $3,450.
                  • My teacher’s cello is a professional cello and it’s really expensive, but it completely blows any of the cellos that I’ve looked at out of the water! I have some cello envy there! :)
            •  Asking about warranty
              • This sounds obvious, but I didn’t even think to ask if the shop or maker covers the workmanship or material until a shop owner reminded me! I was told to look for a warranty longer than 1 year. If the manufacturer won't provide I should look for a luthier that will back it up with their own warranty.
                • Eastman warranty: "its instruments to be free of defect in material and construction for the lifetime of the product."
                • Cleveland Violins warranty: “provides a lifetime warranty on material and workmanship to the original owner-not the product, which, depending on its interpretation, can work to your advantage (purchased directly from Cleveland Violins) or disadvantage (a luthier owned instrument). Warranty repairs or replacement can be arranged with the local dealer or with them directly."
            • I've done LOTS of research on cellos:
              • I’ve had to become familiar with the common “brands” or makers to have a good comparison because I can’t find good “deals” if I don’t know what’s out there. Some cellos that I've looked up were Eastman (which are all handmade with no machining) and Rudolph Doetsch (“American favorite German brand cellos”). I also looked into Heinrich Gill and J. Haide cellos, but they weren’t in my budget...darn!
            • I learned about basic cello patterns:
              • Some good info on patterns:
              • I’ve found that I’m more comfortable with Stradivarius patterns because the upper bouts are a bit smaller than the other patterns, and lengthwise it falls more comfortably against me. However, I love how the Montagnana cellos sound because I think they sound more deep and dark, but the upper bouts are too big for me. Gofrillers also sound good to me and seem to have a lot of power, but it’s also a big pattern. I have yet to test one. The Ruggeri is a smaller pattern, but I’ve found that these patterns are too bright and “sonorous,” and I prefer warmer or darker tones.
            • Basics fittings – I was fortunate that I could choose my fittings on one of the cellos I’m testing. However, I had to do some research because I didn’t realize that fittings affected the sound of the cello.
              • Endpin options - steel endpins, carbon fiber endpins, and bent endpins (Stahlhammer). Most people are switching to carbon fiber endpins because it opens up the sound and is much lighter. I was looking at bent endpins because I disliked the C peg touching the back of my head, but the posture peg fixed that.
              • Pegs – I wanted posture pegs (where the C peg is not there) because the peg touching the peg definitely drove me nuts! And I wanted mechanical pegs, either Planetary pegs or PegHeds because it’s easier to tune and they don’t slip! Planetary pegs are plastic and PegHeds are real wood so it can be made to match the tailpiece. Also, I learned about different peg styles just for fun (heart, swiss, strad, etc).
              • Different woods for fittings - types of woods used on fittings are Rosewood, Pernambuco, Ebony and Snakewood. Most commonly used is ebony because they’re the hardest, but more recently Pernambuco has become more popular because a recent study showed that this lighter wood opens up the sound more. I'll have to look for that study and post it.
              • Different varnishes - knowing about basic types of varnish can be important because it can affect the cello's sounds. There are spirit varnish, oil varnish, a mixture of both of those and I'm sure many more different kinds.
                • Spirit varnishes are pretty much at full cure from the start and are hard and affect the way the wood sounds. It is preferred that these cellos mature and mellow and round out a bit. 
                • Oil varnishes normally take about 2-4 years to really harden and set. They are soft and take some time to harden and come from the other end of the spectrum. The tone is rich and lush, but often times are not as loud. When these varnishes harden, they become more focused and ring more. 
                • In addition to varnishes, the wood itself is also changing which contributes even more to the maturity of the cello's voice as it ages.
              • Environment– I found out that cellos have to acclimate to their environment! Apparently, Colorado’s high elevation, lack of humidity and other environmental factors are not good for some cellos and can cause cracks if not properly acclimated. Therefore, luthiers will hold cellos for a few months (even up to a year or more!) to have them acclimate, and will also pop the seams and rework the fingerboard and then put the cellos back together! I didn't realize there was so much behind the scene things going on. 
                • Definitely a good idea to ask if the cello was set up by a local luthier and if there was anything done to the cello to acclimate it. They should know what you mean and if they don't - beware!
              • Strings – if it’s a new cello, the strings probably have not yet been broken in which can take about two weeks. So the cello may sound different later, which is also a good reason to have a 2 week trial period. Also the cello may need to settle, especially if it was shipped or just recently put together, or both! In which case, that will probably take longer for it to settle.
                • It's definitely a little weird playing a cello and realizing that it sounds completely different from a few days ago.

            My advice:
            • Low ball your amount because this doesn’t include adjustments, strings or fittings that you may want. I wanted a posture peg for C, custom Pegheds and a D’Harmonie tailpiece! And I'll most likely be changing out the strings ($100+).
            • Take videos so you can watch and listen to it later. The cello will also sound differently behind the cello then from the front.
            • Do your research, makers, patterns, fittings, etc. – lots and lots of research! You'll be more knowledgeable and you'll find better deals.
            • Buy from a shop who will give you a trial period – THIS IS IMPORTANT! If they won’t give you a trial period -forget about it! Same goes with cellos on Craigslist or where-ever.
            • Bring your current cello along to any of your testings. It will give you a good point of comparison.
              • Get your teacher involved, even if they don't want to be! ;). It’s customary to pay your teacher when looking at cellos – just think of it as a lesson to look and learn about cellos!
              • The more you research, the more you’ll be aware if you come across a good “deal.” There a lot of cellos in the $7,000 - $12,000 range where the price has dropped because the seller is frustrated that they cannot sell their cello. The reason being:
                • 1) At this price range, these cellos are normally "workshop cellos," where there isn't one master luthier that completes the cello from beginning to end and these cellos values don't normally increase in value. However, there are some cellos that are made by one master luthier within that price range that do increase in value, so cellists are more willing to buy those instead or buy one that is brand new and made to their specifications.
                • 2) Beginner/Intermediate cellists like me have purchased a cello in the $3,000 - $5,000 range and sometimes there isn't that noticeable of a difference to justify spending more, so will jump to the next price range (which is what I'll probably end up doing when I get to that point).
                  • I've found cellos like Frederich Wyss selling at $3,500 (normally around $6k), and William Harris Lee cellos selling at $8,500 (normally around $12k). Even good $3,000 German cellos selling at $1,800.
                  • However, I think I'll be buying from a shop where I can trade in my cello and apply the cost of it to the next cello price range.
              I have LOTS more information on how to look for a cello, so I think I'll post them separately. I also have some really good advice from luthiers on how to pick out cellos too.