Upgrading From One Cello to Another

If you have been playing cello for years, it may be time to think about a new instrument. Cellos come in beginning, intermediate and advanced models, and it’s appropriate for new music students to begin with the easiest model. As you become increasingly adept, you will eventually reach a point where continuing to play the same cello will limit your progression. It’s at this point that upgrading to your next great cello with rich deep tones and amazing craftsmanship should be considered.

Buying a cello is not something you do on a whim as it is a fairly costly proposition. Whether replacing your current instrument or making the transition from renting to owning, it makes sense to put some time into finding the perfect cello for you. Don’t forget to take advantage of local experts, like your music teacher or a trained professional from your local music shop when seeking advice and recommendations on the best options.


What to Consider

Upgrading your cello is an exciting prospect, particularly when doing so is because your skill level has increased significantly. In which case, buying a more advanced instrument provides an opportunity to take your artistic pursuit to the next level. If you are feeling a bit limited and not ready to pay the price associated with a new instrument, there are other things you can do to improve.

Switching to a higher quality bow can change the tonal quality you get out of your cello and noticeably enhance the sound. Have you had your cello checked by a luthier at the music shop in your area? You’d be surprised at the difference in sound after a trained professional tunes the instrument. Small adjustments can result in big improvements to the sound quality of your cello.


Do Your Research

Whatever direction you choose to go, it pays to research all of the options available to you. New cellos are a big purchase, but are a necessary step in your progression as a cellist. To be able to look at all of the instruments on the market, you can shop for cellos online

It’s an easy way to make an apples to apples comparison between music shops, and find what you’re looking for at the best price. With the proviso that you find a good music shop with a solid reputation before doing business with them. Johnson String Instruments offers a large variety of cellos, bows, outfits and other accessories with shipping directly to your door.


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How to Buy a Cello Online

Buying a cello online greatly expands the selection from which to choose, and allows you to purchase the precise instrument you want at a competitive price. Shopping online makes it possible to search music shops all over the country, rather than being limited by your location. Before you make a purchase, however, it’s best to visit a good violin or string store, in person, and test out different cellos. Take your time investigating each option and playing the instrument to feel the responsiveness, resonance, and tone.

You may also want to ask a teacher or experienced cellist to play, while you stand across the room and listen. Hearing the instrument from a distance will give you an idea of its projection ability. The size and weight of the cello also impacts the sound – the bigger the cello, the more tone is produced. You need to be able to handle the instrument, so calculating the correct size for your body is important. 


Read the Reviews

Once you’ve done your research and narrowed down the list of cellos you’re interested in, it’s time to find a reputable music store. One of the biggest advantages of purchasing from shops that sell instruments onlineis that you can read about the experiences of previous buyers with regard to both the violins, violas, and cellos they sell, and the store itself. 

Look for online shops that carry high quality instruments and have a reputation for being responsive to their customer’s needs. Take the same approach to the cellos on your shortlist. Along with perusing the description and technical specifications of each, narrow your choices down to the instruments that consistently get great customer reviews. 


Who to Buy From

Cellos, like all string instruments, vary greatly in price. The cost is a reflection of the quality of the individual instrument. Handmade cellos are more expensive as a result of the craftsmanship, type of materials used, etc. As you advance as a player, you’ll learn that a cello that is handmade by an experienced luthier possesses a quality of sound that far exceeds that of an instrument with machine made parts. 

We recommend that you buy from an instrument shop, not Amazon, because the experts on staff will be able to clarify questions about how much a cello should cost based on these variables. Second party sites such as Amazon sell nearly every type of good on the market, but they are not specialists and don’t offer the type of helpful service that you get from an actual music store. At Johnson String Instrument, we maintain excellent relationships with all of our present and past customers, and our friendly staff are always available to answer questions.


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Four Tips for Improving Fourth Finger Strength

When you’re first learning to play the violin, mastering finger coordination can prove to be difficult, but not impossible. However, for many violinists, it’s a challenge to increase the strength as well as the agility of the pinky or fourth finger of the left hand. This is especially true for violinists with small hands.

Your pinky is not only the shortest finger on your left hand, but it’s also relatively weak in comparison to the other digits. The goal is to strengthen it and increase its flexibility, which will contribute to producing a better sound. 

There are a number of exercises that you can do to develop strength and dexterity in your fourth finger. And, while the goal for most violinists is to develop a curved pinky, the priority should be to develop a pinky that is both strong and flexible. 

What are some valuable tips to help you improve the strength and dexterity of your pinky?

Our Tips

Four basic tips that our staff at Johnson String Instrument offer to help you to improve your fourth finger include:

1. Give it time

2. Exercise with and without your violin

3. Try different positions

4. Don’t just strengthen, stretch!

Remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Be patient! Learning new techniques is challenging. It takes time to build muscle memory in your pinky. Overdoing exercises for your fourth finger can result in injury rather than improvement. Practice for a moderate amount of time each to prevent overuse injuries.

Practicing your chromatic scales and arpeggios over and over at a very slow tempo is one the best ways to strengthen your fourth finger and improve your dexterity. In addition, try left-handed pizzicato exercises and independent finger raises on your violin.  

And remember you do not need your violin to exercise. An example is the “pencil reach.” Grip a pencil or regular pen in your left hand, using only your fingertips. Slowly, “walk” your pinky finger away from the other fingers as far as you can and then slowly walk it back. Use a portable fingerboard or print one for free so you can practice scales and arpeggios when your violin isn’t readily available. 

Make time for stretching exercises before you practice. Stretching the muscles of your fingers as well as flexing your joints has a big impact on your range of motion and the dexterity of your fingers. Take breaks when playing, to perform some stretching exercises, as this can help prevent cramping and/or sprains.

Your Hands Can Handle It

If you have small hands, a short pinky finger, or if your hands are still growing, it may be challenging to develop your pinky finger strength for playing the violin. You may find that some of the fourth finger exercises are difficult at first. 

But don’t let small hands or short fingers stop you from playing the violin. Check out our website for tips on playing a violin with small hands.


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The Most Common Violin Scales and How to Play Them

When you are learning how to play the violin, it’s important to understand scales. Learning scales will give you a solid foundation as you start to explore new and more challenging pieces of music.

What is a scale? A violin scale is a series of notes, ordered by their frequency or pitch, which span eight notes or an octave. Each scale on the violin is accompanied by a set of naturals, sharps, and flats which determine the type of scale. While there are many different types of scales, including major, natural minor, harmonic minor and more, as a beginner playing violin, you have to first focus on and master the major scales. 

Whether you are a beginning or advanced violinist, practicing scales helps to develop the correct finger and arm muscle memory which are essential factors to making progress in your playing. Set aside a specific amount of time during each of your practice sessions to focus on playing different scales on your violin. 

Don’t just mindlessly speed through your scales. Be deliberate in your practicing of scales; play them with an exaggerated slow tempo to work on improving the accuracy of your playing as well as improving your timing and rhythm. Repeated practice of your violin scales also helps to improve your ability to detect and then correct problems with your tone, articulation, and consistency.

And don’t forget about using your sheet music because focusing on each note that you play is critical to helping build your ability to read music. “Saying” the notes to yourself as you play them helps to improve intonation as well as sight reading skills.

Starting With a Major Scale

The five most common violin scales that are useful for any violinist to master are:

1. A Major

2. G Major

3. D Major

4. C Major

5. B-Flat Major

When you have mastered these five scales, you’ll be prepared for almost any piece of music that you would like to play.

Practice in Style

Practicing violin scales as part of a consistent routine is invaluable in developing and maintaining every facet of your playing technique. By mastering scales, your fingers will have the opportunity to “learn” the correct spacing in every position on the violin. 

Start at a very slow tempo, using a metronome, and focus on your sound, pitch, and tone. 

The Boss DB-90 Metronome, the flagship of the Dr. Beat Metronome line, lets you practice in style. The most advanced metronome available, the Boss DB-90 has an astounding number of functions and features packed into its compact, lightweight chassis. With a tempo range from 30-250 beats per minute, the Boss DB-90 Metronome will help you improve your timing and rhythm as you work on developing your own playing style.


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