Best instruments for the $

Ruth Ann Scanzillo said: Aug 21, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts

Hi, all. With at least two of my families having purchased their 1/2 and smaller sized cellos from the local vendor before my advice could be factored in, only to sustain chronic tuning probs et al, I come to you all for the latest in purchasing advice. Was shocked to discover that SHAR’s prices for 1/2 size have reached $700; the families in my area cannot afford this kind of pricing.

Where, what, and how much—for 1/2 size, and smaller?

Thank you. I’m in Northwestern PA, known affectionately as the “tri-state area” between PA, OH and NY.

Fraternally yours,
R.A. Scanzillo

Emily Balderrama said: Aug 21, 2016
Emily Balderrama
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts

It is so important for students to have access to well set up instruments. This sometimes is difficult for some families to afford. Thus I have done the following for my studio.

Renting- this is a great short term way to get access to a very well set up instrument. My parents particularly enjoy this especially when they are starting at 1/8 and 1/10 sizes, because it is very easy to trade-up. Plus we are supporting local music stores this way. The students also accumulate rental credit that can be put towards purchasing an instrument. One student I had was renting from 1/16th size to 1/4 and the store finally told them they needed to purchase an instrument. With rental credit plus some taxes, they were able to get a very nice cello.

Craigslist- I have become somewhat a craigslist guru in southern California and have helped students purchase several instruments. This is a great way to get a nice instrument at a fraction of the cost. In our area a lot of wealthier families purchase instruments $1800-$2000 range, only to have their students quit. This leaves some fractional cellos being sold for $500-600 (often coming with great bows and protective cases). I help students safely check out the instruments to insure they are good deal. I also know a Luthier who will help set up these craigslist finds if they need a new bridge or minor work.

Studio Instruments- As my studio and students have grown up, we’ve been able to keep instruments within the studio. I.e. a craigslist 1/2 size cello find for $500 can be resold and passed down within the studio to multiple students. I myself sometimes will purchase a good find and resell to students in need or loan out if needed.

Hope that helps! I am not familiar with your area, but I believe craigslist and local shops are around there.

Emily Balderrama
EMB Music Studio

Mengwei said: Aug 22, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

I think Shar’s ~$700 cello outfit is the one that rents for ~$50/mo, so it would take a minimum of 14 months to “break even”. In my area, nicer cellos can be rented for less, which is useful for those who can’t or don’t want to pay the full cost up front, be responsible for the maintenance, etc.

Another perspective: $700 is easily 4-6 months of lesson fees. If you are deciding to spend money on studying an instrument, you have to count equipment/maintenance. Assuming you don’t choose the rental method of spreading out costs, then instead of starting lessons right away, you could put what would have been 4-6 months of lesson fees towards buying the instrument first. It does require delayed gratification from both teacher and student/family (and a commitment to keep going, once you’ve bought the it!), but since the assumption is that spending will happen, you are just changing what is being bought and when.

Sera Jane Smolen said: Aug 23, 2016
Sera Jane Smolen
Suzuki Association Member
Ithaca, NY
24 posts

(Hi Ruth!!)
A couple of years ago, someone on this discussion group suggested a “Stenton” cello. It is inexpensive and I have some families who are totally happy with it. It’s “OK”….

When we learn to truly hear the music of children,
we learn to hear the music of the future.
—Michael Deeson Barrow

Ruth Ann Scanzillo said: Aug 23, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts


Emily said: Aug 29, 2016
 59 posts

I always encourage new students to rent before purchasing to make sure they are going to stick with it.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 14, 2016
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Doesn’t Shar rent (or have a ‘rent to buy’) plan? also has a rental plan; I’ve heard good things about their instruments so perhaps its worth asking them to send you one so that you can check it out.

Ruth Ann Scanzillo said: Sep 14, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts

THANK YOU, EVERYONE. I am overwhelmed with the number of responses this request generated. So grateful! My student family went with the company out of Iowa,, or, I think it was, and the instrument is very nice. Will be consulting all of you, again — SHAR prices went up and, up until this past month or so, I really thought SHAR was our best option, in these parts. Thank you all, again!

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