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Choosing the Right Cello Dealer

When renting or purchasing a cello, choosing the proper dealer is critical, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, is finding a company that is known specifically for their experience with the violin and cello families, rather than a store that carries a full line of musical instruments.

Cello-centric Focus

Says Carol Johnson, co-founder of Johnson String Instrument, "You want to look at a dealer who specializes in the violin, cello and viola — as opposed to, say, an all-purpose music store. We're only violin, viola, and cello. Plus bows, and other accessories. We don't do anything else."

"We have a stringent process for selecting the cellos we sell", adds Roger Johnson, co-founder of Johnson String Instrument, and a long-time cellist himself. "We often send one of the experts from our workshop to inspect cellos before they are shipped."

Part of the advantage is that such a shop has a breadth of skills and knowledge under one roof. "We have a very good workshop, so when cellos come in, we adjust them to our own specifications. We do our own setup," says Carol.

"What we do is actually a synergistic rearrangement of the bridge, sound post, fingerboard, tailpiece, strings and pegs, so they work in balance with each other," Roger explains. "Paying the necessary attention to this process can transform a cello and give a buyer a deeper understanding of what they are getting. It's a time-consuming, expensive process that is most often overlooked," he agrees. "But it's essential for making the cello feel right to the player, work correctly mechanically, and sound its best."

In fact, Johnson String Instrument's services include repairs, fine restoration work, bow repair and rehairing, and appraisals. They have a dedicated staff of professional players and violin makers that selects each and every instrument and bow they offer. So everything from the construction of the cello to the resonance of the E string is evaluated with careful, experienced eyes and ears.

Trading in Your Cello

Like a well-built house, a fine wine, or an antique car, good cellos not only maintain their value, but can often increase in worth over time. So it's important to deal with an organization that stands behind their products.

At Johnson String, they firmly believe this. "I tell my sales staff, 'Never sell anything that you don't want to see again!' " Carol affirms. This is especially telling when deciding whether to purchase or rent your cello, or when moving from a rental to a purchased instrument.

Renting vs. Purchasing Cellos

You'll find more information in the article on When to Buy vs. Rent Cellos. But as a general rule, a dedicated cello shop will insure that money spent on a rental will go toward any instrument you purchase in the future.

Ms. Johnson explains: "In an all-purpose music store, they're only going to have commercial instruments, and when you get done renting, you're simply going to own a rental instrument. So it's always better to work with a shop where you can use your equity for something that you would like to own. And when you buy, chances are that's just going to be your first full-size instrument. You're moving out of rental into sales." If you progress, you're going to bring that instrument back in trade, and you're going to move up in quality.


Finally, you're always better off working with a dealer that has a reputation for excellent customer care, up-to-date knowledge of the cello industry, and longevity. As a dealer who has worked with violins, violas, cellos, and their accessories for more than 30 years, Johnson String Instruments has all three.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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