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A Custom Setup Is Critical

Anyone who has ever played a stringed instrument recognizes how individual those instruments are. The thickness and flexibility of the strings, the height off the fingerboard, the tightness of the tuning pegs, the exact placement of the bridge.

No musician feels this more intensely the cello player. Which is why having your cello set up to your personal specifications is so critical — and why you should have an experienced cello shop do that setup.

Cellos Are Challenging

"Almost more than any other instrument, cellos are very difficult to set up correctly, and they're difficult to maintain," explains Johnson String Instrument co-founder, Carol Johnson. "So that there are lots of cellos out there in the world that have faulty bridges; necks have been out two or three times . . . Because they're large, and they're fragile."

"We have a very good workshop," Carol continues, "so when cellos come in, we do our own setup, and adjust them to our own specifications. We work with new or older cellos, in terms of different strings, sound post adjustments, and more. Our goal is to bring those cellos up to their full potential."

Making Your Cello Fit You

But it doesn't end there. All cello music is not created alike; neither are all cellists! The next step is to make the cello work for your playing style.

"There's a certain quality of sound that you won't really know until that cello gets in the hands of a particular player," recounts Carol. "They say 'This is a beautiful cello, but I want something 'stronger!' And so you start readjusting it. You put in a higher-tension string, you might raise the bridge a little. You do all those things to take that cello and make it sound more powerful.

"When a cello gets in the hands of a player, that union between the musician and the instrument becomes all important. These are all nuances that you do with a cello to make it yours."

A Note on Cello Maintenance

Not even the best of setups will last forever. Like most precision instruments, your cello will change through time and use. Some issues, such as installing strings, are simple, and can be done by almost anyone. Other conditions, however, require the services of a professional. This article, Common Cello Repair Problems and Solutions, can guide you through some of the most common ones.

Please use caution, and if the guidelines call for calling in a professional cello repair shop, don't risk the health and welfare of your valuable cello!

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Carriage House Violins

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

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The Johnson String Project

Johnson String Project

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

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The Johnson String Blog

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Information and helpful articles about the music and instruments we love.

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