There are many factors to consider when selecting a cello for a beginning student. It can be a challenging process, especially if it's your first time purchasing a musical instrument. Below is a list of basic guidelines to help you choose which instrument to purchase.
1. Size - Cellos come in six different sizes. Typically, students ages 4 and under will need a 1/10 size cello, ages 4 to 6 will need a 1/8 size cello, ages 6 to 8 will need a 1/4 size cello, ages 8 to 11 will need a 1/2 size cello, ages 11 to 14 will need a 3/4 size cello, and ages 14 and up will need a full size cello. However, everyone's body is different, so the best way to choose the right cello is to try it on, just like clothing. To measure if a cello is the right size, sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and knees bent at a 90 degree angle (or slightly higher). Extend the endpin and place the body of the cello against the left side of your sternum, with the inner sides of your knees touching the lowest bouts, and the scroll near your left ear. Your left hand should be able to easily reach from the top to the bottom of the fingerboard. If it's your first time buying a cello, I recommend having a private teacher or the instrument maker help you make sure you find the best fit.
2. Tone quality - Every cello is different, so it is important to test each instrument's tone quality. Listen carefully to the timbre and projection of each string. Some cellos have a brighter sound, while others are more mellow and dark in nature. Whichever you prefer, make sure there is a coherence in the sound quality of the four strings. You may also want to try out several different cello bows, because the quality and weight of the bow can also affect the sound. If you are new to the instrument, you can ask your private teacher or the instrument maker to play a few notes on the cello so you can hear how it sounds. Some makers will even let you borrow the cello for a few days to try it out.
3. Price - Typically, how much you pay for a cello is how much you can expect from the quality. You can purchase a cello anywhere from a couple hundred dollars up to hundreds of thousands. Though it is unnecessary to purchase an expensive masterpiece of an instrument for a beginner, it is important to keep in mind that cheap instruments often have sound problems, are difficult to keep in tune, and are made from poor quality materials that won't hold up over time. Good quality beginning cellos usually start around $1000. Another option is to rent a cello instead of buying one. I recommend this option if your budget only allows for a small monthly payment instead of the full cost up-front, or if the student is unsure about whether they want to commit to playing the cello. However, if you decide to rent a cello and then end up returning it, you will loose money that cannot be recouped. Since cellos rarely decrease in value, buying makes more sense than renting in most cases, because you can usually sell the cello for full value if the students decides not to continue.
4. Accessories - When you purchase a new instrument, there are some important accessories you will need to buy in addition to the cello. Cellos are very fragile, so you will need a sturdy cello case to store and transport the instrument. Another essential accessory is rosin, a solid form of resin obtained from plants that is applied to your bow in order to create friction between your bow and the strings. Without rosin, your cello won't make any sound. I also recommend purchasing an endpin stopper to keep your cello from slipping, extra strings in case one of them breaks, and a music stand to support your sheet music.