A few times this summer, when work was particularly frustrating, my mouse clicks wandered to eBay, where I discovered dozens of offerings of brand-new Chinese cellos for as little as $180. Some are even available in a variety of bright colors. Low risk testing of the dream seemed possible, but this must be too good to be true. Maybe these cellos are all junk and the frustration of trying to play them will kill the dream after all. I searched the forums for someone who’d tried one of these cellos and found mixed reviews. The cynics claimed nothing could make them sound like anything but a tin can. One more reasonable fellow said his sounded pretty decent, after replacing the strings and having his luthier do some adjustments.
I don’t have a luthier on retainer. I don’t even know any luthiers. But I do know a young man who began studying cello this year, at age 16, and I discovered he had a $300 Chinese cello! Not wanting to be too bold, I waited until we happened to be at his house and casually asked to see his cello. Sam played for me for a while – some things that I recognized and loved, like Amazing Grace and Ashokan Farewell. Though he had only been playing a few months, the music was beautiful. The cheap Chinese cello sounded mellow and sweet. Certainly lovely enough to make me happy for a long time, if I could learn to play it half as well as Sam did.
So the die is cast. I cautiously told my wife I thought I was going to take the plunge. Oddly, I expected her to laugh at the idea – perhaps I hoped she’d laugh so I could put it off again. But of course she didn’t laugh. She said “Go for it. Get the cello!” I was excited, but suddenly fearful. I had subconsciously wanted her to discourage me so I could continue to procrastinate and it wouldn’t be my fault. Now I have no excuse. I have to buy the cello and face the fears.
I’ve decided to play it safe and buy the cheapest new cello on eBay. Online Guitar offers a Merano (nice Italian-sounding name, isn’t it?) cello for $179 with free shipping. In a week or so, it will be mine…