Before buying a cello, learn the fundamentals of cello sizing to ensure that the instrument you select can be played accurately and comfortably. Cellos are typically made in eight different sizes, though only five of them are commonly available. While some instrument dealers recommend selecting a cello size based on age, many others believe that the correct cello size should be determined height. When determining the size of a cello, it’s important to hold the instrument in a seated position and look at where different parts of the instrument rest in relation to the body. If you’re still unsure about which cello size to get, ask your cello teacher or an experienced cellist to accompany you as you shop for your instrument.
Full-size (or 4/4), 7/8, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, and 1/16 cellos are the most common sizes. However, instrument stores may not carry the 7/8, 1/10, and 1/16 sizes. Apart from the size difference, all fractionally-sized cellos have the same appearance, playing methods, and sound as full-size cellos. Individuals who find a full-size cello too large to play properly can benefit from fractionally-sized instruments.
Some cello dealers advise picking a cello size based on one’s age. Individuals between the ages of four and six should play a 1/8 size cello, those between the ages of six and seven should play a 1/4 size cello, those between the ages of seven and eleven should play a 1/2 size cello, and those between the ages of eleven and fifteen should play a 3/4 size cello. Anyone over the age of 15 should learn to play a full-size cello.
The age-based sizing method has obvious flaws because children grow at different rates and adults eventually reach many different heights. As a result, many cello experts recommend that proper cello size be determined one’s height rather than age. Those over 5 feet (1.52 m) tall should play a full-size cello, those under 4 feet (1.22 m) tall should play a 1/8 or 1/4 size, and those in the middle should play a 1/2 or 3/4 size, according to this system.
It’s important to remember that even height-based sizing isn’t a precise science. To ensure that you get the right cello size, sit in the position where you’ll be playing and hold each potential instrument with its endpin extended. The lowest tuning peg on the side of the scroll closest to your head should be roughly the same height as your ear while in this position. Furthermore, the top of the cello’s body should be at least as high as your breastbone.
If you’re still having trouble deciding on the right cello size, ask your cello teacher or an experienced cellist for assistance. These people should be able to tell whether or not an instrument is the right size for you. If no expert or teacher is available, ask a staff member at the instrument shop to assist you in selecting a size, and inquire as to whether instruments can be exchanged if you make a mistake.