Violin/Chinese Cello

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Question
Take a look at the cello in this listing:

http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/msg/3368977797.html

Now here is what I'v ebeen told about this cello...It's in great condition with 3 light little rubbing marks on the back of the body, and that it is good to go and doesn't need any service or repair. Also the case is in perfect working order and that the cello has been marked down from $550 so that it would sell faster. I know that it is most likely not a pro cello, but do you have any experience with such cellos of chinese origin? What advice can you give me based on the description in the ad and the details that I have provided? Also I plan to test it with my viola bow...will that work? Thanks.

Answer
Hi there
Unfortunately there is no way I can tell anything from pictures like that and no information about the make/brand of the instrument. Even condition is impossible to tell from this quality of a photo. When I try to enlarge the photo to actually see it, it becomes so blurry it is impossible to see anything.

If the information that you have received about the condition comes from the private seller and not from a repair person, there could be a number of things that could be needed or wrong the the seller isn't aware of. So often, instruments like this are purchased off Amazon and Ebay and when the buyer gets them and tries to use them they find out how poor a quality they are. I can't say that about this instrument because I can't begin to see it up close. Just being a Yellow shaded Chinese instrument doesn't help and that is all I can see.

A viola bow will work, but you won't get the full effect of the cello's sound as a viola bow is too light.  The sound will be brighter and thinner with a viola bow than with a cello bow.
The best advice that I can provide is to find out if you can have the instrument looked at, I doubt that will be allowed, but if not at least see if your teacher can go with you.

In General, new Chinese cello's from a violin shop that cost in the range of $800-1000 with a bag and bow are the lowest quality that I recommend. Without the bow and with a hard case, it would probably be about the same. It's your guess as much as mine, how much this instrument cost new. And just the cost, if it originally sold on line, is not really a good measure of quality.

There are some great Chinese Cello's, including ones at the professional level. But there are a huge number that are just junk and there is no way to tell you what to look for, you just have to trust who you are buying from and traditionally getting something like this online is not the way to buy a stringed instrument. You need to be able to trust the seller and be able to work with them if the need arises. The cello might be fine or it might be junk, you won't really know until you have tried it and maybe used it for a few weeks, by hen it is too late to deal with a seller like this.

I wish I could have given you some actual information of this cello, but the seller has not provided what is needed to even make an informed decision.

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David Lashof

Expertise

I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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