When we first start playing an instrument, we all have aspirations. It’s pretty essential. Maybe it’s a sound, a lick, a riff, a person, whatever it is, it directly helps us practice and develops through the hard times.
As Yo Yo Ma points out in the video below, when he first began learning the famous “Cello Suite #1”, “I took one section at a time, one day at a time…” That perfectly illustrates the process of how you grow in your craft as a musician, from one of the best who has ever lived. Any song can be learned if you have patience, and learn it piece by piece, one day at a time.
Putting on a new set of strings may not make you sound like Yo Yo Ma overnight, but it will sure help. One of the best things adding a new set of strings is the immediate impact on your overall sound quality and performance.
Although cello strings can be expensive upfront, quality strings can last upwards of a year. This is a huge benefit because you don’t have to spend time changing your strings every three weeks as guitar players do.
Since the price of cello strings can get pricey, it is vital that you make the right choice. Just think about it. If you spend money on strings that you don’t like and have the wrong coating and gauge levels, you will be miserable playing for a year.
This is a situation that you do not want to find yourself in. Therefore, it is essential that you find the right cello strings so that you can rest assured your playability and sound will not take a dive in quality.
What To Look For When Buying The Best Cello Strings
Choosing the best cello strings is an investment, not only with your time but also your bank account. It’s crucial to make the right choice. There are two key elements to look for when choosing the right cello strings; the string type and the gauge level.
The first thing to consider when making a purchase is the type of sound you are looking for, and then make sure your string type aligns up with it.
There are three different types of cello strings; synthetic core cello strings, gut core cello strings, steel core cello strings.
The gut core string type is by far the oldest choice on the market. Derived from sheep intestine, it has been used for centuries by classical musicians. Because of its authentic makeup, it has the warmest sound with harmonious connotations.
The gut core string option has been the go-to choice for hundreds of years, but it hasn’t been an easy one. They are very high maintenance. For starters, when a musician installs the strings, they take at least seven days to settle in. While playing, they frequently go out of tune due to changes in a room’s temperature, the moisture of the air, and other weather conditions. Due to these difficulties, the gut core strings type should be reserved for seasoned cello players and not those who are just getting into playing the instrument.
The synthetic core cello string type is an alternative choice to the gut core in both quality and substance. Made as a “synthetic” choice to the gut core, it is composed of different types of fiber or nylon. Outside of its base, different kinds of metals are woven into its synthetic core.
This allows for a quicker frequency response time for the cello itself and helps sustain a rich and warm tone, although not as warm at the gut core type. With the synthetic core, you don’t get the difficulties in keeping your strings tuned because the strings are made synthetically and are more opposed to the elements.
The steel core option is the third-string selection available. Its core is all metal and comprised of either twisted or straight wire wound with metal. The steel core string is the most durable of all strings options, offering the best pitch control and volume output.
Another option some famous cello musicians use is the “mix and match” string type. In this option, the performer buys different types of strings to make up an original sound that they are most comfortable with. This is a very effective approach but requires a lot of experience to know exactly what type of strings work the best together and which ones don’t.
The second thing to look for when selecting the right cello string is the gauge level. A strings gauge refers to the overall thickness or thinness of the actual strings. Said differently, the higher the gauge level, the bigger the string is and vice versa.
Gauge levels are so important because they directly impact the sound of your instrument. Higher gauge levels are harder to play because they are more difficult to shape and voice because of the thickness of the string. Smaller gauge levels are easier to note because they are thinner and require less control to shape.
Although smaller gauge levels are more comfortable to play, there is a compromise of sound. Generally, smaller gauge levels have less sound output because the strings don’t absorb as many sound vibrations due to their smaller size. Larger gauge levels will have more warmth and deepness because they are big enough to absorb larger levels of vibrations.
So, when you are choosing the right cello string for you. Look at the right gauge level that gives you the sound you are looking for, along with the string type that makes sense for you from a sound perspective and a playability point of view.