Instruments in the string family, such as the cello or violin, are popular choices for children because they can be easier for kids to learn to play. Choosing a cello for children can be tricky, and it's important to keep several things in mind. One of the most important considerations for selecting a cello for children is size, as a full-sized instrument is much too large for most children to play comfortably. A cello teacher or experienced professional can assist with this, and if possible it's a good idea to have the child in question sit and try the instrument for size. Another important consideration is quality, since the cello must be well-made in order to produce a nice sound. Cellos are expensive, so a decision usually needs to be made between buying and renting, and often instrument rental is a good idea for young kids who will need larger instruments as they grow.
Children as young as three years old can learn to play the cello or other stringed instrument, since there are less limitations on a child's ability to play these instruments. There is no need to wait until the child is older with more mature lungs or larger hands, as is the case with many other instrument families such as woodwinds. Stringed instruments like the cello can be acquired in smaller versions to accommodate a child's smaller body. For example, cellos are available in 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 sizes, in addition to full-sized (4/4) instruments. As a general rule, the younger the child, the smaller the instrument, and teenagers and adults can use a full-sized cello.
When choosing a cello for children, it's usually a good idea to measure the child who will play the instrument and consult an expert about the correct size based on the child's height. Whenever possible, the child should be brought along to the instrument store to try the cello as part of the selection process. He or she should be in a seated position with his or her left hand being able to reach an interval of at least two half-steps, or a minor third, between the first and fourth fingers. The top of the body of the cello should rest against the child's chest, and the scroll and neck should be to the left of his or her head. A cello teacher or other qualified expert can provide a great deal of help in selecting the correct size.
Another thing to consider when selecting a cello for children is quality in order to have the best sound. Lower-quality instruments tend to produce less-pleasing sounds, so pay careful attention the materials from which it is made. The instrument should be handmade, solidly built, and made of genuine hardwoods such as maple or spruce. The strings should be the correct size and accurately placed across the bridge, and the soundpost should be properly fitted and positioned.
One final consideration is whether to buy or rent the instrument. While larger families may choose to buying new in the hopes of passing down the instrument, others may consider a used instrument if finances are an issue. Rentals can be the most practical choice for instruments for children, since they will inevitably need larger instruments as they grow. Many music stores offer great programs for rental purposes, often giving discounts to particular schools or for those students who take lessons at the store.