More 7/8 Adventure

Feel free to skip this; it’s another record of my impressions of a different 7/8 cello that I’m writing out for my own reference.

I am so glad I recorded this session; listening to it, I can hear things I didn’t hear while I was playing. I can also hear the comments HRH and I made about what was happening, which are also valuable. Also, the recorder captured this exchange:

LIAM: That’s Z Y X! Mama is playing Z Y X!

[MAMA plays the song]

LIAM: Mama, you did it!

MAMA: I did it.

LIAM: That’s my favourite song, Z Y X!

MAMA: Z Y X is your favourite song?

LIAM: It is! The song! Like in the movie!

MAMA: Do you want me to play it again?


Right away I could hear that the sound is fuller and richer than my current cello. However, it has the same hello-I-am-an-open-A-string thing that mine has, whereas the other 7/8 didn’t. Like the other one, the bridge is less arched so I was bumping strings, used to needing larger movements to cross between strings. My shifts were mostly a fraction off too, because the 7/8 is shorter. But wow, I can’t get over how much lighter a 7/8 is, and how much easier it is to move around. The 7/8 size just fits me so very much better.

This one had a less shiny varnish, and the colour was more of a red-brown. It’s a Scarlatti model 301 from the shop of Xuechang Sun in China (Beijing, I believe). The 301 is a co-operative workshop-made cello, not handmade by one person. It’s fully carved and has a lighter coat of varnish than I’m used to; it’s not as shiny as the other 7/8 or my own cello, and I can actually see the grain of the wood as sort of furrows on the surface instead of having them all filled in. The colour is a red-brown, very much like the colour of this cello.

It’s easy to play. Other than adjusting my shifts and spacing I didn’t have to fight to get a good sound out of it. The recording demonstrates that the lower strings project and are well-defined, as are the upper strings. The upper strings are crisp, almost too crisp for my taste. I didn’t ask what it was strung with, but I suspect Jargars and Larsens, a setup I’ve always disliked despite its popularity. (A quick check of string winding tables tells me that two were definitely Larsens but I’m mystified as to what the other two were.) I like my strings to be very smoothly balanced, and I’m not someone who pushes to have the sound from the top strings be punchy. I prefer it mellow across the board.

I looked at their hard cases, too. They had the Bobelock Deluxe case with wheels there, priced at $560. The salesgirl thinks the Slimline model without wheels would be about $500. And then, before I could bring it up, right away she said everything would depend on how a case would fit a 7/8 as well: would we be able to insert extra padding, how secure would it be, and so forth. (Bam makes case pads that you can insert in any hard case, but the question is how much padding would I need; for example, the hard case I have now would need way too much padding to be safe.) Wheels are very nice, but they usually add two to three pounds overall. I’d prefer something lighter. Of course, the lightest cases are way out of my price range; there’s no point in spending $1,500 on a case if the cello is about the same price. (Hmm, I just found a listing for a Bam light case that’s less expensive than even the Bobelock. That’s worth looking into.)

Overall, I’d be happy with this cello, but I think I prefer the other 7/8. I’ll need to play it again, of course, and it will be good to have a recording of each to hear to help me get a handle on the sound. On a shallow level I prefer the colour of the wood and varnish, but I feel that the sound was more even across all four strings in the first one as well. And the thousand-dollar cheaper price tag doesn’t hurt, either.

I’ll call the new luthier this week to make a reservation to take the Eastman 7/8 home for a trial the first week of June. My old luthier is just as easy-going about a home trial: sure, you can take it for a week, just leave us your contact info and your driver’s licence number. Call us when you have an idea of when you want to reserve it. If I can’t decide I might book both for a simultaneous trial, but I suspect that won’t be necessary. And if either sells before I can buy it, whichever one I choose, both shops can reorder another one for me. No pressure.

While on our way out, I pointed a 1/4 size cello out to Liam. “For me?” he said hopefully, his face glowing. I can always tell when he is honestly touched or overwhelmed by something because he gets quiet, and he delivered his words in that quiet sort of way. “Not yet,” I said. “If next year you still really want to play, then we’ll start looking into it.”

So there: our second 7/8 adventure. The next step is booking the first one for a week-long home trial.

3 thoughts on “More 7/8 Adventure

  1. Ceri

    Well, I certainly don’t need a new saxophone.

    (Scott and I had this conversation this past weekend while looking at TVs. “This one is $6500”, “Yeah, and if I had $6500 lying around to spend on something, I’d have a Ref 54.” Our TV budget will be MUCH lower.)


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