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Summary: This Cecilio viola review and guide will go over the violas manufactured by Cecilio and in which cases you should consider each.
If you or anyone in your family has ever wanted to play the viola or just transitioned from a violin or other stringed instrument to the smaller viola, Cecilio is a highly recommended brand. They are one of the top brands for string instruments, particularly for beginners. Their violas consistently ranked among the best because of their quality and value.
Bottomline Up Front
Cecilio makes excellent violas for beginners and students. I reviewed each based on its construction, quality, craftsmanship, and value. While they have two main models, I recommend the CVA-400 because of the quality materials and accessories they provide. Cecilio is a great brand for beginners, constructed to fit within any budget.
Cecilio makes two violas:
- The CVA-400
- The CVA-500
In this Cecilio Viola review and guide, we will go over each of these models and when to consider using them.
Selection Criteria for the Cecilio Viola Review and Guide
When evaluating the violas, I thoroughly examined a few key features before making my recommendation. I think the Cecilio CVA-400 viola is the perfect viola for a beginner because of its value and quality. Given how much comes with it, it’s hard to argue with this particular model especially given the price. I think the Cecilia CVA-400 is best for beginners because of the quality of materials used in the construction of the viola and the value.
I applied the same selection criteria to each of these violas when evaluating under which circumstances you might consider them. Price is essential, especially for newcomers, but I think the value is equally essential for beginners. When I was a beginner, I was willing to pay a little more if it meant I got everything I needed to start playing immediately and take care of my instrument. Cecilio is very popular because they offer beginner models at affordable prices and because they do exactly that: they give you everything you need to get started.
As a parent, I find this to be a huge relief every time one of my children says they want to take up a new instrument because I can trust that getting a high-quality beginner model will give my child all of the accessories they need. I won’t have to pay for anything else, at least for a few years.
Rent or Buy?
Beginners typically waffle between buying or renting. If you are starting with a viola, I do not recommend renting simply because, over just a few short months, those rental fees will equate to buying a beginner viola. I recommend this particular model because it is such a good deal for the price. For larger instruments, especially brass instruments, you can go up to five years or longer, paying rental fees before you even come close to the cost of a new instrument, but not with the viola.
This instrument usually costs between $130 and $150. It is not the absolute cheapest beginner viola on the market but spending the extra money on this model is well worth the investment because:
- The Cecilio viola is simply better quality and craftsmanship, so it will last longer before you have to get any repairs or replacements
- The Cecilia viola comes with all of the extra accessories you need, like the bow, rosin, cleaning cloth, and extra strings, so you can start immediately without paying for additional parts
CVA-400 Cecilio Viola Review and Guide
The first is the Cecilio CVA-400. I recommend this viola for anyone new because it is one of the least expensive on the market and comes with great value. My favorite aspect of this particular viola is that you get everything you need to start as a newcomer.
Below is a demonstration of the CVA-400:
- Has extra strings and a bridge
- Comes with accessories like rosin, a horsehair bow, and a case
- Good value
- Aged wood
- Rosewood for the fingerboard, not ebony
- Does not have a shoulder rest
You really won’t find a comparable viola from Cecilio or any other brand in terms of value. They are usually among the second-lowest in terms of price, but they come with all the accessories you need. With this model, you get:
- Horsehair bow
- Hardwood fingerboard
- Hard case
- Extra bridge
- Extra strings
The only thing it doesn’t have is a shoulder rest, so you will have to buy that separately if you want one.
To better appreciate the value, I did some quick math on what each of these accessories would cost individually:
|New beginner horsehair bow||$40|
As you can see, the accessories you get represent more than the cost of the instrument itself, so you are getting a great deal and saving yourself a lot of money.
The materials are high-quality. The back and sides are made of Maple, and the front is made of spruce. The pegs are constructed from boxwood, while the tailpiece and fingerboard are constructed from rosewood. The rosewood fingerboard is slightly different from most instruments where you would see ebony. Rosewood does require repairs more often than ebony. Still, all of the wood is properly aged more than you would get with most beginner stringed instruments, and the overall quality of materials more than compensates for the additional repairs you might have to put forth after a few years on the rosewood.
The construction is handcrafted, which I love. This company is well known for having high standards for craftsmanship and quality assurance checkpoints, not just at the point of manufacturing but at the distribution point in Los Angeles.
CVA-500 Cecilio Viola Review and Guide
The Cecilio CVA-500 is a beginner/intermediate viola that I recommend next. The quality of materials is not quite as good as other models of intermediate instruments, but it is ready to play when you order it and offers excellent value. This model is highly recommended by teachers and music schools, especially those who want instruments they can rent to students who are beginners and intermediate players alike.
Below is a video of someone demonstrating the CVA-500 sound:
- Has extra strings and a bridge
- Comes with accessories like rosin, a horsehair bow, a chromatic tuner, and a case with a shoulder strap
- Good value for beginners or intermediate players
- Has D’Addario strings which are great for intermediates
- Intermediate players will need to replace the bow as it is not high-quality material and is only suitable for beginners
Finding the right viola case can be difficult and expensive but not when investing in the Cecilio CVA-500. The right viola case should be hard, something that offers your delicate, handcrafted stringed instrument as much protection as possible. Soft cases can easily be compromised and lead to damage, but a hard case, especially with extra padding on the inside, can prevent a lot of bumps and scratches. Equally important, especially for children or beginners who are going to and from lessons, is to have multiple ways to carry that case. The viola is a small instrument, but you still need options so that you don’t have your hands full holding the case by the handle. With the Cecilio CVA-500, you get a hard case that meets all of these criteria, with a shoulder strap so it can easily be worn over the body, leaving your hands free.
This model, similar to the other model, comes with many different accessories. Designed for beginners who have some experience and those transitioning into an intermediate level of skill, the CVA-500 comes with a horsehair bow, rosin, extra D’Addario strings, an extra bridge, and a chromatic tuner which the other model lacks.
The strings are of higher quality and better for beginner players. So, if you are an intermediate student investing in this model, you still get good value. Still, you might consider replacing the strings with something like Dominant synthetic strings or Pirastro.
I like the Chromatic tuner because it’s easy to use and easy to read, especially when you are practicing or performing. I use this tuner regularly because of the LCD display, the adjustable tempo functions, and the metronome functions. As a beginner or an intermediate player, the Chromatic tuner will help you make sure you stay in tune.
Note: If you are an intermediate considering this model, I recommend that you buy a separate bow to replace the one that comes with the kit because you will want something that is slightly higher quality.
The craftsmanship and quality of materials used for the instrument’s body are still very good, comparable to the CVA-400 model. The entire body is made of maple, and the top is made of spruce. The tailpiece, fingerboard, and pegs are ebony. Still, they are first-grade ebony, which is a rare find in beginner or intermediate models, which typically rely on lower-quality second-grade or third-grade ebony.
The first-grade ebony on these pieces will make them crack-resistant and long-lasting so you won’t have to make repairs as often as violas made with second-grade or third-grade ebony.
Cecilio Viola Review and Guide: Maintenance Tips
No matter which of these two you choose, be sure to follow the Cecilio maintenance tips.
You should always clean the body of your viola after playing using the lint-free cloth that comes with your kit. Be careful when you do this to not knock the bridge out of place. Never use rubbing alcohol or furniture polish; just wipe away any dust or rosin with the cloth.
Whether you use the strings that come with the viola or replace them, you need to clean them using the lint-free cloth that comes with your accessory kit after every time you play. You will notice a striking difference in the sound you get from your instrument if you clean your strings of any dirt or rosin dust each time.
You should rosin your bow at least once per week if you are a student. Periodically the bow that comes with your Cecilio viola will need to be re-haired. This is something that a professional should do after many of the hairs have broken and the bow has lost its friction. In all honesty, I have never had a bow rehaired because it’s cheaper where I live to just buy a new one which you can do.
Answer: Cecilio is a very good brand for beginner instruments, particularly stringed instruments. They produce reliable, high-quality materials and construction of the instruments. More importantly, this high-quality comes with a range of accessories that give you everything you need to get started. They are a great brand for beginners and, to a lesser degree, beginners who are transitioning into intermediate skill levels.
Answer: Cecilio violas range between $130 and $180 depending on which viola your purchase and which outlet you use. You can find Cecilia violas online or in music stores. If you buy in a music store, you may not get the same accessories you get with a brand new online purchase. Even though Cecilio is typically the second cheapest option for beginner violas, they are well worth the investment, especially the Cecilia CVA-400, because of the accessories you get.
Answer: Strings naturally deteriorate, So within six months, they tend to lose a lot of their quality and sound dead, especially if you aren’t playing your instrument. If this happens, use the spare set of strings or invest in new strings and replace them. Remember that if you are changing the entire set of strings instead of replacing one at a time, remove them one at a time regardless. If you remove them all simultaneously, your soundpost will fall over.
Cecilio is a reputable company that focuses on school-aged children and beginners. No matter your budget, they provide quality instruments, and as a beginner, I strongly recommend the Cecilio CVA-400 because of the quality and value you get.
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