I stopped at Long & McQuade one day this week and noticed that they had a Yamaha Silent Cello sitting in a box. I have always wanted to try one of these instruments, so Friday I managed to coherce Ken and Steve — no, it wasn’t that difficult — to go on a road trip at lunch time to see if it had been put on display yet. It turned out that it hadn’t been, but the salesperson who worked in that section was happy to set it up while we waited. I was pleased to see that he knew stringed instruments well, going from removing the packing material to having it fully set up and tuned in about five minutes.
While waiting for it to be prep’ed, I looked through the cello bows they had in stock to see if there was something interesting to play. For grins, I ended up trying a fiberglass bow. Um… no. It seems that fiberglass bows have considerably more flex than pernambuco, and there’s something about the lack of grain / direction to the flex that felt very weird. Oh well.
Since the silent cello is (nearly) silent without amplification, the salesman asked if I wanted to try it with headphones, or go for an amp, and I (being the brave soul that I am) went the amp route. After a little initial awkwardness I found that it was quite natural to play. Ken helpfully snapped a candid shot with his iPhone, then used his psionic powers to annotate it with exactly what I was thinking…
Anyway, the summary is, money-or-no I decided to get it. Hopefully, somewhere between a year-end bonus and a tax refund I can clear up the $1500 damage. (Of course, any cellist will tell you that $1500 for an instrument is cheap, but that doesn’t make it any easier.)
The thing is, it really is exactly what I wanted. Even though the SVC-50 is the cheapest of the models Yamaha makes, and is missing some of the sensors that are in the more expensive ones, it still sounds quite good — better, in fact, than the sound I got from the piezo pickup on my “real” cello. It has a built-in headphone amp and a line in jack that I can use to connect my iPhone, so it will be the perfect tool for practicing at work[*], while listening to the pieces for the orchestra.
It’s also perfect for connecting up to music software, since you can hear the processed result without having to block out the original sound of the instrument. I’ll try to get something recorded soon, so you can hear what it sounds like.
It’s very cool!
Here’s one last image, from the official Yamaha site:
[*] Since everyone I have said that to has replied “Aren’t you supposed to be working instead?”, I’m compelled to note that I mean at lunchtime.