General information and resources for students and adult learners.


The cello (Chello) has four thick strings and a broad, deep body.  It is played with a bow made of horsehair.  The bow is much shorter and heavier than the bow of the violin.  Cellist also pluck the strings.  The sound of the cello is rich and low.

The cello dates back to the end of the 16th century when it evolved from a 15th century instrument called the viola de gamba, or viol-between-the-knees. It was smaller than the cello and less rounded, but it was held between the knees and bowed in the same way.
Originally known as the violoncello, which literally means "little violone" - the violone being the double bass; the name has been shortened to the cello.
  • It has four strings and covers approximately four octaves in its range.
  • It is held light between the knees and is supported by a height-adjustable metal spike.
  • It is played by bowing (arco), plucking (pizzicato) or by striking the string with the wooden part of the bow (con legno- literally with the wood).
The cello is known for its warm, rich tone and is one of the most versatile instruments in the orchestra. It plays all sorts of roles: sometimes it joins the double bassess, chugging away at a bass line on other occasions it plays the rhythmic inner part associated with the middle strings.
The cello's most glorious sound is produced when the composer gives it a singing melody, there is nothing quite like the sound of the whole cello section playing a beautiful melody over the rest of a symphony orchestra.
Many composers have written pieces for the cello, famous composer Antonio Vivaldi knew its value and wrote several concertos where the cellos have equal status with the violins. Because of the cello's range of sound, it can used to evoke many emotions.
How the cello works
Sound is produced from the cello in the same way as the violin except that its pitch is proportionately lower.
The four pegs at the top of the instrument are used to tighten and slacken the strings for tuning purposes and must be able to withstand the added pressure exerted on them.
A cellist normally sits on a chair, holding the body of the instrument between his or her knees,with the weight of the instrument resting on a spike.

  • Fact File:  A cello made by Stradivarius was sold at Sotheby's in London in 1988 to £682,000.


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