Cello Facts For You

You have decided that learning a musical instrument could be fun. You have heard the cello on a CD and like the sound of it. However before launching ahead to start learning it, you would like to know some facts about it. Here are some cello facts for you.

A Cello is a bowed string instrument. The word cello is derived from the Italian word Violincello. It used to be spelled with an apostrophe ( ‘cello ) to indicate that there were letters missing. However Cello is the accepted name and spelling used today.

A Cello looks like a violin but is much bigger thus having many parts to it. These include a soundbody with two f shaped soundholes, neck, pegbox with the tuning pegs, scroll, bridge,a fingerboard, tailpiece, four strings and a bow. Due to the large size, a cellist sits whilst playing with the main body of the instrument between the knees and the neck of the cello above the left shoulder. Therefore a cello has an endpin to support it on the ground for playing. So just imagine a person ( cellist ) sitting on a chair holding onto their cello, with soundbody between knees and neck above left shoulder. Starting at the bottom you will see an endpin attached to the main soundbody. Attached to the soundbody at the lower end is the tailpiece to which the four strings are attached. The strings are stretched over a supporting bridge to the top of the cello where they are attached to tuning pegs in the pegbox. As you follow the strings from bottom to top, you will see a fingerboard attached over the top end of the soundbody to the carved neck and pegbox. The cellist will hold and use the bow in the left hand.

A cello is typically made of varying types of wood but can be made of carbon fibre or aluminium. The parts are joined with hide glue. The quality and cost of the cello is determined by the type(s) of wood used. The size of a cello can vary to accommodate the varying sizes of people playing from young children to adult. They are all identical in construction.

The strings are made of sheep or goat gut, metal or synthetic material. The open strings are C G D A which is exactly the same as a viola except one octave lower. The cello is tuned to these four open strings. Tuning is done by turning the tuning pegs tighter or looser to match the sound with an external source such as a piano or tuner.

The bow averages around 73cm long and is made of materials such as wood, carbon-fibre, fibre-glass. The bow hair is traditionally horse hair however sometimes synthetic materials of varying colours are used.

Apart from the main cello and bow there are accessories a cellist can have. These include a cello case for instrument protection, rosin applied to the horse hair to aid in sound production, mutes, endpin stops, metronome, tuner, humidifiers and instrument care kit.

A sound on the cello is produced when a cellist presses down on the string (s) with the left hand and moves the bow horizontally across the strings with the right hand somewhere between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard. The pitch of the note is determined by where on the string the finger is pressed on the fingerboard. Sounds get higher as the string gets pressed closer to the bridge because there is less string to vibrate when the bow moves across. The tone and expression of the note is determined by the weight applied to the string, the speed the bow moves across the string and where the bow hair touches the string eg softer, more mellow sounds are produced nearer the fingerboard and brighter, more metallic sounds are produced nearer the bridge. There are other techniques involved to vary the sounds you can produce on the cello which you find out when learning the cello.

These cello facts for you on its name, looks, materials, accessories and sounds are not complete.