All About the Cello

All About the Cello

A cello is a popular bowed string instrument. The word “cello” is derived from the Italian word “violincello”. It was previously spelt with an apostrophe ‘cello to show that some of the letters were missing. But today “cello” is the generally accepted name and spelling for the musical instrument.

The Cello resembles the violin but is bigger and have plenty parts to it. The parts of a cello include a sound body with two sound holes shaped like the letter F, the neck, peg box with the tuning pegs, the scroll, a tailpiece. The bridge, a fingerboard and a bow. The Cello is so large that the cellist sits whilst playing the instrument and it is placed between the knees with the neck of the cello resting on the left shoulder. The cello, therefore, needs an endpin to give it support on the ground for playing.

A cello is basically made of different types of wood but can be made of carbon fibre or aluminium. The parts are joined with hiding glue. The quality and cost of the cello are 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 for 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 73 cm 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 horsehair 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 depends on where the finger presses on the string in the fingerboard. The sound goes higher as the string is pressed closer to the bridge due to the fact that there is less string to vibrate when the bow moves across.

The expression and the tone of the note are determined on the weight the cellist applies to the string, the speed by which the bow moves across the string and the exact place the bow hair touches the string. Soft and mellow sounds are produced close to the fingerboard and louder, more metallic sound is produced nearer the bridge.

So, if you are looking to get the cello, this information above will help you know more about the instrument and get acquainted to its parts and sound.