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Profile: the cello

A cello

The ‘cello is a lot bigger than the violin and the strings are a lot longer. As a result the sound it makes is much deeper and richer. Like the violin and viola, the cello began life in the 16th century. Since then many composers have written large-scale solo pieces for the cello, making the most of this wonderfully warm sound.

How is it played?

The cello is held between the knees and rested on a spike. The cellist bows or plucks the strings with their right hand and changes the pitch of the note by placing the fingers of their left hand in different positions on the strings.

How is it tuned?

The modern cello has four strings, tuned to C – G – D – A (starting from the C two octaves below middle C on the piano). The player can tune each string by tightening the strings with the pegs at the top of the instrument and for fine-tuning with the small adjusters at the bottom of the strings.

What does it sound like?

Bach prelude

...the cello has a very distinctive sound,

Dvorak cello concerto

it can be heard playing a dramatic role in cello concertos....

Bach recitative

...providing a vital accompaniment,

Beethoven cello sonata in F major

or a more intimate role in chamber music:

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