- Alternate meaning: Cello (web browser)
A cropped image to show the relative size of a cello to a human (Cello.jpg)
The cello (also violoncello or 'cello) is a stringed instrument and a member of the violin family. The cello is much larger than a violin, and unlike that instrument, it is played in an upright position between the legs of the seated musician, resting on a metal spike, called the endpin. The player draws the bow horizontally across the strings.
The cello has four strings tuned in fifths: C (the lowest), G, D and A (below middle C); these are tuned exactly one octave below the viola. Because of the enormous range of the instrument written music for the cello frequently alternates between the bass clef, tenor clef, and treble clef.
The name cello is an abbreviation of the Italian violoncello, which means 'little violone'. The violone is an obsolete instrument, a large viol, similar to a modern double bass.
The cello is most closely associated with western classical music. It is part of the standard orchestra and features in the string quartet and many other chamber groups. A large number of concertos and sonatas have been written for it. It is less common in popular music, but the instrument is sometimes featured in pop and rock recordings. Despite this, the cello is rarely part of a group's standard lineup. An exception are Apocalyptica, a group of cellists best known for their versions of heavy metal songs. It is a style that has become known as cello rock. Another great example is Rasputina, a group of three female cellists committed to an intricate cello style intermingled with Gothic music.
Cellos are normally constructed with a spruce top. The back, sides, and neck are usually made of maple, although occasionally other woods such as poplar are used. The top and back are hand carved, although less expensive cellos frequently have a top and back made of a laminate, giving an inferior sound. The sides are made by steaming the wood and bending it around forms. The neck, pegbox, and scroll are carved out of a single piece of wood. Ebony is usually used for the tuning pegs, fingerboard, nut (piece above the fingerboard which the strings rest on), and tailpiece, but other dark woods can be used. The tailpiece is also frequently made of metal. The bridge is not glued on; tension from the strings maintains it in place. The f-holes in the top serve two purposes: they allow sound to move from inside the instrument's body out into the room, and provide access to the interior, for example to adjust the sound peg (see below). The instrument is supported by an endpin.
Internally, the cello has two important features: a bass bar, which is glued to the underside of the top of the instrument, and a round wooden sound peg, which is sandwiched between the top and bottom. Like the bridge, the sound peg is not glued; Because of this, if it should be necessary to remove all of the strings, the cello must be kept horizontal, or the sound peg can fall over. A luthier has a special tool for positioning it should this occur.
Traditionally, bows are made from Pernambuco (high quality) or Brasil (lower quality) wood. Both woods come from the same species of tree (Caesalpina sappna L, or sappon wood, native in Asia), but Pernambuco is the heartwood of the tree and is much darker (Brasil wood is stained/painted dark to compensate). The hair is horsehair. Synthetic hair sounds terrible; even if the bow is made of fiberglass (terrible quality), real horsehair produces better sound. Recently, bows made of carbon fiber (or wood with a carbon fiber core) have become available; these are much better than fiberglass, but also more expensive. The hair is coated with rosin (normally every time the instrument is played) to improve the grip on the strings. Bows need to be re-haired periodically as the hair loses its grip over time. The hair is kept under tension while playing by a screw which pulls the frog (the part of the bow one holds) back. Leaving the bow tightened for long periods of time can damage it, by warping the stick.
Baroque cellos differ from the modern instrument in several ways. The neck has a different form and angle which matches the baroque bass-bar and stringing. Modern cellos have a retractable metal spike at the bottom to support the instrument (and transmit some of the sound through the floor), while Baroque cellos are held only by the knees of the player. Modern bows curve in and are held at the frog; Baroque bows curve out and are held closer to the bow's point of balance. Modern strings normally have a metal core; Baroque strings are made of gut (the G and C strings sometimes wound with metal). Modern cellos often have fine-tuners connecting the strings to the tailpiece, which make it much easier to tune the instrument - Baroque cellos do not use fine tuners. Baroque tuning is generally lower then standard tuning, usually A415 (equivalent to modern A-flat)
Makers / Luthiers
A violin maker or luthier is someone who builds or repairs stringed instruments, ranging from guitars to violins. Some well known luthiers include:
A person who plays the cello is called a cellist. Famous or well known cellists include: