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The cello or violoncello is a string instrument. It is played by bowing or plucking its four strings, which are usually tuned in perfect fifths an octave lower than the viola: from low to high, C2, G2, D3 and A3. It is the bass member of the violin family, which also includes the violin, viola and the double bass. After the double bass, it is the second-largest and second lowest (in pitch) bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra. The cello is used as a solo instrument, as well as in chamber music ensembles (e.g., string quartet), string orchestras, as a member of the string section of symphony orchestras, and some types of rock bands.

Music for the cello is generally written in the bass clef, but both tenor clef and treble clef are used for higher-range parts, both in orchestral/chamber music parts and in solo cello works. A person who plays the cello is called a cellist or violoncellist. In a small classical ensemble, such as a string quartet, the cello typically plays the bass part, the lowest-pitched musical line of the piece. In an orchestra of the Baroque era (ca. 1600–1750) and Classical period (ca. 1725–1800), the cello typically plays the bass part, generally doubled an octave lower by the double basses. In Baroque-era music, the cello is often used to play the basso continuo bassline, typically along with a keyboard instrument (e.g., pipe organ or harpsichord) or a fretted, plucked stringed instrument (e.g., lute or theorbo). In such a Baroque performance, the cello player might be joined or replaced by other bass instruments, playing the bassoon, double bass, viol or other low-register instruments.

Choosing the Right Size Cello

As with all instruments from the string family, choosing the right size cello is important. A cello that is too small or too large for the player will be more difficult to play. Cello choices are usually determined based on age, height or body length.

Cello Size Guide

1/4 size - ages 5 to 7 - height up to 4ft, body length 20" to 23". 

1/2 size - ages 7 to 11 - height up to 4.5ft, body length 26" to 27.5".

3/4 size - ages 11 to 15 - height up to 5ft, body length 26" to 27.5".

4/4 size - ages 16+ - height 5ft and over, body length 30" and over.

What is a cello player called?

A person who plays the cello is called a cellist.

Is it hard to learn the cello?

Cello's, along with all string instruments have a degree of complexity as they require additional hand and finger strength and dexterity.

How much is a cello worth?

Cello start from $499 for a basic cello, made in China and over $10 million for an antique Italian Cello made in the 1700s


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