Cello Info

Cello instrument information

The violoncello, usually abbreviated to cello, is a bowed stringed instrument. A member of the violin family, tuned an octave below the viola. The cello is used as a solo instrument, in chamber music, and as a member of the string section of an orchestra.

The name cello is an abbreviation of the Italian violoncello, which means "little violone".

The cello is most closely associated with European classical music. It is part of the standard orchestra and is the bass voice of the string quartet, as well as being part of many other chamber groups. A large number of concertos and sonatas have been written for it.

The cello has four strings tuned in perfect fifth intervals: the A-string (the highest sounding), D-string, G-string, and C-string (the lowest sounding). The A-string is tuned to the pitch A3 (just below middle C), the D-string a fifth lower at D3, the G-string a fifth below that at G2, and the C-string tuned to C2 (two octaves lower than middle C). The strings are one octave lower than the viola, and one octave plus one fifth lower than the violin.

The cello is typically made from wood. A traditional cello has a spruce top, with maple for the back, sides, and neck. Other woods, such as poplar or willow, are sometimes used for the back and sides. Less expensive celli frequently have tops and backs made of laminated wood.

The top and back are traditionally hand-carved, though less expensive celli are often machine-produced. The sides, or ribs, are made by heating the wood and bending it around forms. The cello body has a wide top bout, narrow middle formed by two C-bouts, and wide bottom bout, with the bridge and sound holes just below the middle.

The top and back of the cello has decorative border inlay known as purfling.

Above the main body is the carved neck, which leads to a pegbox and the scroll. The neck, pegbox, and scroll are normally carved out of a single piece of wood. Attached to the neck and extending over the body of the instrument is the fingerboard. The nut is a raised piece of wood, where the fingerboard meets the pegbox, which the strings rest on. The pegbox houses four tuning pegs, one for each string. The pegs are used to tune the cello by either tightening or loosening the string. The scroll is a traditional part of the cello and all other members of the violin family. Ebony is usually used for the tuning pegs, fingerboard, and nut, but other hard woods, such as boxwood or rosewood, can be used.

The tailpiece and endpin are found in the lower part of the cello. The tailpiece is traditionally made of ebony or another hard wood, but can also be made of plastic or steel. It attaches the strings to the lower end of the cello, and can have one or more fine tuners. The endpin or spike is made of wood, metal or rigid carbon fiber and supports the cello in playing position. Modern endpins are retractable and adjustable; older ones were removed when not in use. (The word endpin also means the button of wood located at this place in all instruments in the violin family.) The sharp tip of the cello's endpin is sometimes capped with a rubber tip that prevents the cello from slipping on the floor.

The bridge elevates the strings above the cello and transfers their vibrations to the top of the instrument and the soundpost inside. The bridge is not glued, but rather held in place by the tension of the strings. The f-holes (named for their shape) are located on either side of the bridge, and allow air to move in and out of the instrument to produce sound. Additionally, the f-holes act as access points to the interior of the cello for repairs or maintenance.

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 post, which is wedged between the top and bottom plates. The bass bar, found under the bass foot of the bridge, serves to support the cello's top and distribute the vibrations. The sound post, found under the treble side of the bridge, connects the back and front of the cello. Like the bridge, the sound post is not glued, but is kept in place by the tensions of the bridge and strings. Together, the bass bar and sound post are responsible for transferring the strings' vibrations to the body of the instrument, which in turn transfers them to the air mass inside the instrument, thus producing sound.

Cellos are constructed and repaired using hide glue, which is strong but reversible, allowing for disassembly when needed. Tops may be glued on with diluted glue, since some repairs call for the removal of the top. Theoretically, hide glue is weaker than the body's wood, so as the top or back shrinks side-to-side, the glue holding it will let go, avoiding a crack in the plate. However, in reality this does not always happen.

Traditionally, bows are made from pernambuco or brazilwood. Both come from the same species of tree (Caesalpina echinata), but pernambuco, used for higher-quality bows, is the heartwood of the tree and is darker in color than brazilwood (which is sometimes stained to compensate). Pernambuco is a heavy, resinous wood with great elasticity which makes it an ideal wood for instrument bows.

The bow hair is horsehair, though synthetic hair in different colors is also available. The hair is coated with rosin periodically to make it grip the strings and cause them to vibrate. Bows need to be re-haired periodically, especially if the hairs break frequently or lose their gripping quality. The hair is kept under tension while playing by a screw which pulls the frog (the part of the bow under the hand) back. Leaving the bow tightened for long periods of time can damage it by warping the stick.

The cello developed from the bass violin, first used by Monteverdi, which was a three-string consort instrument. The invention of wire-wound strings (fine wire around a thin gut core), around 1660 in Bologna, allowed for a finer bass sound than was possible with purely gut strings on such a short body. Bolognese makers exploited this new technology to create the cello, a somewhat smaller instrument suitable for solo repertoire due to both the timbre of the instrument and the fact that the smaller size made it easier to play virtuosic passages. This instrument had disadvantages as well, however. The cello's light sound was not as suitable for church and ensemble playing, so it had to be doubled by basses or violones.

Around 1700, Italian players popularized the cello in northern Europe, although the bass violin continued to be used for another two decades in France and England. The sizes, names, and tunings of the cello varied widely by geography and time. The size was not standardized until around 1750.

Despite superficial similarities, the cello is not in fact related to the viola da gamba. The cello is actually part of the viola da braccio family, meaning viol of the arm, which includes, among others, the violin and viola. There are actually paintings of people playing the cello on the shoulder, like a giant violin. It was only somewhat later that the cello began to be played while being supported by the calves, and even later, by an endpin (spike).

Baroque era cellos differed 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 an endpin at the bottom to support the instrument (and transmit some of the sound through the floor), while Baroque cellos are held only by the calves 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, although some use a synthetic core; Baroque strings are made of gut, with the G and C strings wire-wound. Modern cellos often have fine-tuners connecting the strings to the tailpiece, which make it much easier to tune the instrument. Overall, the modern instrument has much higher string tension than the Baroque cello, resulting in a louder, more projecting tone, with fewer overtones.

No educational works specifically devoted to the cello existed before the 18th century, and those that do exist contain little value to the performer beyond simple accounts of instrumental technique. The earliest cello manual is Michel Corrette's Méthode, thèorique et pratique pour apprendre en peu de temps le violoncelle dans sa perfection (Paris, 1741).

There are many accessories to the cello,

Cases are used to protect the cello and bow when traveling, and for safe storage.

Rosin, made from conifer resin, is applied to the bow hairs to increase the effectiveness of the friction and allow proper sound production.

Endpin stops or straps (tradenames including Rockstop and Black Hole) keep the cello from sliding if the endpin does not have a rubber piece on the end (used on wood floors).

Wolf tone eliminators are sometimes placed on cello strings between the tailpiece and the bridge in order to eliminate acoustic anomalies known as wolf tones or "wolfs".

Mutes are used to change the sound of the cello by reducing overtones. Practice mutes (made of metal) significantly reduce the instrument's volume (they are also referred to as "hotel mutes").

Metronomes provide a steady tempo by sounding out a certain number of beats per minute. Many models can also produce a tuning pitch of A4 (440 Hz), among others.

Humidifiers are used to control and stabilize the humidity around and inside the cello.

Tuners are used to tune the instrument.

This page references Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia. For more detailed information about the cello you can refer to