Welcome to the Cello
The violoncello is used as a solo instrument and an ensemble instrument. Like the other string instruments it can be bowed or plucked and is tuned to the same notes as the viola but an octave lower.
Many composers have written concerti for cello including Vivaldi, Saint Saens and Elgar. In the baroque and classical era, the cello was used as part of the continuo.
Here is a clip of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture - it demonstrates the cello section of the Guiyang Symphony Orchestra playing in several parts.
This clip is an arrangement of Bach's First Cello Suite with a twist!
Who can play the cello?
Anyone can learn to play! It is recommended to pupils in Year 3 onwards, although there are exceptions. Cellos come in different sizes suitable for younger/smaller players.
If it is not suitable for everyone, what alternative instrument would you recommend and why?
The violin and viola are string instruments that are suitable for the very young/small. As with all string instruments, the cello requires both hands to be co-ordinated. If this is a problem you might prefer to play a brass instrument.
What qualities of the cello are special?
The cello has a beautiful deep, rich, low sound. As the strings are played, the vibrations resonate through the body which is good for hearing impaired pupils.
Learning to play any instrument develops lots of new skills. What are the particular benefits of playing the cello?
Everyone needs a cellist! As well as being a solo instrument, orchestras need a large cello section and in string quartets, the cello provides the important bass line accompaniment.
How are cellos similar/different to other string instruments?
Cellos come in different sizes for younger/smaller players. They are similar to double basses in appearance although they are considerably smaller; both have extending spikes that they rest on at the bottom of the instrument, also they are played in the bass clef and you will need to be seated to play them. Cellos have a longer spike that the double bass and a higher pitch range of sounds.
Are there any famous musicians or pieces associated with the cello?
'The Swan' by Saint-Saëns is a famous cello piece. You might like to listen to performances by Jacqueline Du Pré.