10 Fun Facts About the Cello

With its warm, silky and inviting tones, and not inconsiderable size, the cello is an instrument that certainly makes an impression. Usually, a good one! But it’s also an instrument with a very long history and many secrets. So, why not discover a little bit more about the fabulous instrument that you have decided to learn to play?

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Cello

  1. The full name of the cello is the violoncello. The direct translation of this from Italian to English is, ‘small large violin.’

  2. The cello is the second-largest bowed string instrument in the world. after the double bass.

  3. When cellos were first created, their strings were made from catgut, a product created from stretched and treated sheep and goat guts – the vegan’s nightmare! Thankfully, they are now usually wound with metallic materials like aluminium, titanium and chromium.

  4. While we’re talking about strings, the cello hasn’t always had four strings. In 17th and 18th century Germany, five-string cellos were more common.

  5. And from strings to bows – until quite recently, only solo cellists would play with white bow hair. If you were part of an ensemble, you would play with black hair on your bow.

  6. You might think that playing the cello is awkward now, but up until the 18th century, players had to hold their instrument upright using their legs alone – imagine the muscles you’d develop! The pointed endpin was introduced by A.F. Servais. His physical stature increased along with his musical (he became a little bit chubby!), meaning that he needed additional support to keep his instrument in place. Other players saw the sense in this and emulated. By the end of the 1840s, it was common practice.

  7. The oldest known surviving cello was made by Andrea Amati and was built between 1538 and 1560. It is currently on display at the National Music Museum in South Dakota and is known as ‘The King’.

  8. The plural of a cello is celli. Although most people still say cellos.

  9. The cello’s neck slants backwards not for comfort, but so that players can produce a louder sound by applying greater pressure to the bridge.

  10. The majority of cellos have ‘purfling’ – an attractive inlay around their edge. While you might think that this is mere window dressing, it actually has a practical purpose, helping to prevent the wood from cracking under stress.

So, there you have it. Ten fun and interesting facts about the cello!

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