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The 20th century has been the best one yet for cellists. Thanks to the famous conductor Pablo Casals, cellist legends like Yo-Yo Ma and others, the cello has developed a broad appeal. It has also grown to include an increasingly wide range of music.

The cello is also called a violoncello. It is thought to have been invented in the early part of the 16th century in northern Italy. The cello provided another bass voice to the string family of instruments. It was originally played as part of the background for parties thrown by the nobility.

Chamber music, so named because the musicians were put in a small room, alcove or balcony, was considered a sedate form of entertainment. Celli, the plural form of cello, remained in the background until the late 1600s. That's when composers began to create works for the cello as a standalone instrument.

But it really wasn't until this century that the variety of music available for the cello expanded. Pablo Casals developed the voice of the cello. It can now be heard in many musical genres. Casals' work has firmly established the cello as a concert instrument.

Cellists like Japan's Yo-Yo Ma have worked hard to gain the cello a profile with young people. Ma has been seen on Sesame Street, giving children the opportunity to see the classic instrument as something fun and interesting. He spends much of his time traveling and enthralling his audiences.

Susan Sarandon plays a cellist named Jane in the movie The Witches of Eastwick. She receives a cello lesson from Darryl Van Horn, played by Jack Nicholson, that literally changes her life. The result? He helps her to unlock the strength and depth of her cello's voice and her own emotions.

Celli are in the same family as violins and bass violas. The instruments are meant to be played with a bow, rather than to be plucked by hand. Unlike the violin, the cello is meant to be played upright. The cellist plays while seated.

This sitting posture places a great deal of stress on the cellist's lower back. Lower back pain is a result of playing and practicing with poor posture. Cellists often use stands to rest their feet. That helps them maintain the necessary posture or stance during their play.

Celli come in different sizes. The size of a cello does not affect the quality of its sound.

Getting Started

Students interested in playing cello do not need to take other forms of music lessons. The instructor will teach the student how to read music as well as the mechanics of playing the instrument.

Students can expect to learn fundamental music principles and theories. They will also learn history, posture and fingering techniques. All these elements will come together to create the beautiful voice of the cello.

Regardless of the student's proficiency, the instructor will always remind the pupil to practice, practice, practice. Most teachers insist on weekly lessons and at least an hour of practice every other day, preferably every day at home.

Lessons tend to be expensive, from $20 to $50 per session. Slacking off in practice means there will be more lessons.

Like piano students, cello students can choose to be graded in their efforts. Taking an exam is necessary for any student who wished to pursue classical training. Students must learn certain skills, techniques and classical pieces before they are allowed to request to sit for an examination of proficiency.

A successful exam, which must take place in front of a judge or panel of judges called adjudicators, signifies the student has met the accepted requirements necessary to achieve the specific grade level.

A cellist can play for fun, for recognition or for professional accolades. But it is for the love of their instrument that they keep playing.

Although there are few professional opportunities for cellists, they continue to play and learn more about their cello's capabilities. Cello enthusiasts have even created an Internet Cello Society to encourage cellists of all levels to share their experiences, knowledge and love of the cello. The Internet Cello Society has 4,400 members in 76 countries.

Student cellos in the U.S. range from $700 to $1,000.


Internet Cello Society
E-mail :

Viola da Gamba Society of America
4440 Trieste Dr.
Carlsbad , CA   92008
E-mail :


The Cambridge Companion to the Cello (Cambridge Companions to Music)
edited by Robin Stowell
Cello Technique: Principles and Forms of Movement
by  Gerhard Mantel


Internet Cello Society
An international community of cellists

ClassicWeb Cello Page
A great starting point for cello-related sites

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