Instrumentation notes – Cello

  • Bass of the strings choir
  • Sounds an octave below the viola
  • Four strings are:
    Cello open strings
  • Rich, clear tone, good for bass, harmony and melody
  • Each string played as an open string (without fingering) has a unique quality:
    C string: lowest; heavy, low, rich tone. At forte, v powerful. At piano, easy to cover up
    G string: similar to the C string but lighter. At forte, v powerful. At piano, easy to cover up
    D string: quite tranquil with little bite
    A string: very expressive, powerful and rich; perhaps most rich and powerful of any string instrument
  • Playing range for each string:
    Pitch notation
    C string: C2-G3
    G string: G2-D4
    D string: D3-A4
    A string: A3-A5
  • Uses bass clef predominantly but higher notes written on tenor clef; don’t change clef for only 1 or 2 pitches. Very higher pitches should be written in treble clef
  • The length of string makes pitches further apart, so wide tremolos to be avoided
  • Melodic leaps need more time to execute
  • Very agile; can play expressive melodies, arpeggios, complex and intricate figures
  • Often scored above the viola as very assertive
  • Pizzicatos very good as are harmonics through 12th partial
  • Triple stops good at forte but not quieter
  • Ponticello and sul taste most effective on cello than other strings
  • Doubles other instruments; in larger groups, it is often divided to give two or more independent lines to the texture

Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 61-62


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