The Cello received its name from its ancestors Italian name ‘violoncello’, which in the 17th century was the lowest pitched instrument of the string family.
The cello is the second-largest string instrument in the orchestra. Similarities can be found between the cello and other string instruments, such as the violin, in terms of its body shape (hour glass) and the way it is played (bow/plucked); however there are major differences. The cello is a large instrument and is played sitting down. It has an end-pin at the bottom of it body which helps it stand on the floor and supports its weight.
The cello is mostly used in European Classical music and its sound is very low. Most often its sound is described as the most familiar in resemblance to the human voice.
The cello was first invented in the 16th century in Bologna, Italy. It was mostly made for a solo repertoire however was also used in quartets. Its sound was thought to be too soft for church music, so it was accompanied by the organ in most cases.
Cellos were standardised and popularised in the 18th century.
The Cello is part of the orchestra, which normally has about 8-12 Cellos.
The cello section is situated on the righthand side of the stage, directly opposite the ‘first violin’ section. Cellos play a very important role in an orchestra and are most often required to play low harmonies; as well as solos.
A musician who plays the Cello is known as a cellist. The principal cellist (main player) is the leader of this section and is sat closest to the audience.