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Learning how to play cello is a wonderful experience for students ranging from late elementary school all the way through retirement! The cello is primarily used in solo and orchestral classical music, however in recent years it has been used to some extent in pop, jazz, and rock music. Some examples of bands that have featured the cello on tracks include The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Aerosmith, Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins.
The cello is played by drawing a bow over one or more of the four strings on the instrument. By holding down the strings with the hand not holding the bow, different pitches can be produced to play complex melodies. The strings can also be plucked with the fingers, a practice referred to as pizzicato. Cellists generally sit to play with the instrument resting between the legs. An endpin is attached to the bottom of the cello in order to support the instrument’s weight. A cellist holds the bow with the right hand and uses the left hand to stop strings on the neck of the instrument.
Part of the string family that also includes instruments such as the violin and viola, the cello developed in Italy during the 17th century. The cello’s direct predecessor was the bass violin, but with the invention of wire wrapped strings around 1660, instrument makers were able to get a deeper, more pure bass sound and the cello was invented. Italian cellists quickly spread the instrument throughout Europe and by 1750 its size had been standardized. As it developed and spread, the cello became an integral part of the symphony orchestra, generally playing harmony lines. It also was a popular solo instrument and numerous suites, concertos, and sonatas have been written for it. One of the best known works for solo cello are J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites, but there is a vast world of repetoire to explore when you learn to play cello with Musika.
Since the cello is a larger instrument, we generally don’t recommend starting to learn how to play cello until around the age of seven or eight, although exceptions can be made for children who mature faster. Young children who are interested in learning to play cello can start on smaller stringed instruments such as the violin or viola and begin cello lessons when they are old enough to comfortably hold the larger instrument.
For most adult and teen students a full-sized cello, or 4/4, is a good fit, although smaller students may be more comfortable with a downsized instrument. Cellos come in multiple sizes including 7/8, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, and 1/16. Your Musika teacher can help you pick the best instrument for your individual needs, and most local music stores can be helpful in both choosing a cello and with purchasing or rental options. Online retailers are also a good place to look.
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