The cello (pronounced like chello) is the second largest member of the string family. Like the other string instruments, sound is produced by drawing a bow across the strings or by plucking the strings.
A small amount of maintenance and cleaning of the cello is needed. It is important to clean the instrument with a soft rag and occasionally change the strings. The most time consuming activity other than playing the instrument is tuning. The cello should be tuned every day or every time it is taken out of the case. In the beginning, teachers tune the string instruments for each student. Eventually, students will learn to tune their own instrument.
Like other string instruments the cello comes in just two pieces, the instrument and the bow. The bow uses horsehair or a synthetic material to vibrate the strings as it is drawn over the instrument. The bow should be tightened to just the right tension before it is used and loosened before it is put away.
The cello is played in an upright position with the left hand resting on the back of the neck and the right either plucks the strings or holds the bow. The player should be sitting with the body of the instrument resting between the legs. The correct hand position for both hands as well as posture and arm positions are critical at the beginning stages. Beginners should not practice extensively without guidance from a teacher. Developing bad habits at the beginning stages may be very difficult to break.
The cello is a very old instrument. It has been basically unchanged for hundreds of years. Now, cellos come in various sizes. The correct size for each student depends on the overall size of the student. Generally speaking, by the time students reach 6th or 7th grade, most will require a full size instrument. Before that age, students should really be measured by a music teacher to determine the correct instrument. It's also important to know that the sizes of 1/2 or 3/4 are not meant to be literal measurements. A 1/2 size cello isn't half the length of a full size instrument. These fractions are used as arbitrary labels for smaller instruments.
The cello is not as popular as a violin for beginners. This means that a good cellist will always be a very valuable member of the orchestra since the number of cello players is so small. However, the cello is still used in many styles of music throughout the world. It is well known for its use in symphony orchestras and occasionally performs in popular music groups as well.
There are several good choices for purchasing a beginning cello. A good beginning cello from Giardinelli includes the Engelhardt School Model Cello. This instrument comes in 1/2, 3/4 or full size. A step up in expense and quality is the Strunel Intermediate Cello which also comes in various sizes. Since cellos are more expensive than most instruments, most schools have cellos available to lend to students. Before you buy, it would be worth asking your orchestra director if school cellos are available. Purchasing a used cello can be a good option if it is purchased with caution. Older cellos or cellos that have not been well maintained can easily be in need of repair. A lack of humidity, temperature changes or just time can cause damage to the instrument. Small cracks in the wood develop which can be very costly to repair. Buying a used instrument is only recommended if you know an advanced violinist or orchestra teacher who can test a used instrument before you buy.