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Cello: 4 Reasons to Love it & Learn it

When people mention the cello, what’s the first thing you think of? Maybe that one song that you seem to hear on every TV commercial? Or maybe you picture the oversized violin that’s always a part of the wedding string ensemble. If you’re more into pop culture and movies, maybe you remember Jack Black’s discovery of the cello in School of Rock: 

JB: “Katie, what was that thing you were playing? The big thing?”

 Katie: “Cello.” 

 JB: “Cello. Ok, this is a bass guitar and it’s the exact same thing. Except, instead of playing like this, you tip it on the side and Ch-hello! You’ve got a bass!”

             I’m always pleasantly surprised when I hear the cello in a song. It accompanies Paul McCartney’s voice perfectly in The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, and who can forget the iconic opening hook it provides in Coldplay’s Viva La Vida? Irish rock bands like Dropkick Murphies and Flogging Molly use the cello to give their songs a rich touch of folk and even metal groups like Disturbed and Demon Hunter are known to use its rich tones from time to time. And we haven’t even touched on bands that make the cello central to their musical identity like The Piano Guys, 2Cello, or Rasputina. From Bach’s timeless Cello Suites to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, and Secrets by OneRepublic, there’s no denying that the cello is the unsung, underrated hero of music throughout the ages.

             So, what make the cello so special? And why should you learn it?

It Brings the Strings Back Down to Earth

            The cello is a critical part to any ensemble. You’ll hear it in every string quartet and pretty much any performance that incorporates stringed instruments beyond a guitar. This is because the cello provides rich, deep, earthy tones that contrast well with the higher-pitched violin and viola. The cello gives any piece of music a pleasant foundation for everything else to build off of.

The Most Dynamic and Dramatic Solos (Just Ask Yo-Yo Ma)

            Don’t read that previous paragraph and simply equate the cello with a bass, like Jack Black did. Giving music a soothing foundation is only one of the instrument’s many unique traits. In fact, the cello covers a wider range than any other stringed instrument—it can actually play three clefts: bass, tenor, and treble. Not only does this make it highly versatile when played in groups, but it can give the most dramatic and soul-moving solos of any instrument, hands down. If you don’t believe me, stop what you’re doing and listen to the Prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major (yes, this is the song you keep hearing in TV commercials). If you aren’t a Bach fan, listen to the first 30 seconds of Fog Bound, one of the main solo elements to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack (but, really, who isn’t a Bach fan). 

 The Cello is Human

            One more interesting thing about the cello’s range—it’s human, or nearly human. The cello actually has a larger range than any human voice but, when you listen to it, the tone, resonance, and range are remarkably similar to a human singer. This is why so many singers are accompanied by a cello (Eleanor Rigby, Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence, I could go on). Combine that with its wide range and now you can have the cello sound like a joyful parent one moment and a burly, distraught sailor at sea the next all within one song.

 Be Unique

            If you’re looking for a new challenge or want to diversify your musical abilities, try the cello. Plenty of people play piano, everyone plays guitar, and the violin is often the third go-to musical instrument. The cello, though, will immediately make you stand out within the music scene. Even among musicians, meeting a cello player is a nice break from the norm and, if you meet a fellow cellist, you immediately have something special in common—not to mention the cello’s versatility will make you highly sought after. So, if you’re thinking of learning a stringed instrument, don’t let the cello’s size intimidate you. It’s truly one of the most beautiful sounding instruments for any composition and will give you a talent that is remarkably unique and memorable.

Liam Brodentel