Cello vs Violin – Learn the Difference Between These Musical Instruments

cello vs violin

When discussing stringed instruments, we need to mention the violin and cello. As both belong to the string family, you may feel confused and have trouble differentiating them. So, we have created a guide to make things easier for you.

Defining the Cello

Woman Playing Cello on the Street

The cello is the second largest of the stringed musical instruments (the double bass is the largest). Formerly, a cello was referred to as violoncello. You can trace back its origin to the 16th century. Cello needs a bow to play and there is an endpin to place the instrument on the floor.

The low-pitch range starts with 2 octaves, which are present below the Middle C. As a cellist, you should sit and play. So, you will be in a comfortable playing position while using the instrument. When you draw the bow, the cello produces music. The eastern musical world is not very familiar with the cello. It has a close connection with European classical music.

Defining the Violin

playing violin

Sometimes referred to as a fiddle, a violin is a popular wooden instrument. It’s hourglass shaped, as the top and rear sides have an arch. The bow is designed with a hank of horsehair. Like the cello, the violin appeared first in the 16th century. Originally, violins were plucked, as the bowed violins were unavailable at that time. The range is from the G to the higher E7. Both eastern and western types of music have accepted the violin.

Similarities Between Cello and Violin

As the cello and violin belong to the string family, they have some similarities:

  • The shape is similar.
  • You need a bow to play them, so the sounds produced aren’t much different.
  • They include 4 strings tuned in multiple octaves.
  • You can use them for classical music and other music genres.

Both the cello and violin are related to the orchestra, and they play an important role. In some cases, it is not easy to identify the sound from the cello. However, when it is absent, you can feel it. Like violins, cellos do not lack solos and melodies.

Cello vs Violin – The Learning Curve

cello vs violin

How will you choose between cello and violin lessons? Interestingly, both these instruments are not easy to learn. You need effort and dedication to become a professional cello or violin player. It takes serious focus and time to learn the right playing techniques.

Beginners have claimed that it is challenging to play high-pitched notes on a violin. Solos are not easy. There should be a small distance between your fingers, making it difficult to play fast.

On the contrary, cello players need a greater distance between their fingers. While playing a highly advanced song, this can cause challenges. Still, the cello is advantageous in this respect, as the pieces don’t often focus on melodies and solos. A cello can accompany another musical instrument.

You can choose both violin and cello lessons to ensure advancement in your music career. 

Materials Used for Cello and Violin

Rosewood, ebony, maple, willow, and spruce are the most commonly chosen types of wood for violin. Spruce is good for the violin’s front plate, while maple is preferable for the back plate.

Varnish is also important because it can affect sound quality. For instance, a combination of iron, gum arabic, and organic compounds can be used for the finish. Manufacturers think that the presence of metal in the violin’s furnish can create a unique acoustic effect.

A handcrafted cello has a highly intricate design. The backplate is designed by joining blocks of wood together. The neck is made from a piece of maple wood. The fingerboard sealing and sanding process involves using linseed oil.

Size of the Instruments

Cello is larger when compared to the violin, although it is not the biggest one in the family. A standard full-size violin is also known as the 4/4 violin. The height of the violin is around 40 cm. On the contrary, a full-size cello is around 120 cm.

Another primary difference is the way they’re carried. Beginners have found it easier to handle and carry the violin. The weight differences between violin and cello are the obvious reason why.

A cello enclosed in its case can weigh around 7kg. Still, the cello consumes much more space, while a violin is more portable.

Components of Instruments

Both the cello and violin have similar parts. However, one of the biggest differences is the cello’s retractable endpin. But, the older ones, made from wood, are not removable.

You can’t fully differentiate the instruments until you consider the size. The bows of the cello are shorter, as the strings are larger. The amount of horsehair can make a difference in the tone quality. Although the violin’s bow is longer, it is thin.

Other vital parts of the cello are the waist and bouts. These parts can increase bow clearance and ensure a better quality sound. The bottom part of the cello has a pin rod. You can check for parts like:

  • Neck
  • Bridge
  • Scroll
  • F-holes
  • Pin thumb screw

Similarly, violins have multiple fittings, including the bridge and tailpiece. The chin rest and scroll are also present on the instrument.

The Playing Position and Technique

These are important factors to learn. Your focus should be on playing the instrument in tune. It may take a lot of time to actually produce good quality sounds. Your cello should be in the upright position, and you can place it between your legs. The endpin bears the weight, while the bow can be drawn in a horizontal direction.

Differences in Sound

Although there are no tonal differences, you can find variations in the sounds. A violin produces a high-pitched clear tone that can be used to play melodies. Loud high-pitched notes are distinguishable. The lowest end isn’t very low – G3 is the lowest note.

A cello can produce a mellow and warm sound that has several low frequencies. It can fill harmonies that can be played in the orchestra. Some musicians combine it with a double bass. The warm tone is highly desirable to melodies.

How to Hold Your Violin

Playing Violin

The first step is to stand up straight in the correct posture. Slouching can result in pain and decreased speed. When you are in a seated position, your feet must be flat. Place the instrument on your left shoulder. Then, you need to lower your head down to touch the chin rest.

The angle of your violin must be steady when you play. Your left hand needs to be placed at the end part of the instrument’s neck. Your forefingers have to be curled onto the neck’s top section.

How to Hold a Cello

playing cello

Beginners should learn how to hold a cello to produce rich sounds. The C-peg should be present behind the ear. The instrument will sit in your hands. Its upper hips must be between your knees. There should be contact between your sternum and the cell.

You will find that by positioning the cello in this manner, there’ll be some space at the bottom, ensuring the endpin will remain stable. The most important thing is that the cell would tilt a bit to the right. By tilting the instrument, you can reach the strings easily.

While using the A string, tilting it to the right is a good decision. You will be able to bow easily and project the sound. But, you will find a similar effect by tilting the cello to the left for playing C and D strings. This position ensures a better angle of the instrument. It is also essential to choose the best chair while playing.


Although both violin and cello have strings, they have several differences. Our discussion on violin vs cello should make these differences clear. To become a professional musician, you need to understand the details of every instrument. 

It’s best to take lessons after gaining some basic knowledge about the violin and cello. While playing, you will notice the sound and tonal differences. Make sure to choose the right one to play your contemporary and classical music.

About the Author Classical Music Pro