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History of the Cello

    Of all the musical instruments that exist, the cello is effortlessly one of the most beautiful to listen to. Despite the wonderful quality of the sound that it produces, and High School Musical’s famous “I play the Cello” line, a lot of people do not know much about this incredible instrument.

    Despite this, the cello has been and will always be an incredibly cherished instrument. An instrument that can be used to play solos, but sounds just as perfect as part of a vast orchestra.

    An instrument whose famous, unique sound can be traced back to 16th Century Italy, yet is still incredibly popular today.

    So if you like the sound of the cello, but know very little about this incredible instrument, then you are in the right place. Today we’re taking a look at the full history of the cello by tracing it back to its early beginnings and following its evolution all the way to the present day.

    With no further ado, let’s get started, and go back to the very beginning of the cello.

    The Early Years

    The cello belongs to a famous family of instruments whose incredible history can be traced back to the days before A.D.

    During this time, early string instruments were commonly used to produce music and melodies which most commonly accompanied poems rather than the lyrics to songs that we recognize today.

    While the cello did not exist during this time, its early ancestors such as the lute, and timeless instruments like the harp did.

    You might be reading this, wondering ‘how do you know?’, and that’s understandable. Of course, the times that we speak off were so long ago that it might be baffling how we can know of an instrument’s existence.

    Thankfully, our ancestors were excellent painters, as well as musicians, and early depictions of the violin can be found in 13th century Byzantine-Greek paintings.

    These early instruments are very different from the ones that we know and play today, however, their ancestral connection is undoubtedly there.

    It would take another three centuries before the early creations of the cello began. The renowned Vienna Symphonic Library reports that it was during the early sixteenth century, in the years before 1550, that the cello began to be built.

    The early cellos were designed by famous violin makers such as Andrea Amati and Paolo Maggini, but they were still very different from the cellos that we know and love today.

    The cello still had a lot of evolution to go, and it wasn’t until the years immediately before the 18th century that the cello we love today began coming into fruition.

    The Cello as we Know It

    As we have mentioned, it was during the 16th century that the cello we know today began to take form. While early designs of the cello occurred during this time, it would take time before the cello as we know it emerged.

    There are some similarities between these cellos and the cello that you play today, but there were some things that would have been completely different. One notable difference being the size of these early cellos.

    The cello that is popular today is, as you know, a large instrument. But the early cellos were much smaller, and it wasn’t until the late 17th and early 18th century that cellos started to be designed in today’s size.

    This design decision was made by Antonio Stradivari who began to produce cellos in two sizes in the years following 1710. His new sizings were ground-breaking, and they paved the way for many other European instrument makers.

    Stradivari was the first person to bring standardization to the design of the cello, and that is why many of the original cellos he made are still played today.

    It was the standardization of the design by Stradivari which also ignited the spark to encourage musically talented people to begin playing the cello as one of their main instruments. One of the first people to do this was Luigi Boccherini, and he paved the way for many other musicians.

    At the same time, famous composers such as Bach began to produce music designed specifically for the cello and its position as a classical instrument was firmly cemented in history. 

    During the French Revolution, the cello underwent further evolution as design tweaks were made so that it could be played effortlessly for large crowds. Alterations were made to the clarity of the instrument to allow it to produce much louder and responsive noises.

    In the crossover from the 19th to the 20th century, minor changes were made to the cello, and cello music really began to grow in popularity.

    The Modern Day

    In the centuries since its first design, the cello has only grown in popularity. The adjustments to the instrument’s neck angle and string tension that took place in the 19th century improved the quality of the sound produced significantly, allowing the cello to take center stage, whether it be in an orchestra or on its own.

    The addition of the pin rod, or spike, at the bottom of the cello during the late 19th century also greatly improved the ease of use for the player as it provides a better angle.

    The changes didn’t end here, and in the 20th century, further improvements were made to the cello’s classic design. These changes, such as steel strings, were minor, but they made a massive difference to the sound that the cello produces. It opened up more possibilities for the cello and allowed the cello to break free of its “classical” music genre.

    In recent years, the cello is an instrument within its own right, and as such it has begun to take on its own musical style. The cello now features in multiple pop songs and has even garnered its own subsection in rock music.

    All you need to do is take a brief look at this instrument’s history to see how far it has come, and how far it could potentially go in the future.


    In short, the cello is an instrument that has a rich history that dates back to the days before A.D, however, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the cello we know began to exist.

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