The cello is the big member of the violin family and the one that produces the tenor voice. If your passion is playing the cello and you are interested in purchasing an electric one, you can get more info here. However, if you want to learn more about the electric cello beforehand, you came to the right place. In this post, we are going to list the main characteristics of this instrument, tell you more about its history, and how to choose a good electric cello.
The Cello’s Sound and Characteristics
If you think about the cello, probably the typical sentiment that comes to mind is melancholy, due to its low tones. This string instrument is well-known for its characteristic sound and it is an indispensable element of any orchestra. The cello has the ability to produce a sound that goes one octave lower compared to the viola.
The number of cellos in an orchestra may vary, but most of them have around eight to twelve such instruments. This versatile instrument can actually produce a wide variety of sounds. It can go from the lower register where it produces solemn and calm sounds, to the upper register where it produces powerful and incisive sounds.
The cello can be used in order to produce a wide variety of notes depending on the technique the cellist is using. If the string of the instrument is held close to its body, the generated sound will have a high pitch. You can pluck the cello in order to produce a ‘pizzicato’ or you can bow it.
The cello can be described as a big-sized violin. Due to its size, when someone is playing this string instrument, they must sit on a chair. This person is called a cellist and, in order to manage the instrument, he or she has to lean it against their shoulder, position it between the knees, and balance it. The strings of the cello face the audience.
For most cellists, the easiest way to play this instrument is by plucking or bowing it with the right hand, while keeping the left hand on the cello’s neck in order to manage the strings and change the notes.
The cello is big but it is not quite the biggest string instrument in an orchestra because this place is taken by the double bass.
How Did the Cello Evolve?
String instruments were played in Europe as early as the 9th century. Initially, the most famous types of instruments with strings were the harp and the lyre. The first instrument to resemble a cello in shape and technique, the violin, started to be played more extensively around the 12th century.
The cello only appeared 4 centuries later, in the 16th century. More precisely, it was invented in Italy by Andrea Amati, a reputable instrument maker of that time. The purpose of creating the cello was to obtain an instrument that could be played in a lower range because this was the exigency of composers; they wanted lower tones.
During the 17th century, the cello was already famous and the well-known luthier Antonio Stradivari created such instruments which led to a dominant choice of design. In the 18th century, the cello started to become more standardized and its size was more or less the same as nowadays.
In the 19th century, the cello saw a great improvement in shape and design and this is when the spike was added. In the 20th century, the steel strings were added to this acclaimed instrument.
What Is an Electric Cello?
The electric cello was a natural step toward the development of this classical instrument. Just like the guitar, the cello could also function in an electric version and creating an alternative for the acoustic version was inevitable as times changed.
The electric cello was invented during the 30s. This instrument produces sounds based on the principle of electronic amplification instead of acoustic resonance, like its ancestor. There are different types of electric cello as this modern instrument can come in various shapes.
For starters, it is worth mentioning that a traditional acoustic cello can be adapted into an electric one by providing it with a contact pick up that transmits the electric signal. The size and shape of an electric cello can differ tremendously.
The electric cello doesn’t need to have the shape or size of an acoustic instrument because the sound is not produced through an acoustic resonance soundbox. This enables the electric version to be devoid of a resonance chamber. Therefore, while many electric cellos remain loyal to the classic design of this instrument, others propose a totally radical aspect.
Some of these progressive models are very narrow. They almost don’t resemble the original instrument at all as they have a small body that’s provided with strings. In most cases, the original endpin support is preserved. However, other electric cellos are supported in different ways and some don’t even require sitting.
Many electric versions of this instrument are provided with a preamp and a piezo pickup system.
What Are the Advantages of the Electric Cello?
There are different advantages this instrument entails in comparison with the acoustic model. One of them is the fact that the electric version can be accompanied by sound effects. This allows it to be used in different musical genres as it can fulfill different exigencies.
Therefore, this instrument is not strictly tied to an orchestra. It comes as no surprise that the electric cello is so popular today on the jazz scene, although its use in orchestras is still limited. Another advantage of this instrument is that the models with five or six strings can offer a bigger range than the acoustic models.
Electric cellos are less expensive than acoustic ones and the price difference is quite significant. Also, the electric cello is more practical, lightweight, and more resistant.
How to Choose an Electric Cello?
Like any other instrument in its string family, the quality of the cello is partly given by the type of material used to produce it. When you purchase your cello, look for quality models that have good reviews and are likely to stand the test of time. This is an investment you don’t want to make often, so you should buy a more expensive, but reliable instrument.
One of the features many people look for in an electric cello is a resemblance with the acoustic version in terms of points of contact. Most people prefer to have the same points of contact in an electric cello as in an acoustic one. This means that the instrument should offer support in three points: the lower and the upper bouts, and the neck where the thumb lies.
The electric cello can have four, five, and six strings and the choice you make depends on your preference. The six-string version can provide both lower and higher ranges and is strung F-C-G-D-A-E. The five-string version is strung F-C-G-D-A and the typical version has a low F-string.
Some cellos are provided with fretted fingerboards which can ease your job while others are designed with dots on the fingerboard which are also a useful representation.
If you are a professional musician or merely play for pleasure but you have to commute a lot, one of the key features you should be looking for is portability. Carrying a heavy instrument and struggling to make it on time for rehearsals and concerts can be daunting.
The best choice, in this case, is to opt for a compact model that’s easy to fit in a car or other transport means and that doesn’t weigh too much.
If you are wondering how much you would have to spend to get a good electric cello, the answer is relative. If you look for second-hand instruments, for example, you can find options that cost below 1000$. However, it’s better to invest in a new model that goes above this price if you want a long-lasting instrument.
The price for new instruments may range, you can find electric cellos at 1000$ or you can find models that cost 4 times more. It all depends on their features and manufacturer.
If your passion is playing the cello, you might want to evolve and make the move from the acoustic version to the electric instrument. You will be delighted by the versatility and practicability the electric cello can provide.