Playing the Cello




Producing Sound With Your Cello


A cellist holds their instrument between their knees. It is propped up on an adjustable endpin that rests on the floor. The cello is played by drawing the bow across the strings with the right hand; the bow causes the strings to vibrate. The hollow wood body of the cello amplifies these vibrations, producing sound. The player changes pitch by depressing strings with his or her left hand.




Cello Care and Maintenance

Before you play:

  • Lift the bow out of the case by the frog. Avoid touching the hair. It will absorb oils from the skin that will keep it from playing well.
  • Tighten the adjustment screw at the end of the bow until the hair is about the width of a pencil from the bow stick.
  • Apply rosin to the bow hair if it needs it. The bow shouldn't need rosin every time it is used.
  • In fact, too much rosin will leave a powdery mess on the strings, cello, and bow.
  • Lay the bow across your lap or on the music stand.
  • Carefully lift your cello from the case by its neck.
  • Adjust the endpin to the appropriate playing height.
  • Holding the cello by its neck in your left hand, put the body of the cello between your knees.
  • Use your right hand to pick up the bow by its frog. You're ready to play!
  • If you take a break, put your cello and bow on its side against a wall or in a safe place so they won't get damaged.


After you play:

  • Set your bow in its case or on your music stand temporarily.
  • Use a soft cloth to wipe the rosin dust off your cello and each of its strings. Rosin will eat into your cello's finish, and excess rosin on your strings will dampen their sound.
  • Adjust the endpin to slide back into the cello for storage.
  • Put your cello in the case. Most cello damage occurs when it's left out on a table, a chair, a bed, or on the floor. If you'd like to leave it out, use a cello stand.
  • Pick up the bow by the frog and loosen the adjustment screw until the hair goes slack. Loosening the bow lets it rest and keeps it from warping.
  • Use the soft cloth to wipe the rosin dust off the bow stick. Be careful not to touch the hair. Put the bow in its compartment in the case.
  • Put your rosin, tuner, and any other small items in the pocket on the outside of the case or carry them separately. Putting anything extra on top of your cello inside its case could damage it.
  • Fasten the case latches and/or zipper.
  • Store your cello inside where the temperature and humidity are stable. Never leave your cello in a car on a cold night or hot afternoon since temperature changes can damage your cello's finish and cause cracks in the wood.


  • Clean the finish of your cello with a cello polish cloth. A cello polish cloth contains enough polish to remove fingerprints and impurities, and is preferable to liquid polish which can harm the strings and bow hair.
  • If you get a build-up of rosin on your cello, use liquid Fiddlebrite or a Miracle Cloth to remove it.
  • Wash out your cleaning cloth or replace it with a new one.
  • Bring your cello to the Amro repair shop at least once a year or whenever you feel it's not playing its best.  We'll inspect and test it free of charge, usually while you wait.
  • If you have Amro’s Maintenance & Replacement plan, any needed repairs and adjustments are free.


Tuning the Cello

The strings of the cello are tuned to the pitches C-G-D-A. C is the lowest string.

The easiest way to check that a cello is in tune is with a digital tuner. Most models produce a drone pitch for tuning by ear. These tuners also have a display that indicates whether the string is sharp, flat, or in tune. If you don't have a digital tuner with you, you can use a pitch pipe, piano, or virtually any other instrument to produce the pitches you need. Some players prefer to use a tuning fork. An A-440 tuning fork produces the pitch for the A string. From that reference point, the player tunes each of the other strings by tuning the perfect fifth intervals.

Once you have the tuning device in place, you can adjust the pitch of your instrument by turning the pegs the strings are wrapped around. Tightening the string raises the pitch; loosening the string lowers the pitch. Many cellos also have fine-tuners mounted on each string near the tailpiece. The player can use a fine tuner to adjust the string even more precisely by turning the small screw.