Are you struggling with what string instrument to choose? If you’re like many beginners, choosing the right instrument is a challenge. Years ago I was lucky when I chose my first instrument, the viola, because our teacher played the Star Wars theme on it in a fourth-grade assembly. But I’m probably the exception. Many students start out on one instrument and switch to another instrument shortly thereafter and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Like in Harry Potter where the “wand chooses the wizard,” the instrument chooses the player. When you’re first starting out, your instrument selection may seem innocuous, but over time you’ll realize whether that instrument is right for you. Throughout this guide, I will provide you with questions you need to ask yourself in order to figure out whether a cello is the right instrument for you.
Are you willing to carry a heavy cello around?
This is one of the first questions you should ask yourself before you choose the cello. Cellos are not light! Cellos weigh at least 20-25 lbs and if you have a hard case, add another 15 lbs.
In addition, they are not easy instruments to carry into vehicles. We recommend owning an SUV or larger vehicle if you’re going to own a cello. While sedans can hold cellos in their backseats laying down or in the passenger seat upright, they are still a pain to load and unload.
Finally, if you don’t have a hard cello case with wheels, you’re going to be carrying the cello by hand. Soft cases will have handles along the side to make this easier, but you’re still going to have a 20-30 lb weight on your arm.
The weight of the cello certainly requires that it be supported by the ground when played unlike a violin or viola which is held between the shoulder and chin, and supported by the left hand.
Do you like the cello’s sound?
If you’re going to be playing the cello, you better like the sound. Cellos have a deep, beautiful sound that often complements that rest of an orchestra. It is often described as haunting, but also similar to the human voice.
You can hear Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello below:
Do you want to be a soloist?
Depending on where you are in your musical career, you may or may not know the answer to this question. While cellists certainly have many more solo opportunities than violists, solo repertoire for cellos is still not as prevalent as it is for violins.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his Cello Suites as solos specifically to highlight the cello’s beautiful versatility. Édouard Lalo wrote his Cello Concerto in D minor to be performed with full orchestra.
While not required, you can certainly become a soloist by playing the cello. You’ll have many more opportunities than with the viola.
Do you want to be a rock star?
Ok, so this one is a little out there. While not exactly common, some cellists do go on to become famous rock cellists. Apocalyptica and 2CELLOS are just two examples of famous cello rock bands. If you’ve ever had aspirations of being in a rock band, but don’t like playing guitar or bass, the cello might just be an option for you.
Apocalyptica is a Finnish cello metal band that was founded as a Metallica classical tribute band, often performing covers of popular Metallica songs. The band consists of three cellists, all trained at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and a drummer.
2CELLOS is a Slovenian and Croatian cello duo who perform well-known pop and rock songs. The duo have even appeared on several US TV shows including Glee and The Bachelor.
Even if you don’t want to be a rock star there are many artists out there making the cello cool. Playing the cello is one to up your social status at school. While you won’t be as cool as the bass player who plays in a garage band after school, you will be way better off than the viola players.
Have you taken a quiz to determine the right instrument for you?
There are many quizzes on the Internet that say they can tell you what instrument is right for you. You should take all of these quizzes with a grain of salt, but I thought I’d include them for fun:
- Should you play a violin, viola, cello, or double bass?
- Choosing your first musical instrument
- Which Stringed Instrument Should I Play?!
- Which Instrument Were You Born To Play?
Do these reasons for playing cello sound appealing?
It chose me. No joke.
So I could sit next to the hot girl in Orchestra, and also because I was sick of being picked on for being a boy playing the violin.
I heard ‘Farewell’ by Apocalyptica and that sold it for me. Just a beautiful sounding instrument from soft, quiet notes to deep strong bass notes
I thought a viola was called a “cello”, so wrote that down in primary school when they were doing instrument picking things. Best mistake ever 🙂
I decided on cello because I had heard a recording of the First Shostakovich Concerto somewhere and wanted to do THAT…
Picked up a violin thinking I’m going to love it. Hated it.
Picked up a cello thinking I’m going to hate it. Loving it. And I think it’s mutual.
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, the cello might just be for you! We recommend trying out the cello for a few weeks to see if it is an instrument you would like to play and if so, buy one. You won’t regret it.