The cello is the second largest string instrument in the family, and though string instruments share a similar structure, shape, and function, the cello also possesses some unique features that contribute to its sound. Understanding the construction of the instrument can help players produce better sounds and master techniques.
Unique to larger upright string instruments, the end pin is used to anchor the cello to the ground as it is played. This piece also ensures that the instrument does not slide forward during practice or performance. During transport, the end piece can be removed to avoid damage to the end pin, as it is just a thin piece of metal that could easily be bent.
The tailpiece is located at the bottom of the instrument. This is where the strings are attached near the base of the cello, and it often features a tuner for the A-string if not for all strings.
The bridge keeps the strings elevated above the body and neck of the cello. It is located near the center of the instrument, and its function is also to help transfer the vibrations of the strings into the instrument’s cavity, further enhancing the sound.
Twin holes appear on either side of the bridge, and they are known as “f-holes” for their shape. These holes aid in sound production by allowing air to move from within the instrument’s body.
The fingerboard is located on the neck of the instrument. This is where players can alter the sound each string makes by placing the pads of their fingers against them. Unlike string instruments like the guitar, there are no frets on the cello fingerboard, so cellists must be proficient with their instruments or have a strong sense of pitch if they want to produce beautiful sounds.
Appearing at the very top of the fingerboard, the nut leads the strings from the pegs onto the neck of the instrument. It is a relatively small but nonetheless important feature of the cello as its grooves align the strings so they can produce optimal sounds.
Tuning a string instrument is essential for consistent, quality sound, and the cello is no different. At the top of the instrument, the strings are attached to four pegs which can be twisted to affect the tautness of each string and, consequently, the sound they produce.
Like some of the other smaller string instruments, the cello also features an ornate scroll at the end of its neck. This piece does not affect the sound of the instrument, but its construction is often in a shape known as volute which originated in the Baroque period.