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Cello - Sound characteristics

Mellow, warm, sonorous, full, clear, brilliant, vibrant, singing, bright, lustrous, stately, lyrical, cantabile, thick, weighty, powerful, silky, lively, incisive, eloquent, transcendental, supernatural, sensuous, calm, round, pure, muffled, dark, open, sustaining, solemn, wafting, gentle, sweet, veiled.

The cello possesses a wide variety of differing tone colors and means of expression, ranging from the calm and solemn in the lower register to bursts of passion in the uppermost register. Its underlying character has often been compared with the male voice. The transition between registers is smooth, although it cannot be denied that the individual strings have their own character, as they do on the violin and viola too.

Basically, the cello is something of a split personality; one the hand it plays the part of the solid, reliable bass instrument; on the other hand it aspires to the passion of a heroic tenor.

Sound characteristics of the individual strings

C string (C2–F3)
This string sounds weighty, dark, powerful. Its darkly powerful sound makes it highly suitable for performing a sonorous fundamental bass.

G string (G2–C4)
This string lacks the power and sustaining quality of the bottom string and is used to carry the bass voice. Suited to softer tonal effects. Resonant pizzicato on the C and G strings.

D string (D3–G4)
The D string is often described as the most musical and soulful and without doubt has the most pleasing sound. Used to play soft, silky, intimate, warm and lyrical cantilenas. Its weighty clarity is virtually unsurpassed.

A string (A3–A5, A7)
This string has a bright, penetrating, shrill, incisive and dominant sound.