The cello and the bass (also known as double bass) are two of the four main members of the string family of instruments. The other two are the violin and the viola.
To look at from afar, the bass and cello seem almost indistinguishable. However, seeing the two side by side will quickly show you the main difference. The double bass is larger than the cello.
That being said, this is not the only difference. Indeed, they are two instruments that are excellent in their own right, and we are going to be using this article to tell you all about the differences and similarities between them.
To do this, we must first explore the instruments separately, in their own sections. Then we will look at them together in the conclusion to compare them.
What is a bass?
The bass, or double bass, is the largest and lowest pitch member of the string family. The earliest basses are members of the Viol family of instruments which is a different category than the Violin family of instruments.
Its origins are thought to date back to the 15th century in Europe, where string instruments were being invented and made popular.
It is very large, measuring 180cm, equivalent to 6 feet, making it taller than most of its players. That being said, you can also get it in the quarter and half sizes to suit the size of the person playing it.
It is a four-string instrument that is played with a bow. Typically the bow is used in the right hand and the left hand is used to change pitch. You can also pluck the strings which is common in more modern genres.
Because of the big size of the double bass, to play it, a person has to stand up or sit on a tall stool. The body of the bass must rest on the floor, and the player rests the neck of the instrument on their left shoulder.
The long size means that it has long strings. In turn, long strings mean that notes can be played lower. This does depend on the bass, though, because double basses can vary in size, shape, and proportions.
The bass can play notes spanning four octaves in total. Its strings are tuned to the notes E, A, D, and G. These are the same notes that are played on a bass guitar, albeit sounding quite different since the construction of a double bass makes for a richer tone than that of the bass guitar.
As well as being used in the string section of an orchestra and classical music, the double bass is a popular instrument for jazz, blues, bluegrass and country, and rockabilly music.
What is a cello?
While it looks similar to a double bass, it is actually a little smaller. Unlike the double bass, it is played while seated.
The cello is one of the components of the string quartet and is featured in the string section of an orchestra. They are a ‘tenor’ sound, and it is tuned to the notes C, G, D, and A. The sound is deep and rich, but a little higher than that of the double bass.
Like the double bass, the cello is played with a bow. The bow moving across the string is how sound is produced or you can pluck the strings. Typically the bass and cello have four strings.
Whereas the size of a double bass is about 6 feet, the cello is around 4 feet for a full size cello. It comes in fractional sizes as well so young children can play too.
It is thought to hold its origins in Europe in the 1500s. The cello is part of the violin family and the bass is pat of the viol family. The first known mention is thought to have come from Italy in the 1530s. It quickly became popular across Europe and then the world.
It is a feature of the traditional orchestra, as well as being played as a solo instrument. In this day and age, the cello is used for a whole range of music genres. It is common to see it feature in bluegrass, jazz, folk, and even metal! It has often been seen in the performances of R’n’B artists such as Rihanna.
Verdict – The differences between a cello and a bass
As we hope you can see by now, while the bass and the cello look remarkably similar (except, of course, their size) they are both unique instruments that must be appreciated on their own for their differences as well as their similarities.
The obvious difference is their size, but that is not all. The double bass produces a much lower sound than the cello and is the lowest pitched string instrument we have.
As well as the sounds they make, another difference is the fact that the cello is included in the traditional string quartet, whereas the double bass is not.
Their playing position is also different. The double bass is so big that it must be played either standing up or on a tall stool. On the other hand, a cello is too small to play in this way but too big to be held under the chin like a violin or viola. For this reason, it is played whilst sitting on a lower chair.
It goes without saying that the main similarity is the fact they look very similar. Aesthetically, the design of a bass and cello is very similar.
They have a similar shape and are both made from carved wood, and the strings were both traditionally made from catgut. However, now the strings tend to be made from synthetic materials like Nylon and various metals.
Both of them have to be placed on the floor to be played, and both of them feature in symphony orchestras traditionally. They are also both key components of string quintets.
There you have it, an article detailing the similarities and differences between a cello and a bass.
We hope you have found this article informative and you now know that whilst they look similar, they are both very different!