Like all the members of the violin family, the cello first emerged in Northern Italy in the first half of the 16th century in the workshops of famous instrument makers like Andrea Amati and Gasparo da Salo. This family evolved from the viola da braccio, an instrument that was held aloft in the arm, played with a bow and bore a strong resemblance to today’s violin. To create instruments that played in a lower register, instrument makers experimented with ways to expand the size of the viola da braccio. These bass instruments were now positioned on the floor between the knees or in front of the player. The introduction of steel strings in the 1920s led to some changes in repertoire for the cello. This invention improved sound quality and volume by another step. It also helped composers to expand the use of cellos into more sustained lines, where previously they had served best in parts with repeating notes and figures that favored more percussive playing.
Famous Cello Players
The cello is primarily an orchestral and chamber music instrument, but it is also heard in jazz, folk, rock and pop music as well.
Famous classical cello players include Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline du Pre, Zara Nelsova, Johann Sebastian Paetsch, Mstislav Rostropovichs, Janos Starker, and Maurice Gendron, to name just a few.
Well known jazz cello players include Oscar Pettiford, Harry Babasin, Dave Holland, Abdul Wadud, Ron Carter, Oscar Pettiford and many others.Rock/pop bands that have used the cello include Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, ELO, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Panic at the Disco.