Sound character of the Cello - Philipp Dangas

Cello register table

Cello register table graphic can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Sheet music for the register table of the cello in a small representation

The cello is the homogeneous partner of the violin in the lower and middle range of the orchestral scale. The sound of the violin can be compared to that of the female voice and the sound of the cello to that of the male voice. The cello's range of expression is extensive. It ranges from the tragic seriousness and sublime solemnity of the lower register to the excessive passion of the high and highest registers. The transition between the individual sound registers is completely smooth. Slight differences in the tonal character of the individual strings can be compensated for by using the upper positions of the strings.

As part of the „symphonic world music“ the cello is a main instrument of the string section. The main task of the cello is to create the overall sound. They are generally used as a unified group, but are sometimes divided into divisions or stands to simultaneously perform different functions, such as reinforcing both melody and rhythm.

Happy and carefree sound example of the sound of the cello
[download size: 768 kilobytes]
The strings of the cello and its timbres
Name of the string Sound character
A String (1st String) Most brilliant, good for solo passages.
D String (2nd String) Gentle, warm, suitable for lyrical lines.
G String (3rd String) Comparatively the weakest, but still strong.
C String (4th String) Possesses sonority and true bass quality.

Dynamic effect of the cello

Cello dynamic table graphic can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Sheet music for the dynamic table from the cello

In the following dynamic table it shows the levels of musical dynamics. In addition to the sound pressure scale measured in decibels [dB], the degrees of strength of musical dynamics are given on the left, which can be understood as "objective" degrees.

A diagram is drawn. To the right of the dB scale, fairly easy to see. It shows the estimated dynamic effect over the entire tonal range of the instrument. The dynamic effect (volume) as judged (perceived) by the listener.

Now let's consider the following example: The trumpet in the low register has a dynamic range between pianissimo [pp] 46 decibels [dB] and fortissimo [ff] 82 decibels [dB] = 36 decibels [dB]. In the high register, the range is 8 decibels [dB]. The estimated values can deviate more or less from the "objective" ones.

Deviations, which of course vary from instrument to instrument. The mentioned "objective" levels of intensity piano pianissimo [ppp]= 40 decibels [dB], p=60 decibels [dB] etc. enable the composer to predict the dynamic effects of different instruments that are sounding simultaneously.

The achievable dynamic range of the cello 23-40 dB [decibels]
Degree of intensity High position Low position
ff [ Fortissimo ] 68 72
pp [ Pianissimo ] 45 32