Cello vs Violin Explained: What’s The Difference?

Do you want to be the next Yo-Yo Ma or Joshua Bell? How about the next Lindsey Sterling or 2CELLOS? Whether you want to play classical or pop music, you should have the cello vs. violin explained.

Then, you can determine which instrument will be the better fit for you. Soon enough, you may just book your first concerto or solo performance.

The Main Difference Between Cellos And Violins

The main differences between double basses and cellos are:

  • Cellos sit between a player’s legs whereas violins sit on a player’s shoulder
  • Cellos read music in bass clef whereas violins read music in treble clef
  • Cellos play the bass line or lower harmonies whereas violins play the melody or higher harmonies
  • Cellos are a small part of the orchestra whereas violins make up almost half of the string section
  • Cellos are usually expensive whereas violins can be more affordable

Consider why these differences matter.


When you play the cello, you’ll rest the instrument between your legs. Modern cellos have an endpin that you can extend from the bottom of the instrument to prop the cello up off the floor, while Baroque cellos sit in the crook of your knee.

If you choose to play the violin, you will rest on your shoulder and under your chin. The violin sits on your left side regardless of your dominant hand.

On both instruments, you’ll use the fingers of your left hand to press down the strings. Your right hand will hold a bow that you will move across the strings to make them vibrate.


The range on a cello starts at the C just below the bass clef (C2), which is two octaves below middle C. Its standard range spans four octaves up to the C above the treble clef.

Because of that, cello players need to read music in the bass, tenor, and treble clef. The violin’s range is much higher, starting at the G below middle C (G3) and ending at the A just over four octaves higher (A7).

Since the treble clef is the highest clef in use, violin players only need to learn it. However, they will need to be able to recognize plenty of ledger lines above the staff.


Each instrument’s range makes it perfect for different roles in ensemble music. If you play the cello, you may have to play the bass line, especially in a string quartet or when playing continuo.

Cellos can also play lower harmonies, and they may occasionally have the melody. The violin’s higher range means you can expect to have the melody when playing the first violin.

Second violins and even first violins may also have some higher harmonies. However, they will rarely ever have a bass line because they can’t play that low.


The cello and violin are probably the two most popular orchestral string instruments. When you look at an orchestra though, it can seem like the violin is much more common.

Violins make up almost half of the string section in an orchestra. However, cellos make up about a quarter of all of the string musicians.

A standard string quartet also features two violin players along with one cellist and one violist. In a solo situation, though, both instruments are equally common.


When starting either instrument, you may need to think about if you can even afford them. Because it’s smaller, the violin will almost always cost less than a comparable cello.

The cello requires more materials to produce, and it can take longer to make a good instrument. Still, you can find an affordable cello, and you can find expensive violins.

If you’re on a tight budget, though, you may find the violin meets your needs. On the other hand, you may choose to wait and save up if you prefer the sound of the cello.

Why Play The Cello

The cello is an amazing instrument to listen to and to play. If you’ve wanted to play an instrument for a while, be sure to consider the cello as one of your options.

Some people may not need any convincing to give the cello a try. But if you aren’t dead set on playing it, you may want to know of a couple of benefits.

Then, you can make sure the cello will be the right choice.

Warm Sound

The cello’s tenor range makes it easy for you to get a rich, warm tone as you play. You may struggle to get a good sound at the start, but you won’t have to deal with the high-pitched screeching of a violin.

As you improve, you can play amazing pieces of music, such as the Bach Cello Suites. You will also be able to enjoy some of the bass lines and lower harmonies in orchestral music.

No matter what you decide to play, you can expect a full sound from a good cello. Then, you can swap out the strings and bow to help further control your sound.


Another reason why you should play the cello is for its versatility. In an orchestra, you may play everything from the melody to the bass line in a single piece.

You can also play on your own with or without a pianist. And the cello is a standard member of the string quartet. If you prefer more modern music, you can play that as well.

Then, you’ll get to play the music you want, and it can sound great on your instrument. You’ll need to practice to sound good, but getting to play what you enjoy can make it easier to practice and get better.

Best Cellos

If you’re ready to become the next Yo-Yo Ma, you need a good beginner cello to start. To help you start your journey on the right foot, I looked at some student-level instruments.

I looked for models from reputable brands and at decent prices. And I considered models that come in a variety of sizes, so someone can start at any age.

Here are some of the best cellos I found to help you learn the instrument.

Cremona SC-130

The Cremona SC-130 is an excellent choice for beginners on a budget. It uses solid spruce and maple to make up the body of the cello, so you can get a resonant tone.

This model also features ebony fittings that look good and are durable. Plus, the whole cello is lightweight, so it’s good for anyone with joint issues.

You can choose a 1/4, 4/4, or any size in between so that you’re comfortable. And you can get a lot of life out of this cello before you have to spend more on an intermediate model.

Cremona SC-130


  • Affordable
  • Easy to play
  • Multiple sizes
  • Lightweight
  • Looks and sounds good


  • Some quality control issues

D Z Strad 101

Another option to consider is the D Z Strad 101. Spruce and maple make up the body of this cello, so you can make sure to get a warm sound from the start.

It even comes with a bow, rosin, and other accessories to give you what you need to learn the cello. The ebony fittings look great and help you adjust the instrument to meet your needs.

Whether you need a 1/8 or 4/4 cello or something in between, this model comes in that size. However, you will need a bit more money to spend on this one.


  • Good materials
  • Nice sound
  • Easy to play
  • Comes with accessories
  • Different sizes


  • A bit expensive

Yamaha AVC5

Kids and smaller adults should try the Yamaha AVC5, which is available in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 sizing. The cello uses spruce, maple, and rosewood for the body and fittings.

It also features an oil varnish finish to help the instrument look good even as you use it. Yamaha gives the instrument a professional adjustment before shipping it, so you can get a good quality sound.

Unfortunately, it’s not the most affordable model. But with Yamaha’s reputation, you may not need to upgrade your cello for a while, if ever.

Yamaha AVC5


  • Easy to play
  • Good for younger players
  • Professional adjustment
  • Nice materials
  • Great quality


  • Somewhat expensive

Why Play The Violin

Before you jump headfirst into the world of the cello, consider why you should play the violin. Sure, the cello has some great benefits, but the violin does as well.

If you want to make sure you choose the right instrument for you, you need to understand the advantages that different instruments offer. Then, you can make an informed choice.

Here are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the violin.


The most obvious benefit is that the violin is much smaller than the cello. If you have to take your instrument to orchestra rehearsals or lessons, you’ll have an easier time transporting the violin.

Later on, you may even need to fly with your instrument. If you play the violin, you can take it on board with you without any problems, but cello players would need to buy a second seat for their instrument.

Even if you don’t plan on traveling, you may find the size of the violin makes it easier to practice. And if you have a small apartment or bedroom, storing the violin won’t require as much planning or logistics.

Easy To Read

The violin itself isn’t necessarily easier to read than the cello, but violin music can be. In the beginning, you’ll probably only use one clef no matter which you choose to play.

But as you advance, you’d eventually need to learn multiple clefs to play cello music. Meanwhile, you’ll only ever have to learn one clef to play the violin.

You will need to learn to read ledger lines on the violin, but they all use the same clef as the origin. In my opinion, that’s a lot easier than having to reorient your brain to learn which line denotes which pitch.

Best Violins

If you’re leaning towards playing the violin, you will need a good instrument. The violin can already be hard for beginners, especially when it comes to getting a good sound.

I looked for beginner violins at a variety of price points and in different sizes. And I made sure to stick to relatively good brands to help you choose the best model you can get.

Here are a few violins I found for you to try.

Yamaha V3 Series

The Yamaha V3 Series is an excellent choice for beginner violinists. It features maple and spruce as the main tonewoods, while ebony is the material of the instrument’s fittings.

You’ll also receive a bow and some rosin, so you can start playing as soon as you receive the violin. Plus, the design is durable and can last through a lot of use.

Whether you need a 4/4 or 1/2 size, this model is great. It’s not the cheapest option, but it also won’t break the bank, so it’s a nice compromise on price and quality.


  • Good materials
  • Easy to play
  • Not too expensive
  • Multiple sizes
  • Comes with accessories


  • Can be hard to tune

Cremona SV-175

Another violin to test as a beginner is the Cremona SV-175. This model is suitable for beginning and advancing students, so you don’t need to worry about upgrading any time soon.

Cremona uses spruce and maple for the body, and the company follows national music education standards to make this violin. That means it’s an excellent choice for young students.

It’s available in sizes as small as 1/8 or as big as 4/4, so older students can also use it. Plus, you don’t need a huge budget to buy this model outright.


  • Good tonewoods
  • Nice sound
  • Easy to play
  • Comes in different sizes
  • Meets national standards


  • Strings break easily

D Z Strad 100

The D Z Strad 100 is another amazing beginner violin. It features great construction using spruce, maple, and ebony for the body and fittings.

Along with the violin, you’ll receive a bow, a shoulder rest, and rosin. Everything comes in a protective case to keep your violin safe during storage and transit.

You can even choose the right size, from 1/32 to 4/4 to make sure you’re comfortable. And you don’t need a huge budget to be able to afford this model.


  • Easy to play
  • Affordable
  • Plenty of sizes
  • Good materials
  • Comes with accessories


  • Not for serious players

FAQs About The Cello Vs. Violin Explained

Question: Is the cello or violin better?

Answer: Neither instrument is inherently better than the other. However, some people may prefer the sound or feel of one instrument, be it the cello or violin.
If you do prefer one instrument, that can help you select the instrument you want to play. Then, you’ll look forward to practicing even when it gets tough.

Question: Is one better for kids?

Answer: You could argue that the violin is better for kids because it’s smaller. But you can find cellos that are small enough for younger kids to play.
When it comes to choosing an instrument for your child, consider what they want to play. You can do everything possible to get them to practice, but I know from experience as a kid, I wouldn’t practice an instrument I didn’t love.

Question: How do you choose between the cello and violin?

Answer: Along with considering what you like better, think about other factors. For example, if you have a small living space, you may want to choose the violin since it takes up less space.
You might also consider your budget. If you only have $1,000 or so, you’ll be able to compare more violins than cellos, so the violin may be more practical.

Question: Can you learn both the cello and violin?

Answer: You can learn to play the cello and violin, but you should start with learning just one. Then, you can focus on learning the fundamentals, such as tone and technique.
After you learn the basics of one instrument, you can add the other one. Eventually, you’ll be able to play both.

Question: Can you teach yourself the violin or cello?

Answer: You can teach yourself to play the violin or cello. As long as you have an interest in either instrument as well as the discipline to practice when you’re busy, you can make it work.
Then, you’ll be able to make consistent progress and get better at your playing.

Final Note On The Cello Vs. Violin Explained

Having the cello vs. violin explained can help you select the right instrument for you. Some people may find joy in playing the cello while others love the violin.

Either way, give both instruments a try before you choose one. I would probably choose the cello for its sound, but you may like the violin better, so don’t let my opinion sway you.

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