Both the violin and the cello are among the most well-known string instruments, and many people are interested in playing them over others in the string family. However, the right instrument for you will depend on a number of factors. Knowing the differences between these two popular instruments can help you determine which to learn to play. Here we’ll review some of the pros and cons of each instrument to highlight their differences and help you choose between them.
The cello is the bulkier instrument of the two, and it’s also the more expensive option. On the other hand, many students enjoy the sound of the cello and are willing to compromise convenience and practicality in favor of its musical qualities. If you’re considering playing the cello and taking cello lessons, keep the following aspects in mind.
There are a few advantages of playing the cello over the violin, including:
- Repertoire — While the unique sound of the cello may lead you to believe that the works you can play on it are limited, the fact is there are many musical pieces you can learn and play on this instrument. The violin may have more options, but you won’t find a shortage of them with the cello. In addition to many ensemble pieces, there are plenty of solo works to play on the cello.
- Lower Register — Many musicians prefer the cello to the violin for its lower register and tonality, while the violin’s higher register appeals to others.
- Musician Demand — Considering that there aren’t as many students who study the cello compared to the violin, there tends to be a higher demand for cello players in ensemble performances. This is usually the case even if the number of cellists needed to fulfill chamber or orchestra requirements is lower.
Although the cello has several benefits, there are a couple of possible downsides to consider, such as:
- Size — One of the potential downsides of the cello is its hefty size, which can make it difficult to carry and transport for many musicians. This is often a bigger issue for younger musicians, who may be around the same size as the case.
- Cost — Their larger size also makes cellos more expensive than the violin, which can make it less appealing if you want to save money on your instrument.
Like the cello, the violin is popular among many musicians and students taking string lessons. The violin is a more compact instrument than the cello, and it’s considerably more popular because of both its practicality and higher register. Some specific advantages and disadvantages of the violin include:
Some of the benefits of playing the violin as opposed to the cello include:
- Size — Violins are notably smaller than cellos, which makes them more optimal for carrying, especially for younger musicians.
- Lower Cost — In addition to being smaller, violins are more affordable than cellos. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on an instrument, particularly when starting out as a musician, the violin is often more appealing because of its lower cost.
- Repertoire — While the cello has a diverse repertoire, violins have an even more expansive repertoire, with a wide variety of both ensemble and solo violin pieces to play. These instruments have been around for 400 years, meaning there is four centuries’ worth of works to explore.
- Opportunities — When looking to play the violin in an orchestra, you’re likely to find plenty of spaces available due to the fact that they’re typically the most numerous.
The violin may have plenty of advantages, but one potential issue you may have has to do with competition. Violins are extremely popular among more musicians than the cello, making it harder to achieve higher rankings in ensembles. You may not have a hard time landing placement within a second violin section but be prepared for stiffer overall competition that makes it harder to get ahead.
Is It More Difficult to Play the Violin or Cello?
Another factor that could go into your decision between taking cello or violin lessons is the playing difficulty. While some musicians with more experience claim that both instruments are equally challenging in unique ways, beginners may find the cello to be less challenging due to its more comfortable playing position. Conversely, some find the cello to be more difficult because of the thumb positioning on this instrument, compounded by the need to learn three clefs compared to the violin’s single clef.
Depending on the person, it may be in their best interests to try both instruments to see which provides a better feel. Some musicians may even wind up going from playing the violin to playing the cello, and vice versa.
Other Factors to Consider
Apart from these pros and cons and potential playing difficulties, it’s important to think about other possible factors that may influence your decision between the cello and violin. For instance, it’s often ideal to listen to both instruments to get a better sense of how each sounds, whether this entails seeing live local performances or listening to recordings.
There may also be certain limitations depending on where the student intends to learn an instrument. While some communities and educational institutions may allow for both instruments, others may only permit access to one or the other. Above all, it’s important to actively enjoy the sound that the instrument produces. If the instrument inspires passion in the listener, this is more likely to translate into learning and playing.
Both instruments have their students and audiences, which is why there isn’t a clear-cut winner between the two. For many, the deeper sound of the cello, along with its comfortable playing position and ease of competition, make this the standout. Meanwhile, others may prefer the higher tones of the violin, its lower cost, and overall convenience. Regardless of which you’re considering, consider trying both through an instrument rental program before making your final decision.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of playing either cello or violin, contact us today to get in touch with Grace Music School. Regardless of which instrument you want to learn, you’ll find the education you need as a student at our school.