Cello vs. Double Bass

Differences between Cellos and Double Basses

The violin, viola, double bass, and cello are all members of the string family. In the string ensemble, the cello and double bass are too large and heavy to be carried over one’s shoulder. Instead, they rest on the floor and create lower pitches.

Despite their resemblance, the cello and the double bass are entirely different instruments. Although they are each wonderful in their own way, we’ll be using this chance to explain the differences between them, so hang tight!


Differences between a Cello and a Double Bass

Cello vs. double bass can be differentiated by analyzing their characteristics. They come in a variety of profiles and sizes, and you play them in many ways. The lower the instrument, the more distinct the sound it makes.

There are many more differences between the double bass and the cello than these surface-level qualities. In order to better understand, let’s dissect it.



It is obvious to the untrained eye that the cello and double bass are very different in size. Both appear to be shaped like a violin. However, cellos are clearly smaller than basses when viewed from a distance.

You know, a full-size double bass is, to put it mildly, massive. The instrument is six-feet five inches (6′ 5′′) to seven feet five inches (7′ 5′′) tall, depending on the model. The cello, on the other hand, is a much more compact instrument. The cello is only five feet six inches (5′ 6′′) in length at its heaviest. In Italy, the cello is known as the ‘violoncello,’ which means ‘small double bass,’ in English.



Cellos and double basses are tuned differently and have different mechanisms for tuning.

Let’s get started with the actual tuning. C to G to D to A, then A, are the most common fifths for setting a cello’s tune. However, a double bass is typically tuned in fourths from E to A to D, and then G as the final note. Additionally, the low E on the double bass is lower than the C on the cello.

For this reason, cellos are capable of spanning an entire fifth-octave range because of their tuning processes. The maximum note range for double bass is usually four. Technically, a cello and a double bass can be tuned in fourths and fifths, respectively.

Now, let’s talk about their tuning mechanisms. Cello scrolls have small metals protruding from their sides, which you may see if you look closely. Strings can be tightened or loosened by using tuning pegs. On the other hand, the ‘tiny metals’ on a double bass stick out of the scroll’s back and are referred to as tuning machinery.


Physical Structure

There may appear to be no difference between a cello and a bass at first appearance. That’s understandable, given that they can be difficult to see.  You’ll notice that double bass has more slanted shoulders than a cello if you take a closer look at it.


Strings and Octaves

Instead of tuning the double bass in fifths (E1, A1, D2, and G2), it is tuned in fourths. To our knowledge, the double bass is the only contemporary bowed string instrument tuned like this. The cello, on the other hand, is tuned to the intervals of C2, G2, D3, and A3 (low to high) using a perfect fifth tuning. Because of the way they are tuned, you will note that there is a noticeable variation between their strings, except for the G2.

While the cello’s lowest note is two octaves below the Middle C, the double bass’s lowest note is only six diatonic notes lower than the middle C. These two instruments have only six diatonic notes in common; thus, their note ranges practically overlap.

You’ll notice that the open G string on the cello is the same G as the open G string on the double bass. When playing the double bass, you’ll need to stand or sit on a stool because it’s so large. Most double bassists utilize a German bow hold in order to achieve that massive upbow swell.

In the Baroque era, there was no double bass, and the cello was used as the bass. Musicians needed to replicate some of these woodwind instruments’ tonal properties; therefore, they required a means of obtaining more low ends when the orchestra came along. As a result, the double bass was designed to double the cello’s typical range. Consequently, the cello and double bass are inseparable.

In general, the cello is a shorter and more melodic instrument than the double bass, even though it was initially used as a bass instrument in the Baroque era. The double bass’s tone and pitches are more robust than those of the cello. The double bass is a more difficult piece to play than the cello, yet it has a close relationship to the cello.



The sound of a cello is distinct from that of a double bass.

It is the cello that bears the orchestra’s tenor voice. It has a deeper and more opulent sound than the violin. A further octave of a range is possible with the double bass, however.

Because of this, it may generate a deeper tone than the cello. As a result, the sound of the bass violin and cello can also be considered when comparing the two instruments.

Typically, a full symphony orchestra has between 8 and 12 cellos and only a few basses in it. However, the double bass is one of the most adaptable string instruments in the world.

They complement one another despite their differences in sound. Adding further weight to the cello’s clear and lovely sound is done brilliantly by double basses. An orchestral cello or a double bass offers a solid base for the rest of the ensemble.



Compared to bass bows, cello bows are slimmer. Additionally, their hairs and strings are lighter than those of bass bows. 72 to 73 centimeters is the normal length for these bows. The stick can be manufactured from a variety of different materials.

Carbon fiber is the strongest material for cello bows. However, fiberglass and Pernambuco are also frequently employed. Due to its high-quality Brazilian wood, Pernambuco is regarded as the best cello bow stick material.

In comparison to the cello’s bow, the double bass is 10 cm shorter. In addition, they’re three times heavier and stronger. Carbon fiber is a common material for double bass bows since they must be incredibly robust and durable.

Bass bows come in two different styles- the German bow and the French bow.


Playing Position    

Cellos and basses are distinct instruments because of their unique playing positions. Despite the fact that both instruments rest on the floor and are held up by a metal pin, no two musicians play them in the same way.

Bassists must often play while standing due to the instrument’s massive size. Some bassists, on the other hand, prefer to play while seated on a step stool. The cello, on the other hand, is the only violin that requires you to sit down to play. While playing an instrument, musicians sit in a chair with the instrument between their legs.


Final Thoughts

The cello and double bass can be played remarkably if they are set up correctly. Each of these two instruments, however, demands years of training before you can even begin to approach the symphonic level of proficiency or sound.

Compared to the cello, the double bass is a lot more predictable. Regardless of which path you take, all you need to do is master it. A desire to play the cello or double bass isn’t enough. To get better, you’ll have to work at it constantly.

We hope that this article on the distinctions between cellos and double bass has opened your mind to the possibilities. Remember that whichever instrument you choose, you’ll have a wonderful instrument with a lot of potentials.

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