Cello vs Violin

May 25, 2004 at 04:38 AM · Hi,

I am just curious - is it harder to learn violin than cello? My teacher told me it's easier to advance in Cello than Violin. She said Violin is the hardest instrument, and if 2 kids (same talent and same environmental factors), the kid who learns cello can advance a lot faster than the kid who learns violin. To me, they're both strings instruments, so I'm not quite sure where it causes the difference (beside the fact that cello has a more natural position).

Just curious! thanks =)

Replies (57)

May 25, 2004 at 06:46 AM · Greetings,

at a basic level I suspect the cello is a little easier. The psoition of the arms and strain on the muscles is more natural. Of course, in time the violin becomes second nature ( as do the visits to the chiropracter)



May 25, 2004 at 01:23 PM · Yeah I heard something like that-apparently to my ocusin playin ghte cello is easier than playing teh violin but she hasn't even tried playing the violin! I also heard that vibrato on a cello is easier than on a violin? WHo knows!


May 25, 2004 at 03:27 PM · I think both violin and cello have elements that make them more challenging then the other. Anyone tried playng octaves and tenths on a cello? Not easily done. The cello you have to sink into the strings more and have a lot more arm strength to get a really good tone and sound. It's much harder to play faster on a cello and keep the sound clean and controlled. Physically the cello might be a bit easier to play then the violin from a positional point of view, but I think you need a lot more upper body and arm strength.

May 25, 2004 at 03:58 PM · I would agree that the violin hold is much less natural than the cello hold. Just this weekend I was playing chamber music with a friend who plays violin, viola & cello and she noted that in terms of the physical demands of the basic hold, the cello is easier.

Also, in his book "For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals" Wayne Booth discusses how his goal was to play chamber music with others & he choose to learn the cello rather than violin or viola partly because in the chamber music literature, the cello part is often less demanding so he could reach an 'acceptable' level faster by learning the cello.

May 25, 2004 at 03:54 PM · I've also heard that playing cello is more natural, but not necessarily "easier." Imagine this: your left hand holding a glass of water just below your head. It's a pretty natural hand position, and akin to the left hand when playing cello. Now take the same hand, bring the elbow in slightly, and twist it about 120 degrees clockwise, and it's more like violin... and it's definitely a much less comfortable position.

As for the most difficult string instrument, I'd have to say viola. It carries all the same "unnatural" hand position as violin, except the problems are exacerbated by the need to stretch the fingers further... and not to mention that getting a good sound out of viola with the right hand, too, generally requires more attention to detail than on violin (and probably cello, too, although I wouldn't know).

May 25, 2004 at 04:14 PM · The last time I tried to play a cello it vibrated my hands until they were numb(cello + carpal tunnel syndrome = pain and agony.)

I didn't like it at all! However, vibrato felt more natural because of the verticle movement.

May 25, 2004 at 05:00 PM · cello is SO much easier, at least for me, i can pick up a cello and play a good scale with vibrato and niec tone, i've never seen a cellist who can do this on a violin

May 25, 2004 at 08:02 PM · I agree that the cello is definetly easier than the violin because it is a more natural position (on the violin everything is supinated) Except when you get to the advanced thumb positions of the cello.

Then you could run into some diffulculties.

May 25, 2004 at 10:02 PM · yeah thumb stuff looks tough to me

May 25, 2004 at 11:15 PM · Hi!

thanks for the response :) I kinda see why Tom said Viola would be the hardest string instrument. It definitely has the awkwardness in posture like violin, and yet the size is even bigger. I guess all the difficult techniques & skills in violin would also be in viola as well..

May 25, 2004 at 11:44 PM · Actually Owen, I was my friends boyfriend plays cello.

They work at a music store near me and when I went to visit one time, I inquired about a Maggini copy on the wall; He pulled it down, placed it on his knee (cello-type position) and proceeded to play some amazing sounding variations on scales!

At the time he certainly got more tone production out of it than I could. It's been over a year since and I'm pretty sure I could give him a run for his money now, but back then I'd have to say I was impressed.

May 25, 2004 at 11:54 PM · i play cello in school, but violin outta school and i take lessons on teh violin. well, cello is a lot harder to learn because it has difficult fingerings in 3rd positions and so on... That's because in school, i have to play in the 3rd position and i think it's more difficult then the violin

May 26, 2004 at 12:10 AM · I have a student with limited motor skills. Her parents are intent that she should continue violin lessons as a precursor to learning the cello in a few years...I've tried in vain to explain that the violin is physically more demanding, but will they listen?:p

May 26, 2004 at 02:57 PM · Also, remember that cellists do not have their instruments in constant contact with their necks, sometimes to the point of abrasion.

But then again, bowing for cellists is more difficult. Violinists have gravity in their favor, unlike cellists.

May 26, 2004 at 03:23 PM · just as an added tidbit. This has nothing to do with actually playing the instrument, but one advantage we violinists have is in traveling. Can you imagine what it's like to be lugging that huge thing around with you all the time.

May 26, 2004 at 05:32 PM · so i was wrong, sue me :)

May 26, 2004 at 08:16 PM · I have always suspected that the cello is harder because of the greater physical strength required to get a good sound and because of the greater amount of stretching required to cover the fingerboard. OK if you have hands like Shaquille O' Neill or Mr. Gregor Piatigorski but not so easy for the rest of us.

I have never understood why we seem to have more lady cellists than violinists (at least up to a decade or two ago). You would think the cello a man's instrument and the violin is for ladies!?!

May 27, 2004 at 01:43 AM · Joel: here here!

Owen: Considering how well intellectual property lawyers do these days for ubsurd cases?...How much are you worth? :P

May 27, 2004 at 01:57 AM · Something violinists usually overlook is cellists' constant switching between three different clefs (or four, counting Dvorak or "double" treble - ten points to anyone who knows what it is).

Both instruments have their pros and cons in terms of difficulty, which really eliminate the need to debate which is harder to learn.

May 27, 2004 at 02:44 AM · ryan, roughly 200 dollars at the moment

May 27, 2004 at 04:20 PM · What about the viola? We have to deal with quite a bit too hehe. We have the weird positioning of a violin AND we need more arm strength to get a decent tone. Ever try to do tenths on a viola??? It's negative fun, let me tell you....;)

May 27, 2004 at 05:57 PM · ughh, no tenths

May 27, 2004 at 08:28 PM · yea...I Think tenths are actually just negative fun in general.....

June 10, 2004 at 06:33 PM · Learning violin is one of the hardest things to do! Cello, while it does require strength, is not as technically challengeing as violin.

June 20, 2004 at 09:26 PM · Heres my opinion..

I play both violin and 'cello at exactly the same standard/level and I wouldn't say either was easier or harder to play, only thing is the 'cello needs a LOT more physical strength it causes fingertips to be harder etc..

Although the violin is a less natural position you soon get used to it and its not really taken into account.

Double stops/octaves on 'cello are really not nice, but changing positions is much more natural.

Sometimes I find it much easier to get a decent tone out the cello than the violin, and playing fast is harder on the 'cello.

As for all the violinists that say the 'cello is far easier than the violin..its not true, they are both difficult, just in different ways.

For the travelling thing..I have to carry the 'cello and the violin to my music lessons/ensembles. It often means I'm worn out before I've even started playing..pfft.

June 21, 2004 at 11:14 PM · Cello music tantalized me even as a child, but they said I was "too tiny", hence the violin. If you want to appreciate your violin, take up the VIOLA! OUCH! I never got back-aches or charley-horses from the violin. One gal got a 3/4 size viola, but I think that defeats the purpose, and squelches the sonorous viola sound. Dang, I'd love to play cello...~AB

June 22, 2004 at 08:36 PM · vibrato on the cello is a lot easier because your elbow is outward and while playing the violin your elbow is locked between your body and the violin so it is harder to vibrate your fingers back and forth

June 22, 2004 at 10:26 PM · I disagree with the above comment. Being able to play both, vibrato is harder on a cello, when you come from playing a violin..maybe that's why. However, it really helps your vibrato on the violin.

Re: Cello vs. Violin

Violin is sooo much harder to learn. I took up cello in the young orchestra at my school, and by the end of the year, I could play as well as some symphony cellists (the highest orchestra).

June 23, 2004 at 05:14 AM · this topic is kinda like comparing apples to oranges...i dont see the use heh..

July 24, 2004 at 03:07 AM · Ive never played either, but Im considering picking up one of them. Therefore I need heaps of biased advise!

September 10, 2004 at 12:55 AM · I have a violin and Viola. I will be renting a Cello soon. I would like to give the cello a go! I'm hoping since I'm hearing it is more natural to play, that maybe I'll have less tension, especially in the left hand when applying vibrato.

September 10, 2004 at 01:46 AM · hmm, actually the left hand will have more tension on teh cello because you have to push those darn strings so hard to get them to the fnigerboard. whats more natural is the overall position, and the bow arm. However i think it makesa more sense to have the strings parallel to teh floor in terms of bow balance.

September 10, 2004 at 03:41 AM · Owen I don't think the pressing would bother me, although I see what you mean. For the violin the left hand is extended out and stays extended, where on the cello the left hand is closer and in front of the body, it feels more comfortable & relaxed. I really don't know. When I get this cello I'm planing to rent for fun and curiosity, I 'll let you know.

October 3, 2004 at 12:09 AM · i don't know if it's harder to learn the cello, but i do know it's much harder to throw.

October 3, 2004 at 10:00 PM · All I know is that vibrato's a LOT easier on the cello.


October 11, 2004 at 09:48 AM · Although I'm a professional violinist/violist, I've recently become interested in dabbling in a bit of cello playing just for recording (overdubbing) purposes - in other words, I'd quite like to be able to play simpler parts - nothing too demanding in high positions etc.

But while I am assuming that bow technique would not be a problem, how awkward would I find the cello in terms of "thinking" in the different fingering positions, given that the gaps are wider etc.? With the violin you at least have the body of the instrument as a guide for your third position, but that's not the case with the cello. Does anyone have any advice from the point of view of a violinist-turned-cellist?

October 11, 2004 at 01:27 PM · I am renting a cello at the moment and I took my first lessson last week. This is a totally different instrument. When I bought a viola and tried it out, it was not that much of difference from the violin. With the cello the bow hold, the bowing, fingering, the bigger instrument, all are very different. To be honest, the cello is harder to handle than I thought! I'm having fun with it though and can play a pretty good C Major Scale. Like everyone has said in another thread the cell does seem more natural to play. I now have in one bedroom a violin ,viola and now a cello, not to mention the electric bass in the basement that is shapped like a violin. The string family under one roof!

October 17, 2004 at 05:14 PM · My brother plays cello so we kind of argue about this alot. I guess it's true that the cello's position is more natural, but the cello is more physically demanding. And it's not easier on the muscles because my brother gets pain in his hands. Vibrato is easier on the cello though. I think maybe at first due to a more natural position, cello would be easier but once you reach a certain level on both instruments it's equally hard.

October 20, 2004 at 11:07 AM · Then you're really just comparing the difficulties starting off on the instruments ehe.

October 22, 2004 at 05:26 PM · In all of this talk of hardship, where's the overwhelming desire to become a better musician that is the driving force behind our musical pursuit to begin with? Is one harder than another? Does one sound better than the other? Is one too big or heavy?

I play all three of the above mentioned instruments as well as a host of others. All three are unique in their own way. That's why they all exist & have withstood the ultimate test of time. The violin, viola, & cello are all important to the sound of an orchestra.

To become the best that you can be at what you do, it is important to understand what is going on around you. Learning each of these instruments seems to me to be the best route to this understanding.

...and if you think carrying around a cello is hard work, try playing electric bass & keyboards in a rock band. My cello is a pleasure to lift compared to the nearly 1000 pounds of equipment I must lug to each rock gig. I had to buy a minivan to carry it all. If I just played string instruments, I could buy one of those cool little Minis. But, alas...

Never stop expanding your musical horizons.

October 23, 2004 at 05:23 AM · Hey Paul just wondering could you read all 3 clefs? It seems difficult to adjust yourself to read all three. I'm struggling some to train myself to read the clef for the cello,I'm so use to the violin!.

October 28, 2004 at 05:16 PM · Yes, basically, I read all three clefs. Actually, there are about 6 clefs, but only three really apply here. I learned G clef in grade school when I learned to play cornet. I taught myself to read F (bass) clef while learning to play electric bass guitar in high school. C clef is not any different than either of the other two...the notes are just in a different place. It's really no different than the transposition necessary for reading between treble & bass.

I do have some difficulty reading C clef from time to time. But, once you get in the groove, it begins to flow along. There is a good deal of cello music that moves in & out between F & C clefs. That can become a bit troublesome on occassion, but usually only the first few times through a new piece. Once you get familiar with the piece, it helps you to see what notes you are playing, and where they sit on the staff.

Uuhh.....Did I answer your question, or did I just blather on about the wrong thing?

October 31, 2004 at 04:36 PM · Some instuments are hard to play well, some are easy to play poorly.

Both are hard to play well.

Wacth sten the Locatelli's cello sonata in D majos live.

November 1, 2004 at 04:09 AM · I do not know whether it is more difficult to play a cello or a violin, but I do know it is more difficult to eat a cello.

November 1, 2004 at 05:35 AM · Ah, Alan? How is it that you know that?

November 3, 2004 at 02:35 AM · Just a comment somewhat off topic, I was playing a cello for the first time this summer (it was a friend's in my piano trio), and was completely astonished how I automatically went from one harmonic to another, as I felt out the strings. (how many cellists could do the same with violin? the perspective from the chinrest is just another thing that isn't very natural). the bow felt completely natural (big surprise, but still you hold it a completely different angle so I wasn't expecting that). I struggled, though, to keep my left arm up :)- very interesting experience. definitely positive.

November 3, 2004 at 03:15 AM · This is fun...well, I guess I can afford to ignore schoolwork for another hour.

Paul said, "Never stop expanding your musical horizons." I like that idea, but I don't think there ought to be a prescription for what horizons yours or mine or anyone's might be...we all have different intentions and needs from music and instrumental study.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to say that one could infinitely expand one's horizons *within* the learning and performance perameters of one instrument; likewise, one might learn to play a variety of instruments well--*however* I think there is not only a different rationale for undertaking either of the above courses, but because of the motivational discrepency, there is also a different kind of learning and appreciation going on in each case.

As per the talk of cello vs. violin and which is easier: this is a prescriptive question, at least it is in the sense that most of the responses thus far have been technically-oriented. But as someone said before, it's almost like comparing apples and oranges. Ask a virgin to the violin or cello which is easier; then we'll have our answer...

As for which one is *really* easier...I think every instrument extends endless difficulties and gems for anyone devoted to it, and I don't think you can cap it off by saying that one is easier than another.

Once it gets to the realm where you are really acquainted with a media and a practice--that collective "media and practice" becomes art, and art knows *nothing else* than how to demand *more* from the artist. So artistically I don't think there's a case at all.

But if you want my unabashed opinion, naturally cello is easier and tempting for most violinists (with the exception of tenths): you can wrap your legs around it and embrace it practically, whereas the violin is constantly playing "hard to get," or so I feel...



November 4, 2004 at 05:26 PM · Right on, Kismet. I completely agree with your assessment of "horizons". I was in no way trying to imply that my definition of musical horizons should be the same as anyone elses. Thanks for expanding on that.

My real point was that seeing things from "outside the box" can very often accelerate ones appreciation for what others are doing. In exploring the workings of another instrument, you are automatically expanding your horizons...whatever they may be.

I wouldn't suggest that people go out & learn every instrument they can get their hands on -- unless that's what they want to do. You probably won't gain the same appreciation as you would if you are doing it with the same passion that drove us to pursue music initially. But, I do believe you will come away with a better understanding of the music around you if you know something of what the other musicians are doing. Is it really harder, or just different? Thus, exploring other instruments.

January 15, 2005 at 02:58 PM · To Rick Baccare

I play the cello, but I definetly also like the violin. You cannot compare the body of the cello to the 3'rd position as on a violin, but on the other hand, when your right hand touches the body, you're in 4'th position. You can also use the overtones. There's always one in 4'th position 1'st finger. Enjoy!

January 16, 2005 at 04:56 PM · It is much harder to play the violin than the cello. And it is partly due to the MUCH more natural position for the cello, but also because of the intricate, virtuostic nature of violin music (and the microprecision required), and the difference in amount of repetoire written for each instrument. The violin rep is more vast and varied than for cello.


January 22, 2005 at 01:16 AM · Hi! This is my first post!

Well, the cello, like everyone mentioned earlier, is in a more natural position. I myself play violin and cello and found some differences in advancing.

It took me about 2-3 years to get the work on the Bach sonatas and partitas, and it was STILL too hard for me. When I started cello, it took me 2 months to get started on the Bach suites, and I nearly sight read it perfectly.

Vibrato is more natural on the cello because of the natural up and down motion, making it so much easier to do.

My first "piece" in violin was after about 1 year, my first "piece" (about the same level) on the cello was after about 2 weeks.

Octaves on the cello are easire than the violin in my opinion...as long as they're using the thumb. When you use fingers one and four, or one and three on the cello for octaves, you kinda run into trouble. It's obvious you can't do finger octaves on the cello.

I find it is more fun to "play" on the cello. There's so many more things you can do with it. There's a cool sound you can create on the a string when you put your thumb and third finger (harmonics) and slide up and down. It's not what you'll expect!

For the size matter, it's not all that hard to carry arond a cello all day. I actually think violins are more hard. The case handle cuts into your hand after a while or your hand might get sweaty. Certainly the strap cuts into your shoulder! However, a cello case can come in brands with wheels attatched to them. They make it a lot easier to carry. (and more fun to ride!)

I would say violin is so much harder to learn than cello. And so much more repertoire too!

January 22, 2005 at 01:19 AM · I met a cellist who always had to take the instrument into consideration when buying a car, er station wagon or van. One disadvantage, I guess.

January 22, 2005 at 04:39 PM · I'm watching this debate from afar, hoping you'll give me the answer so I can stop my children from fighting over this issue. My nine year old plays the violin and my seven year old the cello (my four year old will fill his mother's nazi plans for a family quartet by playing viola in a few years--he has no musical horizons, he's got a tyrant mother! Tee hee hee). They're constantly battling this out--my instrument is harder than yours is.

In the end I'm hoping this discussion will help me find a truce between the two, or I might have to take drastic measures and make each child practice the other's instrument for a week!

January 24, 2005 at 12:48 AM · Cellists are harder to beat up than violinists.

February 17, 2013 at 07:25 PM · I began playing violin at age 7, and cello at age 14. Cello has its differences, and its similarities. Overall, I'd say cello is easier than violin in every area except 1: shifting. Since the cello is such a big instrument, you have a longer way to shift.

Example: I'm on the cello D string. There are 5 steps to the A string, as on the violin. But I want to play the A on the D string. I CAN'T JUST PLAY IT WITH MY 4TH FINGER! I will have to shift into 2nd position to hit it. This is probably not a big deal in many pieces, but it is a little awkward when you're used to the violin.

Also, you have to shift longer distances. If you're used to 8th position being about 5 inches past 1st position (on the violin), you might be shocked when you find that 8th position on the cello is about a foot past 1st position.

If you have big, thick fingers (like I do), you'll find cello easier to play. There's more space between notes, so there are less "finger crowding" issues.

I think that in every other area of playing technique, cello is somewhat easier than violin.

February 19, 2013 at 09:54 PM · It's generally accepted that the violin is the most difficult instrument to 'master'. It seems the discussion here has focused on 'technical difficulties' experienced by players of both instruments: the distance one pushes the strings on the cello, unnatural position of holding the violin, etc.

I think the hardest struggle for players of either comes in pursuit of making a pleasing sound, tone production. In general,with everything else being equal, it's easier to make a good sound on lower sounding instruments, hence cello being 'easier'.

February 20, 2013 at 12:46 PM · These things are all relative. The upside of cello for kids is the floor holds the instrument weight. That doesn't mean they don't slump, put the cello too high or low for best bow contact, twist their left hands oddly around the fingerboard, play with the left elbow down, play with both shoulders turned clockwise, play with toes (not feet) on the floor, play with feet crossed or against the chair legs... lol

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