The Difference Between Violin and Cello Bows

Violin and cello bows look the same from a distance, but they are a different size and made to fit the unique characteristics of the instrument. The violin and cello come from the same family of string instruments. Therefore, they have the same basic characteristics of homogeneous sound throughout the range of the instrument, and range of expression paralleled only by the human voice and incredible versatility in dynamics and technique. The bow of a violin and a cello have the same basic components, but they also differ in small, but essential ways.


The violin and the cello bows have several parts that are identical to both instruments. All violin and cello bows have a part called a frog at the bass of the bow where the fingers are placed. The wooden part that extends the length of the bow goes by the name of the stick. The head of the bow consists of the tip that slants inward toward the hairs of the bow on the opposite side of the frog.


The violin comes in several different sizes, ranging from 8 inches wide and 15 inches long to 14 inches wide by 24 inches long. The violinist holds the violin between his neck and shoulder. When using the proper method, the violinist can hold the violin without using his hands. The cello is much larger and impossible to hold between the chin and shoulder. The violin makes it possible to play three notes at a time under a single bow. A technique for playing four notes at a time exists, but it requires separating the notes into two groups as the bow rocks across the strings.


The cello ranges in width from approximately 10 to 18 inches wide and 30 to 48 inches tall. Most cellists will choose a full-size cello as long as they are taller than 4 feet. Unlike the violin, the cello sits on the floor between the performers legs. In order to hold the cello properly, the legs must be spread and placed on either side of the cello. Like the violin, the cello has the ability to sound multiple notes simultaneously. However, only double stops or two simultaneous pitches are practical. Since the strings are placed so much further apart, it isn't possible to play more than two strings simultaneously.


Cellos and violins use different sized bows. While the parts are the same, the violin bow ranges from about 17 inches for a child's bow to 27 inches for an adult. The cello bow ranges from 23 inches to 28 inches. The hairs on the cello bow have a wider girth as well. The cello has a deeper sound by two complete octaves, but both instruments have the same relative range of over four octaves. An octave consists of the distance between two identically named pitches such as middle C and the C an octave higher.


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