orig. Italy The violoncello, or cello, is a bowed string instrument with a deep, rich sound that lends itself to both solo and ensemble performance. Derived from the earlier bass violin, the instrument in its current form originated in Italy in the 17th century and quickly became popular across Europe.
The cello's body is traditionally made of hand-carved wood with a decorative inlaid border, and the strings crafted of gut or metal, though they are now often made with synthetic materials.
The cellist plays while seated, with the cello held between the knees and its spike or endpin resting on the floor. To play, a horsehair bow is drawn across the strings with one hand, while the other presses down on the strings to produce certain notes. The instrument may also be plucked in what is known as a pizzicato method of playing.