An electric cello, also known as an amplified cello, is a stringed instrument that is played with a bow in the same way that a traditional cello is. These cellos, on the other hand, do not rely on acoustic resonance. Instead, they rely on electronic amplification, similar to how an electronic guitar does. The pitch of these instruments is lower than that of violins and violas, but higher than that of double basses.
Cellos that are classified as electric cellos must have a pickup that produces an electrical signal. The pickup can be built into the bridge or mounted directly on the cello body. Installing a built-in pickup is another option. Other methods for amplifying the sound of electric cello strings are also available, but they are less common.
Because electric cellos do not rely on acoustic resonance, there is no need to incorporate a resonating chamber into the instrument’s design. The vertical nature of the cello is retained in most concepts, but aside from that, the appearance of an electric cello is ultimately determined the designer’s artistic vision. The only constraints for a cello designer are that the cello shape must allow unrestricted access to the strings with the bow and that the cello must be physically balanced so that it can be played with little effort.
Traditional cellos are primarily used in classical music as solo, chamber, and large ensemble instruments. The electric cello, on the other hand, is used in pop, rock, and jazz music. Players often work in small groups of three to eight musicians or go solo. In some cases, players use the electric cello to give traditional classical pieces an edgy, contemporary spin, but these interpretations lose the original feel of the pieces.
A major advantage of the amplified cello over the traditional cello is that the number of people who can hear it is virtually unlimited. A regular cello is normally only heard for the distance that sound waves travel away from the instrument, though solo concert cellists may use indirect amplification to be heard louder. As a result, the volume appears to be softer as the listener moves away from the cello. The proximity of the listener to a speaker, not the listener’s proximity to the cellist, is important with an electric cello because sound travels from the speakers connected to the cello.
Although some traditional cello techniques, such as proper bowing position, transfer to the electric cello, cello players who use amplification are more likely to use nontraditional techniques to achieve the desired effects in the music. They could, for example, use wah effects, which are impossible to achieve on a regular cello. As a result, electric cello players may find that they must treat electric cello playing as a separate and distinct art form from traditional cello playing.