It’s of critical importance to consider the size of the cello you’ll need when starting out. Why is it so important?
Simply put, the cello is a difficult instrument, complex in its nuances, and challenging due to its larger size. There’s nothing worse than picking up a new instrument and wanting to give up due to not having chosen the right cello fit for you. Not only that — you also run the risk of injury.
So what do you need to pay attention to when buying a cello? Mainly your height, the length of your arms, and the length of your fingers.
It is important to emphasize that it is the cello that must adapt to your body, not the other way around! There is always a cello to fit every player, and for this, it doesn’t matter your age, height, or the level you are at.
How To Choose The Right Cello Size
1. Choosing A Cello By Arm Length And Height
Here’s a handy cello sizing guide to help you find the right cello size, based on your arm length and height.
Cello Size Guide (Inches)
16″ and under
3′ – 91cm
between 16″ – 18″
between 3′ – 3’6″
between 18″ – 20″
between 3’6″ – 4′
between 20″ – 22″
between 4′ – 4’6″
between 22″ – 24″
between 4’6″ – 5′
4/4 full-size cello
more than 24″
more than 5′
Cello Size Guide (centimeters)
Arm Length (cm)
42cm and under
91cm and under
between 43cm – 46cm
between 92cm – 110cm
between 47cm – 51cm
between 111cm – 123cm
between 52cm – 56cm
between 124cm – 140cm
between 56cm – 61cm
between 141cm – 152cm
4/4 full-size cello
more than 62cm
more than 153cm
2. Choosing A Cello By Your Age
This table will help you get a better idea of what size cello to aim for, according to age. Take these as a guide though, as not all humans are sized equal! Some children might have their growth spurts early for instance, and this must be taken into consideration.
Cello Size Guide (By Age)
between 3-5 years old
between 5-6 years old
between 6-7 years old
between 8-10 years old
between 11-13 years old
4/4 full-size cello
14 years and above
Breaking Down The Variables
The variables that will determine the choice of cello size are as follows:
If, for example, you are about 170/175cm tall, a normal cello, 4/4, should be fine. But, if you have short fingers, playing in some positions comfortably will be difficult.
Therefore, it is a relationship between the different variables that you have to take into account when choosing a cello.
2. Arm length
Even though you might be at an average height, having shorter arms won’t do you any favors when trying to play a standard-sized cello.
In that case, you should check whether you can access the whole fingerboard with your arms while keeping the correct posture of your hand and your left elbow.
3. Hand size/finger length
This factor is vital, as it can save you a lot of discomfort! When choosing a cello, you need to be able to play comfortably in the positions that require the widest range of the fingers (first position and first position extended, second position extended, for example).
On the other hand, you should also be able to play comfortably, maintaining good hand shape, in thumb position. Extra effort and awkward postures can lead to injury, so you have to be very careful with this.
What is the best size cello for a beginner?
As we said before, it does not depend on your level of learning the cello, but it depends on your height and the length of your arms. Therefore, a beginner can use a 4/4 cello as well as a smaller one.
What size cello does an adult need?
Generally, an adult will use a full-size cello, but, as mentioned above, it depends on arm length, height, and hand and finger size.
Can an adult use a 3/4 size cello?
Yes, of course, if necessary! You should try to be comfortable when playing the cello, and a 3/4 cello may be a better choice if your height, arm, hand, and finger length require it.
Who should use a 7/8 cello?
7/8 cellos are rare, and are generally referred to as “woman’s size”. In general, they are ideal for those who are not entirely comfortable with a full-size cello and require a smaller cello. It’s all about experimenting until you are completely comfortable with the instrument.
Can I use strings of any size, regardless of the size of the cello?
No. If you have a 4/4 cello, you must buy strings of that size. Additionally, if you have a 1/2 cello, the strings must also adhere to that particular length.
As you can see, there are quite a number of considerations to take into account when choosing your first cello. But don’t fret, if you’re in doubt, head into your nearest music store that stocks a variety of cellos, and don’t be afraid to have one of their in-house experts let you try a few out.