Double Bass vs Cello Explained: What’s the Difference?

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Do you want to play the low notes in an orchestra? Are you not sure what instrument can help you do that? Consider having the double bass vs. cello explained to you.

Both instruments are low and can let you play the bass line. But they’re more different than you might think, so you might find that one instrument is the better option for you.

The Main Differences Between Double Basses And Cellos

The main differences between double basses and cellos are:

  • Double basses have a really low range, whereas cellos play slightly higher notes
  • Double basses almost always play the bass line, whereas cellos can have the melody and other parts
  • Double basses have open strings tuned a fourth apart, while cello strings are a fifth apart
  • Double bass players stand or use a stool to play, whereas cellists sit on a chair

Knowing these differences is great, but think about how they can affect your decision on which to get and learn.


The lowest note of the double bass is the E almost three octaves below middle C (E1). Basses can play up to a G just at the top of the treble clef staff (G5).

Cellos can only go down to the C two octaves below middle C (C2). However, you can play up to the C two octaves above middle C (C6).

Because of the range, the bass is much bigger than the cello. Bass music is also written one octave higher than it sounds to keep players from having to read a lot of ledger lines. But cello music sounds the same as what you see on paper.


When playing in an ensemble, such as an orchestra, the double bass usually has the bass line. There are a few rare exceptions, but the bass doesn’t get to play the melody that much.

However, if you play the cello, you may play the bass line, melody, or inner harmony parts. Cellos also have more original solo music, so you can play as a soloist with or without an orchestra.

A lot of the solos that bassists play, especially if the pieces are older, are transcriptions of cello works. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth knowing to help you decide which instrument to play.

Open Strings

Both the bass and cello have four strings, but the notes they play differ. On a double bass, the strings play the notes E, A, D, and G, from lowest to highest. These notes are all a perfect fourth apart from each other.

If you play the cello, you can use the open strings to play C, G, D, and A, which are all perfect fifths apart. Since the bass is so big, having the strings be closer together makes it easier to play more notes.

The cello can be easier to learn if you already play the violin or viola. But you might find the double bass is easier if you play the guitar since it shares the same open notes as the four lowest strings.

Your Position

Another significant difference between the double bass and cello is how you position yourself. Double bassists can stand or sit on a stool to play the instrument.

However, cellists almost always sit on a standard chair, even when they play as a soloist. If one position is more comfortable than the other, that can help you choose between the two instruments.

But consider that you may need to bring your own stool to orchestra rehearsals. Cellists and other musicians usually don’t need to bring their own chairs.

Benefits Of Playing Double Bass

Even if you know how the double bass differs from the cello, you may not know which one you should play. Fortunately, you can consider a few benefits of the larger string instrument.

Then, you may determine it’s the right instrument for you. If you’re interested in playing the bass but aren’t sure if it’s the best choice, consider the following advantages.

Easy Parts

When you join an orchestra or another ensemble, odds are good that the bass part will be relatively easy. In most cases, the bass line is simple, and you don’t have to learn a ton of notes.

That can make it a good choice if you want to start playing music with others as soon as possible. You’ll still need to practice to learn your part, but you may not need to practice as much as a cellist.

And while a lot of the parts are simple, some are more complex. That can help keep you on your toes, so you’ll still have something interesting to play.

Little Competition

I’ve played in a few orchestras, and none of them had a ton of bass players. The biggest section there was had six players at most, and that was only for a few concerts.

On average, the bass section only had two to three members. So if you want to join a community or school orchestra, you might have a pretty good chance of getting in, even within a ton of experience.

You also don’t have to worry about as much competition when applying to a college music program. And if there’s a ton of demand for bass players, you may even get a scholarship to play in an orchestra and other groups.

Variety Of Styles

Along with the symphony orchestra, you can play the double bass in a jazz big band or a smaller jazz combo. Some pieces for wind ensemble even have a bass part to help fill out the low end.

If you want to be able to play one instrument and experiment with different styles, the double bass is great. And since there isn’t a ton of competition, you may be able to get into different ensembles at once.

Then, you can practice playing both jazz and classical music. If ever decide to focus on one style or another, you can also do that, and you can always come back to the other styles.

Best Double Basses

To make the most of the benefits that playing the double bass offers, you need a good instrument. Sadly, there are a lot of cheap models out there that may not work for you.

And there can be a huge selection of instruments, which can be overwhelming. I found some of the best models out there to help you narrow your search.

Affordability and durability were important, and I also made sure to choose models that are good for students. Here are the options I found.

Cecilio CDB Upright Bass

The Cecilio CDB Upright Bass is an excellent choice for new musicians on a budget. It uses ebony and oak to create the body, so it has a nice look and a good sound.

You can adjust the bridge to help balance the strings and improve your tone. This model also comes with a bow and some rosin, so you can start playing immediately.

While the selection of sizes isn’t huge, it does come in 3/4 and 4/4. The 3/4 size is great for smaller players who maybe can’t reach the length of a full double bass.


  • Affordable
  • Easy to play
  • Comes with what you need


  • Doesn’t have the traditional wood finish

Cremona SB-2

Another great double bass to try is the Cremona SB-2. This model is durable and can still produce a good sound after a long rehearsal or practice session.

It fits right in with an orchestra, but it also works for playing jazz and even bluegrass music. You’ll get a nylon bag to protect the bass, but it doesn’t come with a bow.

But the fine tuners can make it worth getting this model so that you can get and stay in tune. Plus, you can choose the right bow for your needs.


  • Good sound
  • Easy to play
  • Versatile


  • Not on Amazon
  • No bow

Strobel MB-75

The Strobel MB-75 is another fantastic choice for beginner double bassists. It features laminated spruce and maple, so it looks just as good as it sounds.

You can enjoy the durability of this model and play it for a long time each day. And it can last a while, so you can save up enough money for a better upgrade when this model does give out.

The bass comes with a bow, so you have what you need to start playing. You can even choose from multiple bass sizes, ranging from 1/8 to 4/4.


  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Multiple sizes


  • Not on Amazon

Benefits Of Playing Cello

The double bass can be an excellent instrument for many musicians. However, it’s not for everyone, especially with its massive size and low range.

If you aren’t a huge fan of the upright bass, you may want to consider playing the cello. Then, you can still enjoy some low parts but have a bit more variety.

Here are a few fantastic benefits of playing cello and why it may be better for you than the bass.

Plenty Of Music

The cello has been around for hundreds of years, so there are plenty of pieces with cello parts. You can play solo music from composers such as J.S. Bach, or you can join a symphony orchestra.

Cellos are also standard members of the string quartet, which is great if you like chamber music. You’ll also be able to use the cello along with a harpsichord player to perform the continuo part in Baroque works.

And if classical music isn’t your thing, you can play some popular songs on the instrument. Groups like 2CELLOS have gained a huge following for their covers of pop music.

Not The Largest

Unfortunately, the cello isn’t one of the smallest instruments, but it’s not nearly as huge as the bass. That can make it the better choice when it comes to living in a small space.

You don’t need as much room to store your cello when you aren’t practicing. And taking the cello to a rehearsal or performance outside of your home is also easier.

It’s not necessarily as easy as traveling with a violin or viola. But it can be a nice compromise between playing low notes and having an instrument that you can carry around.

Competition Access

As you advance as a musician, you may want to participate in a competition or two. While you might find competitions open to bass players, cello players tend to have more access.

And even if that’s not the case, you’ll have better odds of winning as a cellist since you have more music to play. The cello and the violin are probably the two best string instruments to play for solo competitions.

However, you shouldn’t let competitions be the sole factor that determines which instrument you play. Still, it’s worth considering if other factors can’t help you choose the cello or double bass.

Best Cellos

If you’re ready to become the next Yo-Yo Ma or form your own pop cello group, like 2CELLOS, you need a good model. Then, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying the learning process.

As you learn, you may want to practice more with a good instrument than with one of poor quality. Fortunately, you have a few options to compare to help narrow your search for the perfect cello.

I considered factors like affordability, value, and the level of the instrument. So there’s something for everyone.

Cremona SC-130

The Cremona SC-130 is an excellent cello for beginners. It uses solid hand-carved maple and spruce for the body to help provide a warm and resonant tone as you play.

You get an oiled neck and ebony fittings to help make the instrument easy to use. Cremona also follows national music education standards to help give you the best model for its price.

Pegs and fine tuners make it easy and quick to get the cello in tune. That way, you can play this instrument alone or with other musicians.


  • Great for beginners
  • Easy to play
  • Good value


  • Some quality control issues

D Z Strad 101

If you’re looking for another beginner model, give the D Z Strad 101 a try. This cello provides a round and warm sound, which can help you sound good from the beginning.

You can choose from multiple sizes to get one that fits you, and sizes range from 1/8 to 4/4. Many cello teachers like the model, so you can’t go wrong with choosing it.

Plus, it comes with everything you need to start playing, including a bow, rosin, strings, and a case. Then, you don’t have to spend extra money before you can start learning the cello.


  • Suitable for beginners
  • Comes with what you need
  • Multiple sizes


  • A bit expensive

D Z Strad 500

Another D Z Strad cello you should consider is the 500 model. It’s an excellent choice for cellists with a bit of experience who need something of better quality.

D Z Strad uses maple and spruce from the Italian Alps to craft a fantastic-sounding cello. You can get a resonant, open sound when playing it, which can help you advance as a musician.

The cello also offers great clarity and projection, so you can play over an entire orchestra. It comes in a 3/4 and 4/4 size, so you don’t have to stretch too far to be able to play the cello.


  • Good upgrade
  • Fantastic wood
  • A couple of sizes


  • Not for beginners

FAQs About Double Bass Vs. Cello Explained

Question: Which is Better, the Double Bass or Cello?

Answer: Some people will prefer the double bass, while others will want to play the cello. The better instrument is going to be subjective, so consider the instruments for yourself.
Think about what you like to play, the role you want to fill in an ensemble, and your favorite genres. Then, you can determine if the cello or double bass will fit your needs better.

Question: Which is Better for Solo Playing?

Answer: The cello is the better instrument for playing as a soloist. You can find more solo music and solo parts for the cello than for the double bass.
And while respect isn’t vital, more people tend to expect the cello as a solo instrument. The bass tends to fill the bass line of an orchestra or band.

Question: Which is Better for Ensembles?

Answer: The better instrument for ensembles depends on the ensembles you want to join. If you want to play in a jazz band, you should learn to play the double bass.
However, the cello will be a better option if you want to join a string quartet or a Baroque chamber group. Luckily, both instruments are standard members of symphony orchestras, so you can play that music no matter which you choose.

Question: Why are Basses and Cellos so Expensive?

Answer: Basses and cellos are expensive because they both require a lot of materials. And those materials require a lot of time for a luthier to cut and assemble into an instrument.
If budget is a huge concern, you may be able to get a good cello for less than a comparable double bass. Then, you can enjoy playing music without breaking the bank.

Question: Can you Teach Yourself the Bass or Cello?

Answer: You can teach yourself to play the bass and the cello. However, you’ll need to discipline yourself to practice regularly, so it helps to choose an instrument you want to learn.
Whether you prefer the cello or bass, select the instrument that will motivate you to practice. Then, you’ll be able to pull it out of the case and learn a little bit each day.

Question: Can you Play Both the Bass and Cello?

Answer: Some musicians play both the bass and cello, so you can, too. If you want to play both and be successful at both, I’d suggest learning the cello first.
After you nail down the fundamentals of the cello, you can add the bass. When you do that, you’ll need to give each instrument plenty of practice time.

Final Note On The Double Bass Vs. Cello Explained

Reading about the double bass vs. cello explained can help you select the right instrument for you. By considering the differences and similarities, your decision may become clear.

However, if you still can’t choose, be sure to consider the benefits of each. And give both a try if you can so that you can select an instrument that you’ll love.

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