What's the biggest number of notes that a cello can play simultaneously? Does it always play only one note at a time or is it common for a cello to play two lines at the same time? Can it also play three or even four notes, or is it totally impossible? Or is it, perhaps, possible, but very inconvenient for a cellist and, therefore, very uncommon in usual practice?

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    It should be noted that it's not possible to play every possible pair of two notes in the instrument's range. For example, it's not possible to play low D and low F sharp at the same time, because both can only be produced on the C string, and it's not possible to produce notes that are so far apart that the player's hand can't reach.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 13:02
  • Of course you can play four notes. Unfortunately this question has been closed. I've added my answer to the other question. Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


It's completely possible to play two notes at the same time on a cello, as stated by this website (https://www.8notes.com/school/lessons/cello/beginners-guide-to-cello-double-stopping.asp)

What is a double-stop?

It is simply the playing of two notes on adjacent strings, at the same time. Because the Cello has four strings it is also possible to play triple and quadruple-stops.

So the max is four notes played simultaneously (although this can be hard to do). Playing four notes in a chord is possible by rolling the bow quickly. A cellist can also use their fingers to play four notes at the same time by plucking.

This Music S.E. question should also be useful: https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/20432/is-it-common-to-play-several-strings-of-a-cello-simultaneously#:~:text=Triple%20Stops,tone%20quality%20will%20be%20poor..

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    That quotation is misleading. It should probably say "you can actually play four simultaneous notes - one on each string". Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 8:45
  • Thanks for the feedback, I'll change my answer.
    – user87626
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 8:47
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    The hearpstrings.com quote is a little odd too: "Many cellos are not designed to allow the production of triple and quadruple stops." One might quibble about the definition; cello repertoire is full of three- and four-note chords played by rolling across the strings. But if we define "triple and quadruple stops" narrowly to mean "bowing three or four strings truly simultaneously and for a sustained time," then it's not just "many" cellos that can't do this; perhaps a few experimental models have flat bridges, almost all viola-family instruments have enough curve that they must roll chords. Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 12:22
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    You didn't specify whether the cellist plays the strings with the bow or plucks them with their fingers (called "pizzicato"). When using fingers, the cellist can play four notes at a time. When using a bow, the cellist can sustain single notes on two adjacent strings. I mention sustain, because when playing a triple or quadriple stop, the third and/or 4th string is only heard at the onset of the note/dyad. Wouldn't any experiment with a flat bridge fail? The curvature of the bridge on bowed instruments allows players to choose which string(s) to isolate, not possible on a flat bridge. Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 13:07
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    Yes............ Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 20:08

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