I'm a beginner to cello. On some cello cheat sheets. You can play the D note on A-string by holding down two fingers (in first position)

But you can also play the D note on the D-string without holding down any finger.

So you do expect the notes sound identical using both method?

  • I think the question I posted is an exact duplicate of yours. I've added an answer to it to address "cheat sheets" that just use, say, the letter "D" rather than staff notation. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 12:29
  • But I would ditch whatever source you're using if it tells you that "D on A string, in first position, is two fingers." That's C. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 12:55
  • @Aaron The ukulele question is still about timbral differences between "the same [exact] note." The fingering described here makes it clear that this is about notes of the same pitch class but different octaves. Open D can not be played on A string except by scordatura. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:34
  • @AndyBonner Thanks. I've retracted my close vote, since it was based on the wrong duplicate.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 15:23
  • @Aaron Heh, though now you can't re-vote, can you? Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 15:49

3 Answers 3


The A string is the highest string on the cello, the D string is the second highest. This means that the D you get on the A string (should be 4th finger in first position, not 2nd) is an octave above the empty D string. What would make sense is the difference between playing the empty A string or playing the A on the D string, which is in fact the same A. Here playing the same note on a lower string will change the response and tone color as will also allow for a wider vibrato.

  • Note, an early beginner probably won't be shifting. I don't think the question is about playing "the same" pitch on a different string. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:40
  • I did not think so. I’ve included this remark as the comments and answers here all seem to suggest that this is the same note, just played on a thicker string, when it is not.
    – Lazy
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 17:32

The thicker the string, the mellower the tone.

Open strings will always sound different, and somehow seem to resonate better and longer.

It's only possible to apply vibrato to a stopped string, making the sound very different from an open one as well.

  • I don't think OP is asking about how to choose a certain fingering for a given pitch, but rather which octave to choose when only told a letter name. An exact dup of an old violin question. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 12:31
  • @Andy Bonner - I wonder (as I often do, lonely as a cloud...) if OP is confused. And Lazy addressed the issue more accurately?
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:21
  • I think the clue is in "cheat sheet." I added an answer to my proposed dupe; I bet they're either reading off of a chord chart, or the sort of very-beginner notation that notates a melody using letter names and no indication of register (like the piece of paper that comes with purchase of a tin whistle and tells you how to play "Hot Cross Buns"). Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:32
  • @AndyBonner - never come across 'cheat sheet', but listening to the octave of the notes should give a good clue as to whether they're up or down, surely.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:35
  • Yup. Which is to say, yes, this OP and the one of the violin question are confused, probably because they're working from confusing material, like say trying to learn a tune given only letter names and no knowledge of how it's supposed to sound. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 13:36

No, they don't. Playing on the D string is more mellow and especially so when you use the harmonic. The A string has a brighter sound.

  • This question is not about playing the same pitch on two different strings; the OP is confused about how to choose which octave. The pitch played on D string "without holding down any finger" can not be replicated in any way on A string (except scordatura). Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 12:54
  • 1
    @AndyBonner that is not exactly true. If you get the D string to squeak you might be able to replicate the pitch on the A string.
    – Lazy
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 17:38
  • @Lazy Hehe, I suppose so. how about "you can't get D3 out of a cello A string." Though there is an extended technique involving placing the bow on a harmonic node and bowing very heavily, that can produce a pitch lower than the normal open string. I'm not sure what the ratio is, I think maybe P4 below... Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 18:19

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