What Is Cello Rock?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2019
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Cello rock is rock and roll or metal music played with the aid of a cello. Generally, the cellos will be amplified or distorted in order to make the instrument more suitable for the genre of music. Apocalyptica is one of the most famous cello rock bands, gaining notoriety from playing a set of Metallica covers on four cellos. Other famous bands in this genre include Rasputina, Judgment Day, and Primitivity.

The cello is the second largest of all stringed instruments, and can be thought of as a large relation of the violin. The sound is produced in a similar way to the violin — by the drawing of a bow across the instrument's strings — but the strings can also be plucked like a guitar. Traditionally, cellos feature in classical music or as part of an orchestra, not in rock or metal music. The cello is generally stood upright to be played.


Rock music usually features one or more electric guitars, a bass guitar, a drummer, and a vocalist. The roots of rock music can be found in early blues songs, but the genre as it is known today gained popularity in the 1960s, and has been a popular genre of music since then. Rock music has developed many sub-genres, such as punk, metal and emo. One of the many sub-genres that can be labeled under "rock" is cello rock, which features cellos and other stringed instruments, as well as some classical music elements.

Cello rock as a genre has a few defining characteristics, but the simple definition would be rock music that also features cellos. Most cello rock bands will distort or otherwise amplify the sound from the cello, and often incorporate some aspects of classical music into the songs. The songs are often accompanied by rock- or metal-style drumming, and also sometimes have rock or metal vocalists. The speed with which the cellos are played is often faster than traditional, but this is necessary if the instruments are to fit into most rock songs.

Apocalyptica is arguably the most famous cello rock band, having released six albums which combine elements of traditional cello music and rock and roll. The band formed in 1993, and released an album which brought them some acclaim, and featured Metallica covers played on four cellos. Their second album featured more Metallica covers, but also some covers of other bands such as Pantera and Sepultura. Since then, they have released original cello rock music, both instrumental and with rock vocalists.


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Post 3

The cello actually works great in a rock context. the full deep resonant sound of the cello is great for creating that big, dramatic epic swelling sound that so many rock musicians strive for. It does not have the crunch or the immediacy of the guitar but when used well it can be a great compliment to the traditional rock instruments.

Post 2

Have there been any famous cello rock bands? I am trying to think back through music history, especially through the prog rock era of about 75-85 when bands would use just about any and every musical instrument they could to make epic symphonic rock.

I am still drawing a blank though. I'm sure that a lot of these bands featured a cello at one time or another but I can't think of a single one that had a permanent or well known cellist. Any help?

Post 1

There is a band whose name unfortunately escapes me who plays cover songs of Metallica using just four cellos. I have heard their music before and it is surprisingly effective. You wouldn't think that a rock band would translate well to just cello, especially a rock band as intense as metallic.

But the feel of the music completely carries over. All the doom and menace and darkness of the original songs comes out in the epic sound of the cello. It is a clever project.

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