What clef does the cello read?

1 Answer
Aug 11, 2017

Primarily the bass clef.


Music for the cello is primarily written in the bass clef, though the tenor clef is commonly seen in both solo and orchestral music. In orchestral music (and solo), the treble clef may also be used if the desired notes are of a particularly high pitch. Otherwise, the music would not be able to fit on the page!

This image shows each of the commonly used clefs for musical instruments as well as how middle C looks in each one:


The cello plays in all of them except the alto, which is the primary clef of the viola.

The C shown is a C4 and can be played as a second finger note in first position on the open A string (highest possible string). It is the third-highest C that can be played on the cello, which gives some perspective as it appears as a relatively low note in the treble clef.