4 February 2015


My good friend John Burns, who plays a cello in classical music groups and a banjo in traditional jazz bands, has kindly sent me the following.

I have been meaning for ages to add some further thoughts to your posting in your 'Making Music' Blog from more than 2 years ago about the lady cellist who appeared to carry her instrument and other equipment to her busking location by bicycle.

You made the comment that a cello is not as heavy as the “man in the street” might think, and I confirmed that soft cello bags frequently have straps to enable the instrument to be carried on the back – rather unwieldy when on a bike, but certainly possible. This set me pondering: well, what does a cello weigh? So here are some facts and figures:

My cello is a standard full-size instrument, measuring

4ft 1in long

1ft 5in wide and

10in deep, 4in of which constitutes the bridge.

So, quite big!

It weighs a mere 6lb.

I have (as most cellists do) a hard case for it which increases the dimensions by some 3-4in all round and which weighs more than twice the weight of the cello at 13lb giving a total of 19lb – not too bad when compared with the 20kilos allowed at the airport but still pretty heavy especially when its awkward bulk is taken into consideration, and when hanging from a strap over one shoulder as mine does!

But while we are on weights and measures, what about my banjos? Old banjos (two of my three date from the 1930s) are notoriously heavy. My plectrum banjos are fairly big instruments (NOT to be confused with the ukulele-banjo played by George Formby!)

They are some

3ft 1in long with a body of 1ft 1in diameter.

They weigh 9lb, half as heavy again than the cello. This does not seem a huge weight but almost all of it is concentrated in the circular body of the instrument so when being handled they give the impression of being very heavy. When playing standing up at a gig using a sling (I prefer to sit) it begins to put a considerable strain on the neck and shoulders after a while.

The cases for the banjos are the same weight as the banjos giving a combined weight of 18lb, similar to the cello + case but much less bulky.

My tenor banjo is some 3in shorter with the same size body, but it is a modern instrument weighing a mere 5lb!

And finally, I have a classical guitar (which I can’t play). It only weighs 4 lb!

So there you are, a lot of figures which can probably be put away in the “useless information” file, or, of course, deleted, but I hope you found them of some passing interest.
Thanks, John. My guess about the weight of the cello would have been far from correct.