Bowed, stringed instrument, the bass member of the violin family. Its full name means little violonei.e., little big viol. Its proportions resemble those of the violin. Players hold its body between the legs, its weight supported by a metal spike that touches the floor. It has four strings, tuned an octave below those of the viola. The cello was developed in the early 16th century along with the violin and viola; later innovations increased its power. It gradually displaced the bass viola da gamba in the 18th century, especially as a continuo instrument. It has been essential to chamber music ensembles for 250 years. The modern orchestra includes 6 to 12 cellos. In the 19th and 20th centuries it was increasingly used as a solo instrument.