(click the question headings below to pop out the answers)
What is the Cellotar?
The cellotar is a 22″(short)-scale, guitar-tuned (EADg) fretted bowed instrument (or bowed guitar). I have been working on developing it since 2007 in various forms as a more affordable / DIY 4-string variant of the TogaMan GuitarViol. The format of the instrument was formalized in 2012, and the current version 3.0 design was nailed down during filming the instructional build videos in May of 2018.
What strings does the Cellotar use?
The cellotar uses standard 1/4 or 1/2 scale cello strings (1/4 and 1/2 are the same, makes no difference). This results in a desirable “skinny top / heavy bottom” feel due to the cello / guitar string-to-string interval differences.
The ones I put on there to start are cheap beginner strings off amazon–Merano, you can get 2 sets for $20.
The next step up I would recommend if you’re looking to improve tone would be D’Addario prelude strings–they are $55 for a set.
Important note: when changing strings, make sure to only remove and replace one at a time so that the bridge doesn’t fall out/over. Not the end of the world if it does–since the cellotar doesn’t have an internal soundpost that might fall over like a cello–but one at a time tends to work best, and pay attention and try to put the new string in the same grooves as the old one at the nut / bridge.
What kind of bow do you use with the Cellotar?
I personally prefer a 1/2 scale cello bow for use with the Cellotar. It feels like the right length for standing playing, but still has enough hairs to still easily displace the lowest strings. I also prefer cheap horsehair bows for acoustic-style sounds because they produced more irregularity and sound more like the classic bowing sound you’re used to.
I usually just get the cheapest bows I can off amazon or ebay–at 1/2 scale, the weight of a cheap bow isn’t really an issue. However, 4/4 cheap bows are much harder to use than their pricier counterparts.
For ambient/electric sounds where you want a smoother tone, I would recommend synthetic bowhair because it’s more consistent. The Incredibow is a great product and a super lightweight carbon-fiber space aged thing (and the standard bow for our cousin the TogaMan GuitarViol), but is priced accordingly.
How could your Cellotar plans be improved?
For those desiring a more classical-sounding acoustic tone, my Cellotar 2.0 Pro models were built using cheap AA bookmatched solid sitka spruce tops from Stewmac and a pretty traditional bowed strings internal structure (a tapered bass bar running front-to-back underneath the bass foot of the bridge, and a soundpost under the treble side of the bridge).
The one innovative thing was that they had a 3-piece back (internal back plate, rim layer, external back plate) so that the internal back plate could vibrate more freely from the soundpost-transferred vibrations from the top without being inhibited by contact with the player’s body (mostly for standing playing). This worked quite well, but as the back of the current plans’ design is not a live plate, this is not relevant to the 3.0 models.
They 2.0 Pros did have a better acoustic presence, also partly owing to the dual f-holes cut out of their tops and the circular soundport I put in the side of the instrument (so that the player could hear the sound better from their perspective)… Any and all of these things might improve the Cellotar plans on this site from an acoustic point of view, but the tradeoff would be that the instrument’s durability and feedback resistance (for loud stage environments etc.) would be reduced, so it is really a question of priorities for your particular use cases.