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The Celestial Sounds of Handbells

Apr 18, 2008
The handbell is an instrument that is a member of the percussion instrument family. Its name is fairly self explanatory, as the bell is held in the hand and wrung. The musician, or ringer as they are sometimes referred to as, holds the bell by the handle, which is usually made of leather or plastic so that it is fairly flexible. The musician or ringer then moves their wrist so that the small ball of metal within the bell strikes the side of the bell once. While there are occasions where a single bell will be rung, they are often heard in tuned sets, where each bell will produce a single note.

It may seem like an instrument that has been around for an exceptionally long time, but the handbell was actually not invented until sometime between the late 1600s and the early 1700s. It is unsure of where or how the creators of the handbells began creating differently tuned bells to be used to create music. Two brothers, named Robert and William Cor created the handbells and were also the ones to come up with the ideas of fitting them with hinged clappers that would only move in one place within the bell, which is probably so the bell will only make a single ring to have a crisp, clear sound. It was not until the early 1900s that the handbell finally made it across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States from England. From there, popularity of the handbells grew and has been used ever since.

Originally, the handbell sets only contained six different bells in a set that were tuned to different notes. The first set that arrived in the United States in 1902 contained ten differently tuned bells. There are also different techniques in playing these particular instruments. The original or traditional way a ringer would ring these bells is to ring two at a time, with one bell in each hand. When it is necessary for a ringer to ring four bells at a time, the ringer will hold two bells in one hand with the clappers at right angles to each other so that they can move ring the bells properly. Where the individual needs to ring six bells at a time, with three bells in each hand, they will need to pick up two bells in each hand and then pick up the third.

Of course, this can be a little more difficult and it can take some practice, but experienced ringers have little difficulty. The last technique in ringing bells, known as weaving, is used when the ringer is playing large bass bells. The bells are so large that holding more than one bell in each hand is not really possible. The ringer will change between bells by putting a bell down on the table and immediately picking up another to play when necessary. It may not be the first thing to cross an aspiring musician's mind to play, but playing handbells can be quite challenging and fulfilling in the end.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for used CDs, autographed CDs, and used musical instruments. You can find the best marketplace for used CDs, autographed CDs, and used musical instruments at these sites for used handbell CDs, autographed handbell CDs, and used handbells.
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