Handchimes with Choral Music

Handchimes accompany voices beautifully.  Even if you own handbells, consider using handchimes with a choral anthem.  Their resonant sound will lead to a powerful performance when added to a choral ensemble.  Undeniably, there are times when handbells are more appropriate as on Easter Sunday with SATB voices, brass and organ however, there are times when the simplicity of handchimes is the perfect choice.


Because of their design, handchimes produce the purest of tones.  Depending on the tube shape (square is best), no other instrument has so few overtones.  This is a useful quality when working with younger musicians as children will be able to hear the pitch of the handchimes easily and this will be helpful with intonation.  Sometimes, when handbells are used to accompany choral anthems, the overtones present in the handbell sound may confuse the children when finding pitches.


The softer, vibrating aluminum tines of handchimes produces a mellower tone which does not overpower the youngers voices.  The tone of the handchimes is ever present but not too bright or obtrusive.


In a two-part or SSA choral setting with handbells, the prominent fundamental pitch may be welcome without the overtones to “ground” the sound, providing a richer foundation.


SATB voices will welcome the sustain of handchimes to their music when singing slower tempos with sustained phrases.  The ethereal sound of handchimes will provide musical line and add a rich thread of sound.


If you have a favorite anthem with a simple keyboard part, consider replacing the keyboard setting with handchimes as in this setting of Babylon Canon arranged by Roger Emerson as performed here by the Westminster Choir College Concert Bell Choir.

Choosing the Right Repertoire for Handchime Ensembles

One of the keys to having a successful handchime program is the repertoire that you choose.  Handbell literature is used with handchimes however, not all music written for handbells can be rung on handchimes.  Two main factors to consider are:

  • Tempo – Because of the pure tone and resonance of handchimes along with their design, moderate tempos are most desirable on handchimes. The mellow tone of handchimes takes a bit longer to “speak” than handbells.  Quicker tempos will also cause the handchimes to sound too percussive with undesirable sounds of the attack of the clapper head.  Quicker tempos can also lead to incomplete damping which will cause unwanted dissonance.


  • Ringing Techniques – Not all ringing techniques and articulations that are performed on handbells may be performed on handchimes due to the design and fragile nature of the tines of the handchime tube. The following techniques that may be used are:  Ring, Damp, Finger Damp, Gyro, LV, Swing, Vibrato and a Mallet Strike (while the handchime is held) in the air.  Click here to learn more about ringing techniques on handchimes.  Other considerations in choosing repertoire for a musical result are:


Octaves Used and Assignments

Each piece in handbell literature designates the size set of instruments for which it is written.  Be sure to choose repertoire that your number of ringers can play musically rather than by the set of instruments you have available.  For instance, if you own a three octave (37 note) set of handchimes but only have 8 ringers, choose music written for 2 or 2 – 3 octaves to ensure that your group can ring musically and not “juggle” instruments just to “get” all the notes.  Once you have chosen a piece, the director should prepare the score and assign the handchimes so that all notes can be rung musically.  Learn more about handbell assignments here.



Handbell music is graded by six different levels so that it is easier for a director to choose repertoire.  Directors are encouraged to choose music levels that meet the skills of their ringers so that musical results are met and that the ringers have an opportunity to enjoy their own performance.  To learn more about the Handbell Difficulty Level System, click here.


Genre and Topic of Music

When choosing a score, take in to account the age and experience of your ringers as well as their personalities.  Consider that perhaps based on life experiences, adults may relate to a somber piece better than a child.  With training, almost any age should be able to ring almost anything but sometimes, it is best to meet your group at their comfort level to create success and introduce the unknown as your group progresses.


Composers and Arrangers

Do you have experience with a piece that “rang itself off the page?”  If so, it may be the skills of the arranger/composer.  Ringing a piece by someone who really understands the instrument makes all the difference in the world!  Look to other compositions they have scored for further success!


For suggestions of repertoire that your handchime ensemble will enjoy and meet ringing success with, browse the titles that we, at ChimeWorks, recommend!


Share and Earn

Earn Extra Income for Your Expertise

As the school year is winding down and you begin to assess the year, are there lesson plans that stand out as winners?  If so, consider sharing them with ChimeWorks for possible inclusion in our store and begin to earn.  ChimeWorks pays 40% royalty on each lesson plan sold.

What Types of Lesson Plans?

Our focus here at ChimeWorks is offering resources for music leaders who use handchimes.  However, we’ve designed our lesson plans so that they will also work with KidsPlay® Bells and Boomwhackers® adapting the Chroma-NoteTM system.  Additionally, many are Orff-based lessons with the ostinati played on handchimes and non-pitched percussion added in.  So, if you have lessons for other instruments as mentioned above, consider the option of your lessons being used with handchimes.  A little flexibility will pay off!

Our goal is to offer lesson plans that offer easy adaptation in the classroom offering as many students as possible hands-on learning experience while meeting the NAfME National Music Standards of – Create, Perform, Respond and Connect.

Variety of Methods

ChimeWorks uses a variety of methods to teach music skills and music literacy.  Consider using one of our approaches – Icons (using the CW Icon Legend here), Chords, Ostinati, Ring & Sing or share a different one. We are always seeking new and creative ways to teach the joy of music.

What Should be Included

Musical examples used in each lesson plan should be in public domain.  Include historical information about the musical selection, objectives of the lesson, how it meets National Standards and the process by which the lesson is taught.  If accepted, ChimeWorks would have the ability to edit the lesson plan accordingly so that our products are comprehensive and consistent.

 How to Submit

The privilege to share and earn is available only to ChimeWorks members.  Join us and submit your plans at www.chimeworks.com/members/share-a-lesson-plan and start earning today!

Summer Continuing Education – A Garden of Plenty

May is here and the academic year is winding down while your summer plans are heating up.  You may be already daydreaming about the beach or your mountain hike and productive goals are popping into your head as well – nurturing a spectacular garden, organizing your home, getting back on your exercise plan, creating new and delicious meals – all essential to helping you recharge for fall.


As your schedule slows down and you make plans to refresh your personal life, have you given thought to revitalizing your vocation through continuing education?  Consider taking time this summer to refresh your professional skills.  Without a doubt, it will lead to an improved program year starting in the fall.


Here are some reasons why it will be worth it:


Gain Inspiration

Whether you are a music teacher or a church musician, you inspire through music.  You cannot continue to impart without being refueled.  By attending a conference or workshop, you will not only gain information and motivation from the instructor but you will be stimulated by your fellow attendees.  Through them sharing their experiences, you can gain ideas and enthusiasm.


Try Something New

So, you are a veteran teacher who has had years of success and have attended countless conferences.  You’ve heard it all!  Explore – no doubt there is something you haven’t tried.  You will learn something new and better yet, you may be able to transfer those skills to your expertise to better yourself and your students.   One of the greatest examples of this is Alan Gilbert, Conductor and Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, suggesting that every conducting student learn how to ring handbells to improve their ictus.  Who would have thought!


Learn to Say It Differently

You may be at the top of your game in your discipline and think that you have little to learn.  This may be true but you may also be surprised.  Your musical skills alone don’t make you a great teacher and director.  How you communicate those skills to others makes all the difference!  You may have taken countless Conducting classes and know all about gesture but don’t discount going to one more class.  It is unearthing when you attend a class and hear something basic said differently and it opens a whole new dimension in your teaching.


Get Away

You may choose to leave the comforts of home and experience a new environment for vacation.  You leave your daily tasks at home and explore the new to revive yourself.  Consider traveling to nourish your professional life.  Likely, when you are in a different environment, you will be able to “think outside the box” and be more open to new ideas.  A true retreat for your vocation!


Whether it is a half-day music reading session an hour from home or a two-week immersion in Europe, consider doing some professional development this summer.  There is no knowing what you will reap from the garden of knowledge and music!