Adding Life to Music When Ringing

 

We know a being is alive when we check for pulse.  So, it is for music!  Without pulse, music can be dull.

Some think that only music with quicker tempos can be exciting.  This can’t be farther from the truth!  A case in point would be Ravel’s Bolero.  Watch it here.  Yes, it is pulse that brings music to life.  It’s the underlying beats which are strong and weak that add ebb and flow to our sound that makes it so musical, so alive!

We can bring this concept to our ringing ensembles by having them do a couple of things to accent beats.  But before doing so, we have to teach our ringers to feel the music with its stronger and weaker beats so that it is innate.

Teaching about meter initially is a lesson worth the time as it will always remain.  As you introduce different time signatures, be sure to take the time to introduce the stronger and weaker beats.  Having your ringers clap the 4 beats in 4/4 time and give a heavy stomp on beat 1 and a lighter stomp on beat 3 is a great exercise for new musicians.  Follow suit with ¾ time with the stomp only on 1.

Before stressing too many musical points in the handchime or handbell rehearsal, practice the score so that the notes are fairly comfortable.  At that point, the ringers can focus on musical issues rather than struggle with note reading.

One of the easiest ways to bring out the line in a melody is to have your ringers sing it.  Any nonsense syllable like “la” or doo” will be fine if they are unfamiliar with the text.  Your ringers will naturally accent the beats that are important as they sing and it is important that they feel it with their entire body, especially their arms.  The arm motion is the breath support for the chime or bell and will help the melody to be more lyrical.  Encourage the ringers to move in some as they sing stressing the stronger beats.

Pulse is probably more important in the harmonic accompaniment as it carries the melody.  Sometimes, it may be harder to feel.  When rehearsing, separate the melody from the harmony and have those ringing harmony clap when their notes ring, stressing stronger and weaker beats.   Adding a stomp of the foot on the strongest beat will help as well.

Once your ringers are feeling the pulse in the music, there are few things that they can do to bring out the stronger beats.  The obvious one would be a stronger flick of the wrist when ringing.  Plane is important as we ring and holding the instrument higher (between the breast and shoulder) for stronger beats and lower (between the waist and breast) for weaker beats.

These are just a few concepts to consider as you teach your ringers that all beats are not created equal!

Stopped Sounds on Handchimes

 

Because of their design, handchimes do not lend themselves to all of the special ringing techniques as handbells.  Many of the techniques when performed, could be damaging to the handchime itself in the area of the tines which determines the tuning of the instrument.  The damage is done when the chime tube cracks at the base of the tines, changing the length of the tines.  If the vibrating tine’s length is altered in any way, the pitch is distorted permanently.

A tine generally cracks when it is bent from ringing or malleting with too much force or from using the martellato technique.  Larger tines can also bend when their vibrating cycle is interrupted.  The larger the chime, the lower the pitch and the slower the vibrating cycle.  Playing short, repeated notes on bass chimes will weaken the tines.  Shaking on treble handchimes will weaken the tines.  A rule to follow would be:  the larger the chime, the longer the duration of the note to be played.  Bass chimes should be used for a harmonic support to the handchimes above it – C4 on up.

ChimeWorks® has created the chart below as an easy reference when using special ringing techniques with handchimes:

 

The Finger Damp is an acceptable technique in creating a stopped sound on a handchime.  The size of the hand and the handchime will dictate who can employ the technique.  The handchime is rung with the finger already in place therefore, the vibrating cycle is not interrupted.

Finger Damp (TD)

Slide the forefinger to the top area of the handchime and place the finger pad in the center of the tine slot and ring the chime. 

This should result in pitch with little resonance. 

The size of the handchime will determine if more than one finger is needed to properly execute the technique.

 

 

 

 

 

While we would like handchimes to be a full replacement for handbells, it is not possible because of the design and material of the instruments.  We encourage you to embrace the unique qualities of handchimes and use their strengths in choosing repertoire and determining when to substitute them for handbells:

  • A strong fundamental pitch with fewer overtones creates a richer sound quality which is why we love to use them for slow moving harmonies.
  • Chimes are ethereal. Because aluminum is a softer metal, handchimes are more mellow in color.  This is also the cause of handchimes being slower to “speak” than handbells and why slower tempos are recommended.
  • A pure, intense tone is created by handchimes which resonates through more complex tonal sounds making them perfect to solo a melodic line.

 

 

 

Get in Step with Processionals

Get in step and add some interest to your next program by beginning with a ringing processional.  There are plenty of resources available for ensembles of every age and ringing level.

Memorizing isn’t as difficult as it seems as many processionals are based on repeated patterns (ostinati).  The key to successfully programing a processional is giving your ensemble plenty of time to rehearse and memorize before putting their feet into play.  Often, memorization comes naturally with repeated playing – consider using a processional as a rehearsal warm-up and months later, it will be inherent.

Impressive, processionals add a little WOW into a performance adding aural and visual variety.  Consider adding in some non-pitched percussion for more effect and it will also help to keep the group together rhythmically.

Children will jump at the idea of processing while adults may be a little less excited about the idea.  If you do meet some resistance, you may consider having the first processional memorized but rung in place behind the tables.  This will give your ringers the opportunity to connect visually with their audience and welcome them into the performance.

Here are some recommendations from ChimeWorks for you to consider all available for immediate purchase and digital download:

Processional Celebration

Processional Jubilee

Processional on All Things Bright and Beautiful

Processional on Good King Wenceslas

Processional and Joyful Dance (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves)

Six Processionals

Earth Shall Ring (Personent Hodie)

Bell Processional

Fanfare and Alleluia (2 Octaves) (2 -3 Octaves) (3 – 5 Octaves)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Processional and Bell Chime

 

Recorder and Handchimes Together

Look no further for lesson plans using recorder and handchimes!  As music educators, we try to engage as many students as possible in our classroom with hands-on music making.  Adding handchimes and non-pitched percussion with recorders is a sure-fire way to heat things up!

With ChimeWorks’ chordal lesson plans, students will learn to harmonize the melodies they sing by ringing the accompanying chords on handchimes.  Non-pitched percussion can be improvised to add more rhythmic interest. You might consider doubling the melody on recorder by assigning it to some of your more accomplished students.

Do you have favorite recorder melodies?  Consider adding basic chords to the score and have some of your students join in with handchimes.  The handchimes will add a rich, harmonic accompaniment that will serve as an in-tune foundation for your little pipers!  Consider sharing your successful lesson plans with others by submitting them here.

Here are some ChimeWorks lesson plans that will surely create some pipe dreams:

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Tallis Canon

Kum-bah-yah

Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

Amazing Grace

Scarborough Fair

Peace Like a River

Happy Birthday

Keys to Success…. Handchimes with Keyboard

Start with success by adding the keys!  As you choose music for your ringing choir, consider inviting your organist/pianist to collaborate. This partnership has many benefits for the ringers as they improve their musicianship and it will be an enhanced part of your worship service or concert performance.

Choosing a title that is written for handchimes or handbells and piano/organ/keyboard is a wonderful way to build your choir for several reasons:

It builds confidence – having your ringers collaborate with keyboard dissipates some of the focus off of the ringers while participating in worship. This is helpful to new ringers especially who may not be feel comfortable being in the eye of hundreds while they are learning a new skill. Having the keyboard reinforcement takes off some of the pressure as they learn a new instrument or get acclimated to being in front of a large group.

It is supportive – one of the things to accomplish for a new ringing ensemble is to work together as a team. They will be learning to keep a good sense of rhythm together as well as be ringing collectively precisely on the beat. Having an accomplished musician at the keyboard to provide a steady beat will be a strong foundation for the group in their early stages of ringing.

It will embellish easier music – while repertoire for a beginning ensembles will most likely be homophonic chords with simple rhythms, adding a keyboard part to accent the chords will allow for a more sophisticated performance without stretching the ringers’ comfort zone.

It will enhance the sound – even if you have seasoned members ringing more advanced music, joining forces with keyboard will be pleasing and resounding. The overall effect of adding a keyboard instrument with your octaves will be rich as the timbre of handbells/handchimes with keyboard are sonorous.

ChimeWorks recommends the resources below for your consideration. All available for immediate purchase and digital download by clicking the links in blue:

Bells and Keys… More or Less

Bells and Keys… More or Less, Vol. 2

For All The Saints 2 – 3 Octaves  4 – 6 Octaves  Keyboard

Gloria by Mozart   3 Octaves  Keyboard

Largo from Winter By Vivaldi  2 -3 Octaves  2 – 6 Octaves  Full Score

Vivaldi Concerto

In Bright Mansions Above 3 – 5 Octaves  Full Score

Many and Great, O God, Are Thy Things  3 – 6 Octaves  Full Score

Keep It Simple In September

 

It’s late summer and church choirs are beginning the new program year.  You may be starting a ringing program, resurging one that took a gap or continuing the ministry with a mix of experienced and new ringers.  This week’s tips will help you choose repertoire to get you started this season!

For new members, the art of ringing can be daunting – ringing, damping, arm motion, reading the score, etc. –  there is so much to think about!  Giving your ringers the opportunity to coordinate all of this with easier music will provide them with a strong foundation.

Likewise, after a few months off from ringing, it may be a good time to start anew with easier music to give your seasoned ringers a chance to review proper ringing techniques and your newest ringers an opportunity to get acclimated.

Easier music also provides the prospect of starting the year out with great success.   The choir will add to the Service with their talents and by raising their gifts and the experience will be a worshipful one for the ringers as they will be more relaxed with a simpler score.  Giving our ringers a positive experience will give them more satisfaction and a continued desire to be part of the music ministry.

Below are some pieces that come highly recommended for your consideration.  All of which are available for immediate purchase and digital download on the ChimeWorks website.

Blessed Assurance  (2 -3 Octaves) or  (3 – 5 Octaves)

Breathe On Me, O, Breath of God (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves) 

Come, Christinas, Join To Sing (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves)

God Himself Is With Us

Morning Has Broken (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves)

Morning Hymn

Oh, Worship The King

Peaceful Blessing

 

 

Easy Secular Music for Handchimes

The school bell is about to ring and so is your handchime ensemble.  If you are looking for beginning secular music that includes whole, half and quarter notes, we’ve got a list for you.

The resources below include original compositions, transcriptions of light classics and arrangements of folk songs and spirituals for you to include in this year’s repertoire.

All these titles are recommended to be rung on handchimes while caution is given to some to be performed at a moderate tempo or to substitute some articulations with those that can be used with handchimes without causing harm to the instrument.  See our Technique Substitution Chart for further information.

Click the titles below to link to the ChimeWorks webpage for immediate purchase and digital download capability.

Soliloquy

In Quietness and Confidence

Theme from Beethoven’s 9th

Jubilee! or Jubilee! (3 – 5 Octaves)

Michael, Row The Boat Ashore

Morning Has Broken or Morning Has Broken (3 – 5 Octaves)

Music of the Masters

Music of the Masters, Vol. 2

My Heart Ever Faithful

Pathways to Musical Ringing, Vol. 2 or Pathways to Musical Ringing, Vol. 2 (3 – 5 Octaves)

Prelude to Sunrise

Processional & Joyful Dance or Processional & Joyful Dance (3 – 5 Octaves)

Processional Celebration

Processional Jubilee

Simple Gifts

Starting Point, Vol. 1 or Starting Point, Vol. 1 (3 – 5 Octaves)

Starting Point, Vol. 2 or Starting Point, Vol. 2 (3 – 5 Octaves)

Tranquil Chimings

 

Two Halves Make a Whole

Starting a new ringing ensemble with music that includes whole notes and half notes is recommended for the first rehearsals.  If you are directing a new group this year, you’ll want your music choices to include simpler rhythms in a moderate tempo so that your new ringers can focus on developing their ringing skills even if they are seasoned music readers.

Your ringers will have great success in playing homophonic music in which they will have the support of the group as they advance from chord to chord.  Giving them the opportunity as they work as a team in ringing and damping together will be positive reinforcement.  Musical results will be achieved as they coordinate their arm motion with the chordal ringing. Longer notes will also help develop to music literacy for pre-readers as well as eye and hand coordination.

If your new group includes those new to music-making – you will welcome the ability to teach them basic note values with resources that progress systematically.  We’ve been busy at ChimeWorks compiling some suggestions (all available for immediate purchase and digital download) for you which will get your program off to ringing success:

A Simple Prayer (Soliloquy) by Linda R. Lamb

Prelude to Sunrise by Sandra Eithun

Tranquil Chimings by Sandra Eithun

Starting Point, Volume 2 ( 2- 3 Octaves) by Sandra Eithun

Starting Point, Volume 2 (3 – 5 Octaves) by Sandra Eithun

Pathways to Musical Ringing, Volume 2 (2 – 3 Octaves) by Sandra Eithun & Michael Joy

Pathways to Musical Ringing, Volume 2 (3 – 5 Octaves) by Sandra Eithun & Michael Joy

 

Go “Baroque” for Proper Damping

At times, musical results don’t depend on the correct notes being rung rather, that they are damped properly.  Teaching damping is just as important as teaching ringing.  Read more about it here.  If you have piano training, you might think back to repertoire that helped mold you as the player you are today.  Undoubtedly, music from the Baroque period filled your early years more specifically, J. S. Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook and Inventions.  Just as these timeless works have helped develop proper keyboard technique to players over the centuries, a relation to ringing can be found.

While the English handbell was invented during the Baroque period, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century when more sophisticated tonal harmonies were used to accompany melodies on handbells.  This proved to develop and refine ringing techniques which were later transferred to handchimes.

Because of the clean lines and harmonies of music of the Baroque, ringers who practice this genre will develop improved damping skills which will later transfer to all the music which they ring.  When training musicians new to ringing, make it a point to program a Baroque piece which will help with their basic ringing and damping techniques.  For seasoned ringers, it is a great exercise in “tightening up” their technique.

As you plan your program year, consider music of the Baroque – not only does it sound great on ringing instruments but, the proper technique that it develops will ring on.

Here are some recommendations of Baroque music for your handchime or handbell ensemble all of which are available for purchase and Digital Download on the ChimeWorks website under Handchime Ensembles:

Largo  Antonio Vivaldi  arr. Kevin McChesney

Two Short Classical Pieces  Carl Bohm and Christopher Gluck  arr. Bob Burroughs

Thine Is The Glory  G. F. Handel  arr. Margaret Tucker

Air in D  J. S. Bach  arr. William H. Mathis

My Heart Ever Faithful   J. S. Bach  arr. Sharon Elery Rogers

Sheep May Safely Graze  J. S. Bach  arr.Sharon Elery Rogers

Rondeau  Jean Joseph Mouret  arr. Arnold B. Sherman

Go Not Far From Me, O God  Niccolo Antonio Zingarelli  arr. Martha Lynn Thompson

Tips for Choosing Repertoire for Beginners

It’s hard to believe it’s late July – have your thoughts taken you to planning the program year?  If you are starting a new handchime ensemble this fall, here are some tips to help you choose the appropriate repertoire for your beginning group:

 

  • Be sure to check the Handbells (Handchimes) Used Chart.  Use music that remains in the key that it is written and does not use any extra or accidental handchimes. This insures that each ringer will have no more than two diatonic pitches to ring so that they don’t have to tackle any handchime changes.

 

  • Choose music that is homophonic (chordal) in texture so that your ringers will have the support of each other as they progress through the score. Independent lines are not desirable for beginning ringers.  Ringing together in chords avails your ensemble to the support of the team.

 

  • Keep the tempos moderate while your ringers develop their eye and hand coordination. As a director, you are asking your ringers to do a lot – ring the notes accurately, damp when needed, move their arms to produce a more legato line and so much more.  Slower tempos will allow your ringers to think through the process.

 

  • Simple rhythms are best! Choose music that is based on whole notes, half notes and quarter notes.  No subdividing the beat at first.

 

  • Stick with the basics of ringing and damping. There is plenty of time to teach different techniques.  In the beginning, it is important to develop a strong foundation in ringing style by moving the instruments through the duration of the beat and damping.  Once this is mastered, go to the next step with articulations.

 

If you are not sure how to begin in choosing music, visit our Handchime Ensembles page on the ChimeWorks website and filter the Difficulty choices to Levels 1-, 1 and 1+.  There you will find titles of interest and click further to view sample pages and hear a recording.  Click here to view the Starting Point resource as shown above.

 

With these resources, planning will be easy and you may find time to fit in another vacation before the new year begins!