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 June – 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!

PADDLE Your Way to a Musical Performance

As a director of a ringing ensemble, there is an easy acronym for you to remember as you strive to achieve the most musical performance with your handchime choir of any level.  Most of the letters of this acronym are attributed to Don Allured, who was one of the early leaders of the ringing movement and taught us these points to remember as we educate and direct our choirs.

Precision is on the mark in an ensemble! Getting your ensemble to play together precisely on the beat separates excellence from mediocrity. Work with your ringers in preparing for the beat so that their chords sound together and do not imitate an arpeggio. It is important to have your ensemble work as one rather than a group of individuals. Ringing together on the beat requires physical practice for coordination and muscle memory, anticipation of the beat through breath and unified motion throughout the choir. Unified motion can be defined as ringers moving their arms in the same height or plane and all at the same tempo.

Accuracy in ringing the correct notes and rhythms is what it is the most significant part of a great performance. Allow enough rehearsal time so that your ringers can learn the notes accurately and with confidence so that there are none missing.

Duration of the note increases musicality. Musical ringing is about giving each note it’s full duration so that there are legato lines in the melody, counter-melody and harmony throughout. Cheating the beat just because or to get to another handchime does not create a beautiful, rich sound. When preparing the score, the director should review any handchime changes to make sure that they can be accomplished as musically as possible.

Dynamic contrast is key to your music becoming a master work. So often, the range of dynamics that we use is restricted. Since we have limited sonorities within our handchime set, we should use dynamics and their effects such as crescendo and diminuendo to create a larger landscape of sound. Encourage your ringers to expand their sound limits in high and low directions.

Legato Ringing – Arm motion is the breath support for the handchime. So many of us come to ringing from singing and we recognize that a good singer uses breath to form and support their sound. In ringing, the snap of our wrist initiates the sound of the handchime but it is how we move the handchime through the air once it is ringing that determines the musicality of the tonal response. How we decide to move the instrument through the air decides how it will sound.

Emotion is key to music.  Encourage your ringers to put themselves into the music.  With their hearts and spirits revealed, their music will be like none other.

Remembering to paddle your way through the music is one way to ensure that your music will ebb and flow to the best possible performance!