English Handbells vs. American Handbells: Discover The Difference

Have the melodies of English handbells or American handbells ever taken your breath away?

Now picture the shiny brass exterior of these handbells, and imagine feeling the weight in your hands while hearing that enchanting chime… it’s truly an extraordinary experience. But did you know that there are actually a few differences between these two different bell siblings?

In this blog post, we will delve into the specific qualities and advantages of each. Whether you’re ringing the bell for a performance or just for fun, it’s important to get the right one for you.

We won’t stop at just comparisons though; we’re also dishing out tips on how to properly care for these musical gems. So strap in folks – let’s strike a note together!

Comparing English and American Handbells

If you’ve ever heard the chime of a handbell, you know it’s hard to forget- let’s ring in some details.

Since the 17th century, English handbells have been a part of history. These bells are lighter and simpler to manage for longer spans than their US equivalents, being generally littler in size. Their history is rich with tradition, contributing to their unique sound that is crisp yet mellow.

American handbells, on the other side of the pond, made their debut much later – in the mid-19th century. They are generally larger and heavier which allows them to produce a more robust tone that carries well over distance. American bell foundries pride themselves on this powerful resonance, giving these bells an edge when performing outdoors or in large spaces.

  • Tone: The size difference impacts not only weight but also tonal quality: English bells offer soft tones while Americans deliver stronger sounds.
  • Ringing Technique: Due to their weight difference, ringing techniques can vary too: You may find traditional change ringing more common with English bells whereas processional ringing suits best for Americans.
  • Maintenance: Both types need proper care. Regular polishing helps maintain shine; appropriate storage ensures longevity.

In essence though they both serve one purpose – spreading joy through music.

Benefits of English Handbells

English handbells have a unique charm that sets them apart. Their sound is sweet and clear, resonating with an old-world elegance.

The craftsmanship involved in creating these instruments gives them unparalleled quality. Handbell World reports that the bell metal alloy used for English bells contributes to their distinct timbre.

Ringing Techniques Unique to English Handbells

The techniques you can use on English handbells make ringing more versatile. From the classic ‘ring’ and ‘damp’, through the melodious ‘shake’, up to the playful ‘martellato’. The possibilities are vast.

American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR) provides resources like workshops and webinars where one can learn these techniques.

Sophisticated Design of English Handbells

You’ll find real beauty in each carefully crafted instrument – they’re works of art. With detailed engravings on polished brass, holding an English handbell feels like touching history.

Durability Matters Too

No worries about your investment either because when properly cared for, these treasures last generations. Check out tips from Schulmerich Bells, known for making world-class handcrafted bells since 1935.

  • Clean your bells regularly to prevent tarnish and grime.
  • Store your bells in a cool, dry area sheltered from the sun’s rays.
  • Never use abrasive cleaners on your bells. Instead, opt for mild soaps or specialized bell cleaning solutions.

The English handbell’s unique sound profile, versatility of techniques available, stunning design details, and lasting durability make it an appealing choice for many ringers around the globe.

Benefits of American Handbells

American handbells have a few unique advantages that make them stand out. First, their robust construction ensures they last longer. The durability is due to the use of quality materials like bronze and aluminum in their making.

The design of American handbells also promotes better sound projection, perfect for large spaces or outdoor performances. Their sound tends to be more resonant and carries well over distances.

Additionally, American handbells are typically heavier than English ones which may lead to improved muscle strength when played regularly. But don’t worry if you’re new to this; there’s plenty of resources available on our website on how best to handle these beauties.

Diverse Range Available

You’ll find an extensive range of sizes with American handbells. From petite models ideal for children learning the ropes all the way up to massive bells designed for professional performances, there’s something for everyone.

Easier Maintenance

Caring for your beloved instrument doesn’t need a lot of fuss either because maintenance is simpler compared with English counterparts thanks mainly due again to their solid build-quality and durable materials used in production.

Choosing Between English and American Handbells

Deciding between English and American handbells requires thoughtful consideration. Each type has its unique traits that can affect the sound of your performance.

English handbells, with their rich history dating back to the 17th century, are known for their soft yet clear tones. They’re typically smaller in size than American bells but pack quite a punch when it comes to volume. These make them perfect for intricate pieces where precision is key.

American Handbells: Bigger Sound?

The larger size of American handbells, on the other hand (pun intended.), allows them to produce louder sounds. This could be ideal if you’re playing in large venues or want more resonant peals during performances.

Famed manufacturers like Schulmerich have made significant strides in refining the design and acoustics of these bells over time – something worth considering.

  • Schulmerich Bells: A leading manufacturer renowned worldwide for its exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail.
  • Maintaining your chosen bells is crucial too; both types need regular polishing and careful handling.

Weighing Your Options:

AspectEnglish HandbellsAmerican Handbells
Size and WeightSmaller, lighterLarger, heavier
Tone QualityPrecise and clearLouder, more resonant

Choosing between English or American handbells really boils down to what you personally prefer. What’s your pick?

Care and Maintenance of English Handbells

English handbells are a treasure, aren’t they? They produce such lovely tunes that fill the room with harmony. But these charming instruments need some love too. And by love, I mean proper care and maintenance.

The Importance of Regular Cleaning

To keep your bells ringing brightly, make sure you clean them regularly. Why? Because our hands leave oils on the bell surface which can tarnish it over time. To get rid of this issue, use specific cleaning solutions. These are designed to protect your instrument’s finish while removing unwanted residues.

And remember: less is more when applying cleaners. Don’t go all ‘Shakespearean tragedy’ on it; a small amount will do just fine.

Pamper Them With Polishing Cloths

A soft polishing cloth can be a real friend for your English handbell’s shiny appearance. But avoid any old rag – using an approved polish cloth helps maintain the shine without scratching or damaging their surface.

Sounds simple enough, right? Yet many folks ignore this step until their bells look like they’ve been through an epic battle scene from Lord Of The Rings.

Maintaining Proper Storage

Bell storage matters too – don’t let them roll around in drawers or cupboards. Invest in decent cases to prevent scratches and dings during transport or when not being used.

Think of it like the VIP lounge for your handbells – a little pampering never hurt anyone.

Regular Inspection

Last but not least, regular inspections are crucial. Periodic assessments are essential for detecting issues in the early stages and dealing with them before they become more serious.

You wouldn’t ignore a strange noise from your car, would you? Treat your English handbells with the same respect.

Care and Maintenance of American Handbells

American handbells, known for their rich tones and sturdy build, need a bit of love to keep them sounding great. But don’t fret. With some simple steps, you can ensure your bells stay in top condition.

Regular Cleaning is Key

As mentioned earlier, our hands leave oils that can tarnish the bell’s surface over time. Wiping down your bells after each use with a soft cloth or special cleaning solution will help prevent this.

The inside clapper also needs attention as it strikes the bell most often. Gently clean it without removing any necessary lubrication.

Taking Care During Transport

Moving around? Use cases designed specifically for handbells. These offer padding that protects from bumps and scratches while keeping each bell secure.

  • Always place them handle up – like planting tulips.
  • Avoid stacking anything heavy on top of the case; think marshmallows not bricks.

Scheduling Professional Servicing

You’ll want to get professional servicing every few years to make sure everything stays shipshape – consider it like taking your car into the shop.

Schulmerich Bells offers maintenance services, ensuring optimal performance by adjusting mechanisms only professionals should tinker with.

Remember: treat these musical treasures kindly so they continue filling our lives with melodious joy.


So, we’ve chimed through the differences between English handbells vs. American handbells.

You should now understand how each bell has its unique sound, weight and size. That’s important for your performance needs.

We also explored why English bells might be a better fit for some ringers while others may prefer American ones. Your choice ultimately depends on what feels right in your hands and sounds perfect to your ears.

Caring for these musical gems? We got you covered there too. Remember – regular maintenance ensures they keep ringing beautifully.

All said, whether it’s the melodic charm of English or the resonating tones of American handbells that wins you over, here’s hoping this guide helps make every chime count!

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