How to Make a Handbell Tree: An Expert DIY Guide

handbell waiting to be hung on a bell tree

Handbell trees have become increasingly popular among handbell enthusiasts and performers, offering a unique and visually appealing way to present handbell music. These intriguing constructions allow ringers to play multiple bells simultaneously and showcase their skill. For those interested in constructing their own handbell tree, there are several methods and materials that can be utilized to create a customized as well as sturdy setup.

One option for creating a handbell tree is by purchasing a commercial stand specifically made for bell tree ringing, available through most handbell vendors. The base on these stands generally provides adequate weight and stability, ensuring that up to three octaves of bells are held securely during performances. Those who prefer a more hands-on approach can also consider building their own handbell tree, using easily sourced materials such as wood, pipes, or off-the-shelf hardware.

Selecting suitable music and practice are crucial components for mastering the unique techniques of bell tree ringing. A range of music selections tailored for solo or ensemble performances can be found at reputable suppliers, such as Schulmerich or Malmark. With dedication and perseverance, handbell performers can create captivating musical experiences for audiences, leaving an unforgettable impression.

Fundamentals of Handbell Trees

How Handbell Trees Differ From Regular Handbell Ringing

Handbell trees are a unique approach to handbell ringing that involves mounting the bells on a specialized stand, allowing them to be played by a single ringer. Unlike traditional handbell ringing, where each ringer holds and plays one or two bells, a handbell tree enables a single musician to perform multiple bells simultaneously. This offers a new level of versatility and creativity for handbell musicians.

The bell tree stand typically has a weighted base and removable arms, which securely hold the bells. Bells are hung by their handles on the tree, with the largest bells at the bottom and the smallest bells at the top. This arrangement enables the ringer to strike the bells with mallets or use other handbell techniques easily.

Reason for Bell Trees

Bell trees were developed to provide handbell musicians with a more flexible and innovative way to perform. This technique allows a single ringer to play complex and intricate arrangements that would typically require multiple people in a traditional handbell ensemble. This versatility opens up new possibilities for artistic expression and expands the range of music available to handbell musicians.

In addition to their creative advantages, bell trees can be a practical solution for situations where it is difficult to gather a full ensemble. By performing on a bell tree, a single ringer can still create impressive music, making it a popular choice for solo performances, worship services, and small ensembles.

The use of bell trees makes handbell ringing more accessible and adaptable, broadening the potential audience for this art form. Combined with the inherent beauty of handbell sounds, bell trees offer an innovative and captivating way to enjoy handbell music.

Components of a Handbell Tree

Handbells and Handles

A handbell tree consists of a series of handbells, typically ranging from A5 to G6, with the possibility of including additional bells such as F6 and LV. Handbells come in various colors, with white and black being the most common. The handles of handbells are a crucial component, as they allow the bells to be easily grasped and maneuvered. It is essential to consider the weight of the handbells when building a tree, as it will affect the stability and balance of the stand.

Bell Tree Stand and Pole

The bell tree stand is the foundation of the handbell tree, providing stability and support for the suspended handbells. A commercial bell tree stand is available from most handbell vendors, consisting of a 15-pound base and removable 12-inch arms. This type of stand can hold up to three octaves of bells securely. Alternatively, DIY bell tree stands can be constructed using materials such as PVC pipe, wood, or copper piping, attached to the pole for support.

Mallets and Accidentals

Mallets are essential for striking the handbells on the handbell tree to create various pitches, including accidentals. The choice of mallets will depend on factors such as the size of the bells, desired sound quality, and personal preference. It is essential to select the appropriate mallets for the specific set of bells and accidentals used in the handbell tree, as this will impact the overall playing experience and performance quality.

Assembling and Playing a Handbell Tree

Arranging Handbells

When assembling a handbell tree, it is essential to arrange the handbells in a specific order, usually following a diatonic or chromatic scale. This setup method enables the ringer to quickly locate and play the required bells with ease. For example, one could string C6-C7 naturals together and hang them on the bell tree stand, followed by the sharps and flats as needed1. It is important to be mindful of the weight distribution, as going beyond six bells initially might cause strain on the smaller bell handles.

Suspension Techniques

Various techniques can be employed to suspend the handbells on a stand. Most handbell vendors sell U-shaped wire clips for this purpose. These clips work by sliding sideways between the handle guard and the handle and lifting the casting from the casting below. They can separate bells touching visibly and prevent the string from twisting. Another option is to use a bell tree support specifically designed for this purpose.

To properly suspend the handbells:

  1. Attach the u-shaped wire clips or other suspension materials to the bell tree stand.
  2. Slide the handles of the handbells through the wire clips, ensuring that they are securely fastened.

Performing Techniques

When performing with a handbell tree, the ringer can use various techniques to play the suspended handbells. These techniques can range from traditional hand ringing to striking the bells with mallets or plastic hammers. Mallets can be used to play multiple bells simultaneously or for rapid melodic passages, while the plastic hammers provide a subdued tone for softer passages in musical arrangements.

Handbell trees also facilitate the playing of “white” and “black” techniques. The “white” technique involves ringing the bells at a consistent, even volume, which is especially useful for church services and gentle performances. The “black” technique, on the other hand, emphasizes striking force and dynamic control, allowing the ringer to create a wide range of musical accents and dynamic expression.

In conclusion, assembling and playing a handbell tree requires careful arrangement, effective suspension techniques, and versatile performing techniques. With proper preparation and practice, a handbell tree can become a unique and engaging addition to any musical performance.

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