Music lovers, here’s a question to test your musical expertise. Do you know what campanology is? One hint: it’s not music sung around a campfire. If you said bell ringing, pat yourself on the back, you’re a pro.
Campanology actually encompasses not just the playing of bells but includes the study of the technology of bells, how they’re cast, tuned, their history, and traditions. Campanology applies to large and small collections of bells, but is commonly associated with bells hung in towers.
Carillons are a collection of stationary bells that are stuck by a hammer linked to a keyboard. The musician plays sitting on a bench and uses a combination of keyboard, hands and feet to achieve different ranges of notes. For the best sound, a collection of 47 to 56 bells of varying tones is required. The oldest carillons are found in churches, but today stand-alone towers have been constructed all over the world.
A chime is similar to a carillon but has fewer than 23 bells. Many chimes play an automated piece of music such as the chimes in a grandfather clock. These chimes are not the same as “wind chimes” or “tubular bells.”
Full-circle change ringing (rings of bells)
English full circle ringing may be familiar to you. Each bell requires an individual ringer who makes the bell swing by pulling a thick rope. Bells in a church tower make a complete circle from the “mouth” facing down, to the mouth pointing upward, on each pull. Unlike carillon bells, which may have 56 bells in one collection, the ring of bells commonly has six to eight.
Rings of bells can be played in rounds (123456) and alternate in order to create tunes. A conductor sometimes calls out the order to the ringers.
Tubular bells are tubes of varying lengths hung vertically and struck with a soft hammer. Originally used to simulate the sound of tower bells ensembles, they’re used by musicians today, such as Pink Floyd and Smashing Pumpkins.
The glockenspiel keyboard is flat and uses metal plates or tubes, which are played using mallets. When stuck, the plates produce a bell-like sound.
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