The Leading Tone has added bell sets to its growing musical curriculum! First it was buckets, then recently we added recorders and now bell sets!
A Bell Set is similar to a little glockenspiel. A glockenspiel is a German word that means "bell play."
The original glockenspiel started as a set of small bells suspended in a rack and played with mallets. While the mallets consistently remained in use, the bells changed over the years, ultimately taking the shape of steel bars by the end of the 17th Century. At first the glockenspiel was just a substitute for real bells but over time it became an instrument in its own right, and secured its spot in the percussion family -- with its siblings: chimes, cymbals the xylophone, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, gong, and other small percussion instruments.
Much like the better-known glockenspiel, the bell set makes a sound when a player strikes the bar with a mallet. The mallets come in different strengths and the sound that's produced depends on the mallet that's used. A hard mallet will create a sharp and bright sound. A soft mallet creates a lighter, more muted, sound.
Each bell set has a series of bars that are cut and shaped in various lengths. The longer bars play low notes. The shorter bars play high notes. The bars are arranged like they would be on a piano, from smallest to largest.
The bell sets we have in class are lightweight, portable and, importantly for us, durable! They include 25 notes, feature steel bars, and range from G to G. Our bells sets are tabletop sets, which means the case becomes the music stand. Tiny feet help to secure the instrument to a table or flat surface. Our mallets are flexible, made of hard plastic and store easily inside the case for safe-keeping.
These bell sets are an exciting addition to class and a great way for students to explore, create, even recreate, melodies. They're also fantastic for budding musicians to begin musical illustrations. In class we plan on having students form small groups and represent narratives through musical compositions - the bell sets present a whole new range of expressive sounds.
Our work with bell sets is just beginning. We are looking forward to telling many more stories!