Handbells

Four Pieces for Christmas: A New Handbell Collection

Four Pieces for Christmas: A New Handbell Collection

Introducing my newest handbell collection - Christmas!

Four Pieces for Christmas is a digital collection of four pieces for the Christmas season. These pieces are designed to add a creative element into your services - thoughtful ways to incorporate handbells in new and unique ways.

The music in this collection is written for 2-3 octave handbells (12-17 bells), so they’re easy to learn and accessible for smaller (and younger) groups.

What's Not in the Job Description: The Many Roles of a Handbell Choir Director

What's Not in the Job Description: The Many Roles of a Handbell Choir Director

“Congratulations! We’re excited to have you as our new handbell choir director.

There’s not much to it, really. Just show up on Wednesday nights for rehearsal, pick out a few things to play in worship this year, and arrive a little early those mornings to run through your piece.

The bells are kept in this locked cabinet. You’ll need to retrieve the hidden key to the office to get the key to the cabinet…

Oh, and we’ll need you to recruit a few new members - we had a few people move out of state last year.

Oh, and some of the bells may need repairing - ringers complained last year about a few odd noises…”

Four Pieces for Advent: A New Handbell Collection

Four Pieces for Advent: A New Handbell Collection

Surprise! I released my first collection of handbell music this week!

Four Pieces for Advent is a digital collection of four simple pieces for your Advent worship services. These pieces are designed to add a creative element into your services - thoughtful ways to incorporate handbells in new and unique ways.

The music in this collection is written for 2-octave handbells (12 bells), so they’re easy to learn and accessible for smaller (and younger) groups.

How to Start a Handbell Choir (with Zero Experience)

How to Start a Handbell Choir (with Zero Experience)

So, you want to start a handbell choir. The only problem is, you don't know the first thing about ringing and your ringers are mostly newbies without a whole lot of previous musical experience.

What's a want-to-be handbell choir director to do?

The good news is you don't need to have a lot of experience or professional training to lead and direct a handbell choir (though, that never hurts). With a desire to learn, a solid sense of rhythm and steady beat, and a little practical know-how, you'll be on your way to building and leading a handbell choir in no time.

A Dozen Budget-Friendly Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

A Dozen Budget-Friendly Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of playing through a new handbell piece. The challenge (you want me to play how many bells?), the excitement (a new technique!), the intrigue (how will it end?).

The only problem is, handbell music can be quite costly, sometimes as high as $5 per copy.

And if you’re a part-time director of a small handbell choir at a small church with a small budget, to match, you may be able to afford only 1-2 new pieces a year.

A practical solution? Handbell collections.

Instead of buying music one piece at a time (and spending $4-$5 per copy), a collection gives you 3-10 pieces for a fraction of the cost. Recently, I’ve come across several collections that work really well for smaller (2-3 octave) handbell choirs like ours.

Here are 12 budget-friendly collections you might consider:

Handbell Notation Guide [Infographic]

Handbell Notation Guide [Infographic]

One of the most challenging things about directing a handbell choir is getting used to all the new markings in the music.

Why? Because in addition to general music notation markings (dynamics, slurs, articulation, accidentals, accents, etc.), handbell music includes special technique-specific markings - things like “thumb damp,” “echo,” and “martellato."

A number of these notation markings appear only in handbell music and if you’re relatively new to ringing, it can be hard to keep up.

What does that arrow mean again?
What do you do when you see a plus sign?
What does “TD” stand for?

A few months ago, I found myself googling “handbell notation chart” without much success. There are a few cheat sheets out there, but not as many as you might think. So, I decided to create my own.

25 Reproducible Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

25 Reproducible Collections for the Small Handbell Choir

It can be challenging to find good quality handbell repertoire for a small bell choir. It’s even more difficult to find music for a small, but intermediate-level group. Add to that the expense of buying new handbell music ($5 per copy, on average), which could cost you $50, or so, for one new piece in your library. If your bell choir plays several times per year, as most bell choirs do, this adds up quickly.

A solution? Reproducible collections.

When you purchase a single copy of a reproducible collection, it includes a license to reproduce as many copies of the collection as you need for your ensemble. Most of these collections run around $50, but they include 6-8 pieces for your bell choir to play. This is a significant amount of savings!

Reproducible collections are available from a variety of publishers and distributors. Some are even available as digital downloads (marked with an asterisk below), meaning you can purchase the collection, download it to your computer, and print it immediately without waiting for a book to arrive in the mail. This is a great time-saver if you’re shopping for new music just a few days before your next rehearsal!

How to Direct a Handbell Rehearsal

How to Direct a Handbell Rehearsal

Let’s say you just inherited your church’s handbell choir. You’ve subbed in handbell choirs a few times before and know the basic ringing technique (damping and that all-important snap in the wrist). Maybe you have some conducting experience, too. And the members of this particular handbell choir have been playing together for a long time.

I mean, the bell choir probably runs itself at this point. How hard can it be?

The truth is, it’s not that hard, but it is different from directing a vocal choir or even an instrumental group. Handbell music notation is different (and more complex), there’s often a greater emphasis on rhythm and counting, and the ins and outs of assigning bells and keeping track of parts from piece to piece adds another layer of preparation and planning to your plate as director.

Not to worry, though. Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about directing handbell choirs and my process for running a rehearsal. Enjoy!

10 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship

10 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship

One of my favorite parts of worship planning is finding creative ways to incorporate music into the services. From introits to benediction responses, prayer responses, transitions, and even underscoring.

Handbells are a great way to do this!

Over the past few years, SD and I have come up with several creative, meaningful ways to include handbells in worship, beyond the traditional prelude or anthem slot. We recently inherited a bell choir at church, so I’m revisiting some creative, out-of-the-box from our past experiences and coming up with a few new ideas for our group this spring.

I mean, who said you have to have tables and foam and covers and special folders and notebook stands to play? We're breaking with tradition and using handbells in a whole new way.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

My Favorite Pinterest Boards for Handbells

My Favorite Pinterest Boards for Handbells

When it comes to playing (and directing) handbells, there's a lot to learn.

For instance, those who are brand new to handbells may not initially realize that the music is written one octave lower than the actual sound the bells make (C5 = Middle C). (source) In addition, there's the basic ringing and damping technique, figuring out how to make bell assignments, and enough special techniques to keep you busy for a while.

Where do you go to learn about getting started, choosing repertoire, teaching technique, and developing music-reading and rhythm skills?

I hope you find a few helpful resources right here on this blog! Here are some posts you might find useful:

5 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship
Adventures in Bell-Ringing: How to Start a Bell Choir
Adventures in Bell-Ringing: Improvisation Activities