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Home > Articles > Handchimes - A Useful Instrument?

Handchimes - A Useful Instrument?
David Ruder
Handchimes are an effective tool for use in schools and churches. They are a wonderful vehicle for introducing handbell music and techniques to younger children. Pre-music readers and general music classes can experience immediate satisfaction with color-coded or numbered chordal accompaniments. Music reading follows at a satisfying pace.

The handchime grip is more dependable for smaller hands; they are lighter; much less vulnerable to damage; sturdy; and pleasant sounding. For about one third to one quarter of the cost of a two or three octave set of handbells you can begin playing handchimes. Most easier handbell music can be performed on this instrument. Handchimes can be easily transported.

There are some drawbacks to chimes, and you should be aware of these. Many bell techniques are not available, such as plucking and martellato. You can create a form of thumb damping/plucking by moving the thumb and/or forefinger to the opening of the tine and adjusting for tone.

Damping style is also different for the handchime, requiring either the rotating of the wrist to damp on the side of the chime, or tipping the chime back so you damp on the end. I prefer the wrist rotation. Even though it is not like the traditional damping of bells, it approximates the four-in-hand or shelley dampings.

While handchimes are delightful for elementary and beginning middle school programs, they can be used effectively as accompaniments to vocal choirs, in processionals, as an antiphonal choir to handbells, and to double parts when you have more ringers than positions. I use them with my theory lessons in general music classes so that all the students may have two bells or chimes.

Both Malmark and Suzuki produce quality instruments so you have to make your own personal judgment based on price, grip, carrying case, tone clapper style, and ease of adjustment.

From Spring 1992 Vibrations