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Summer 2006: Getting the Max from Your Mallets!
Hello, fellow campanologists, handbell enthusiasts, and loyal readers (both of you!). Professor Handbell here, back with timely tips to bring jubilation to your ringing situation. Seeing as how you were astute enough to begin reading these wonderful words of wisdom, you probably gathered that this time out we’ll be discussing mallets. Here are several helpful hints to get the maximum musicality from your mallets!
1) Bells don’t have to be hit hard to make a good sound. The sense is that you are drawing the sound out of the bell, not pounding the mallet into it. Much like in golf, it’s all about the follow-through. The distance from the starting point to striking the bell is a small distance, while the distance from the striking point to the end of the follow through is a much longer distance. Learn this, and be the Tiger Woods of your choir!
2) Get a grip on your grip! Your grip on the mallet should be firm – you don’t want mallets flying into the audience! – but not too tight. A looser grip allows the mallet to leave the surface of the bell more quickly. As a wise man once said: “If your knuckles are white, you’re holding too tight.”
3) Two is better than one. Mallets, that is. Many players are determined to use just one mallet, when alternating between two mallets is really the way to go. And this isn’t just for rapid passages, it holds true for slower moments as well.
4) Watch where you’re playing that thing! Not all areas of the bell are created equal, so WHERE you strike the bell is just as important as HOW you strike it. As a rule, mallet towards the lip of the bell, where the clapper strikes. Avoid malleting at the bell’s “waist” or “shoulder”. The casting is at its thinnest here, and thus hitting here has the most damage potential. Ouch!
5) Professor Handbell says, “RELAX”. This is a good tip for general bell ringing as well, as relaxation is key to good tone quality. When using mallets, relaxing the arm allows the tone to flow through the bell rather than being forced into it. Remember, if you use the mallet like a hammer, that’s exactly the sound you’ll get! Hold the mallet between the thumb and first finger, keep your wrist loose and relaxed, and move your wrist in an up-and-down motion, like you’re waving “bye-bye” to a friend.
And so you are, as I must say “farewell” to my friends and fans (here again, both of you!). Keeping these tips in mind when malleting will help produce a better tone, protect both bell and ringer, and result in greater musicality, which should be our goal whenever we play. Remember, if you have any comments or questions, or if you have an idea for a future article, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, I remain Scientifically Yours,