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Home > Articles > Winter 2006: Assigning Treble Bells

Winter 2006: Assigning Treble Bells
Kevin McChesney

A case could be made that the treble bells above C7 may be assigned two notes at a time like the three octave assignments (D7E7, F7G7, etc.). This will certainly work, and it’s hard to argue with something that works. The advantage would be “many hands make light work” and the extra ringers will make many things easier technically. One disadvantage is that these ringers will not ring nearly as often as other ringers. The primary disadvantage is that these notes are written well above the treble staff and reading all those ledger lines is not a simple task. Of course, the parts could be marked (or you could find piccolo players!).

Still, the most common way to assign the notes above C7 is in octaves with the 6’s. That is, D7 is given to the D6 ringer, E7 to the E6 ringer, and so on. The reasoning behind this is sound- the 7’s often play in combination with the octave below, so it makes sense to have these notes rung using four-in-hand or shelley.

I find that with good four-in-hand technique, in which each bell can be played independently and both bells may be played simultaneously, there is no need for shelley ringing (which is designed exclusively for ringing two notes simultaneously). Some groups prefer to go back and forth between these two techniques, but I find that cumbersome and awkward, and the point is to be able to play as musically as possible.

There is debate as to whether special markings are necessary for four-in-hand ringers. To be sure, there are many treble ringers who are quite adept at reading the ledger lines and therefore really don’t need markings. Still, I find that even with very advanced ringers, there is great potential to misread or skip over notes “in the stratosphere,” and rather than take valuable rehearsal time to point them out, I’d rather make a few markings in the music. One method is to put a little dash beside the 6 when the 7 is played simultaneously. Putting the mark by the lower note is more practical since the ringer will read the majority of his/her notes in that range. Of course, there are other methods of marking trebles- some experimentation to see what works best for directors and ringers is time well-spent.

Next time: Assigning and Working Out Trouble Bells!