Republic of Lebanon
Wednesday 4th - 10 - 2023

 Tubular bells

Tubular Bells

(Fr. Cloches; Ger. Glocken, Röhrenglocken; It. campane, campanelle)

A set of tuned metal tubes (classified as an idiophone: set of percussion tubes). They are used for bell effects in the orchestra and on the operatic stage, real bells being cumbersome, heavy and difficult to play with rhythmic precision. Tubular bells consist of a series of brass or steel tubes ranging in diameter from about 3 to 7 cm; the greater the diameter, the longer the bell tube.

The compass of the standard set of tubular bells is c' to f'' or g''. Two-octave sets (f–f''org'') are used in continental Europe and Kolberg has produced a three-octave set (c–c'''). The tubes hang in a frame mounted in two rows, keyboard-fashion. They are struck at the top edge, which is capped or reinforced with an inner metal disc or pin. For general purposes a rawhide or plastic mallet is employed, one side usually covered with leather or felt for a contrast in tone. The bells are damped by a foot-pedal mechanism. To play one of the larger instruments, with some tubes 3 meters or more in length, the player stands on a platform; a music stand is incorporated above the instrument.

Tubular bells were introduced by John Hampton of Coventry in 1886, for the peal of four bells in Sullivan’s The Golden Legend. In 1890 the codophone, a set of 15 tubular bells operated by a keyboard, was used in a performance at the Paris Opéra. Gustave Lyon constructed another instrument of this type in 1908. The part for tubular bells is usually written in the treble clef, at sounding pitch, but though earlier composers frequently wrote in the bass clef it is doubtful whether they were favoured with instruments at the pitch written. Outstanding writing for tubular bells can be found in John Ireland’s These Things Shall Be (1936–7), Britten’s chamber opera The Turn of The Screw (1954), Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie (1946–8) and Chronochromie (1960), and Boulez’s Pli selon pli (1959–62).

Reference (with liberty): New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, (editors), 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

"Tubular Bells" Teachers:

  • Anna Kokenyessy
  • Christopher Michael
  • Garabet Nerces
  • Ibrahim Jaber
  • Mia Ionica Popescu
  • Szymon Pawel Urbanszyk

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