Music Composers Who Use Bells and Chimes

I was just listening to a good CD (the “Sea Hawk”)-a compendium of film scores by E.W. Korngold (a famous Hollywood composer of the 1930’s-40’s). In quite a few of these, Korngold used bells and chimes, to good effect. Are there other classical composers who did this?
In such scores, would the conductor signal to the guy handling the bell? Seems like it would be hard for the artist to time the bell exactly.

Chimes are a percussion instrument that consists of hollow metal tubes suspended in a frame. They are struck on the cap at the top using a rawhide mallet. The sound is similar to that of church bells. It is no more difficult to time the attack than it is to time any other percussion instrument.

Bells are also a tuner percussion instrument, sometimes called orchestra bells or glockenspiel. They are played with a variety of mallets, depending on the demands of the music. They produce a strong, piercing bell-like sound.

Handbells, on the other hand, are a different animal entirely. They are bell-shaped instruments with a clapper inside. The player holds the bells in his/her hands with the open end of the bell facing up and the entire structure leaning toward him/her. This causes the clapper to rest against the side of the bell (actually against a brace near the handle). When the music calls for his notes, the player flicks his wrist in such a way that the clapper strikes the bell and returns to its rest position. With practice, this can be done precisely.

This is from another post on music. Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas music uses Bells.

Originally Posted by CalMeacham
The moment that does it for me is the pre-climactic note from Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas Music. There’s just so much emotion poured into that one note that it gives me the chills more than any single moment out of Back or Beethoven.

(If you haven’t heard of Reed or this piece it’s understandable. I’ve searched for years for a professional recording of it, but it eluded me before the Internet. This is apparently one of the top pieces of Band music out there, but it doesn’t make any “charts”)

I’m not sure what you mean by timing the bell exactly. If the percussionist knows the measure and beat of the entrance, he’ll time it perfectly. But there are often long stretches of rests before a rare entrance like that. Indeed, it is part of the conductor’s job to give cues for every major entrance.

There is a chime used in Sullivan’s (as in Gilbert and) score for Yeoman of the Guard in the first act finale.

There is also one in (I believe) the last movement of Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. Years ago I saw a fantastic performance of it. The chimes were offstage to give the impression of distance.






clatter clatter






I was talking to the conductor a few days later. Apparently the percussionist got a little too enthusiastic and hit the chime right off of the stand.

Tchaikovsky rather famously used artillery cannon as well as bells in the 1812 Overture.


Check this out. This is a choir of just hand bells. We have something similar at Christmas time in a local church. If you ever get a chance to see something like this it is great. I think the Nutcracker had a lot of Bells but not sure that is what you are looking for?

Bourgade Bell Choir

Ravel used chimes in his orchestration of Moussorgsky’s Picture at an Exhibition.

Mahler used sleighbells in his 4th symphony.

And cowbells in the sixth and seventh.

“Mehr Kuhglocken!”

Not quite classical, but I always enjoyed Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

When Ravel added bells to the end of Mussoorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” he may have been inspired by the bells Mussorgsky used toward the end of his opera “Boris Godunov.”

Charles Ives used beels in several of his “Psalms.” Then, there was his “Gong on the Hook and Ladder.”

Check out the late, great Juan García Esquivel, a personal favorite of mine. He was a masterful composer with a fondness for odd noises and used lots of bells, chimes, whistles, odd nonsense vocals and amazing piano runs.

ETA: Also, Philip Glass, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse, Frank Zappa, and Spike Jones would all fit the OP’s query, I believe, tho not in every piece of music. All personal favorites of mine.

EATA: Oh, and of course Blue Oyster Cult!

Here is an excellent example of the use of chimes in band music. In this, the percussionist plays three against two (his left hand hits twice for every three hits from the right hand).

La Fiesta Mexicana - H. Owen Reed

Here is a junior high arrangement of Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas Music.

Gotta chime in with a shout-out to the sublime, yet strangely underused crotales, deployed on rare occasion by the likes of Debussy, Stravinsky, Rush, The Police, Dream Theater, Bjork, and only a few others.

Mark my words, that instrument’s due for a major hit someday soon. It’s been a generation since “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” fer pete’s sake!

I think composers use bells/chimes where there might be large clocks, churches or in similar situations.

In Parsifal, much of the music for the knights entering the Hall of the Grail and for the Grail ceremony itself is based on repeated bass chime notes C G A E as you might hear from a church.

Mussorgsky uses a single chime note to start the last section of “Night on Bald Mountain”.

Naturally, there are 12 loud chimes at midnight in Prokofiev’s Cinderella.

And of course, there’s always Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter. :smiley:

Whatever it is, it needs more cowbell.

I did something similar to that in high school. The only way to fit the chimes on the risers in the auditorium was to have them right on the edge, facing the audience. We came into practice that day (we moved into the auditorium about a week before the concert for practice) and the wheels were locked on all the percussion instruments (bells, xylophone, etc.). They didn’t move when I used them. So we came to Carol of the Bells, which, of course, had some AWESOME chime work and a chime solo at the beginning. I struck the chime, and since the wheels weren’t locked, the whole chime set started to slide right off the stage. I tried to grab it, but I had mallets in both hands and couldn’t get it in time. CLANG goes the chimes off the top risers and I spent the rest of the class (and my lunch) fixing them (with the help of my director at lunch). Good thing we practiced on the auditorium first or else those would have fallen during the concert… bad news bears on that!