Orchestral Bells, Glockenspiels, and Bell Kits are a fantastic way to get students reading treble clef and rhythm. Beginner students love breaking up lessons and at home practice by moving their bodies.
I have found that many beginner students love breaking up their practice with something that they can move their body for.
This is a great way for students to get off the bench, get on their feet, get their blood flowing, and enhance learning. Check out our accompanying video here.
Picking out an instrument: Select a bell set, glockenspiel, or orchestral bell set that reflects your needs. If you are a percussionist, you might want to splurge on something nice. It would be easy to instruct you to buy the nicest set available (I love me some Fall Creek glocks), but I know that’s not a practical decision for many, and our purpose is to make music more available. As a teacher, I want my students to have fun and enriching experiences, and if I can do that for a low cost, I am all about it.
I decided to purchase an economical option to check out what is available to folks with a small budget. I found this mini bell kit for around $25, and it’s not bad!
Picking out your mallets: First, the Lyons mini-bell set above comes with some great plastic mallets that are perfectly sized for the instruments, so if you go that route, you are all set. For bell sets that do not come with mallets, I recommend a flexible shaft (handle) and rubber head (tip) for beginners. The shaft could be rattan, or plastic, or even fiberglass. A flexible shaft will be more durable, and if the student knicks the shaft it is more likely to survive, whereas a birch or wooden shaft can easily split. Having less on the line if a student is working on impulse control is ideal. I would also not recommend any brass, or even hard acrylic heads to start out with. Rubber seems to do the trick. I also sometimes have students use rattan cord mallets made for the vibraphone on bells, when I want them to practice with weight, or simply reduce the volume. One thing to note if you use rattan cord mallets is that the bells are much harder on cord than the vibraphone or marimba, so they won’t last as long.
I have these mallets in my collection of mallets, but they are more of an investment, and work best with full scale instruments.
Frame: Some bell sets and glockenspiels come with frames included. For the sets that do not include a frame, such as the one I purchased for this tutorial, you have several frame options:
1. x stand
3. laptop stand (we feature this one in our video)
4. Be creative!
Storage: Studio space can be hard to come by, and all early music teachers I know seem to utilize many materials, which fills up our space. My favorite way to store economical bell kits is to hang them on the wall. They are a visual reminder to students that we have fun activities ready to go, and that we can learn in many ways.
Don’t have a music stand?
Set up the bells right by the piano and place the bell music right where the piano music goes. I probably wouldn’t do this with a high end piano, though, just in case of tipping. You can get an inexpensive music stand.
Nice Stand: https://amzn.to/2T8KQYK
Economical Stand: https://amzn.to/2O9aps4
Posture: Stand up nice and straight with feet shoulder width apart.
Motion and Grip: Bring up your arms right in front of you, palms facing the ground. Make an up and down motion from your wrist. This will be the motion to start with. Wrap your fingers around the mallet towards the back. The fulcrum (pivot point) will be between your pointer finger and thumb. You will use your wrist motion and the fulcrum to strike the instrument. *Please note that this is one of many techniques.
Where to strike: Aim for the center of the bars.
Practicing on Piano: Piano is a great instrument to practice on, and I have often had students who had a piano for practice and no bells at home. While the physical elements are not totally possible, I usually just have students play with their pointer fingers while practicing their bell music.
Music: Instantly download our music for some fun in lessons. Our Bell Book is an incredible way to start your sheet music collection.
You can get our bellBOOK at https://startpercussion.com/product/bellbundle/
We want to see your bell love in action! Email us! YourFriends@StartPercussion.com