Handbell ringing notations

Below are the instructions that you may come across in handbell music, whether for solo handbells, a small ensemble, or a whole team. These symbols are unique to the handbell family of instruments (i.e. handbells, handchimes and Belleplates) and may have different meanings for other families of instruments.

Symbol

Name of technique

Description

R Ring Ring the bell and damp at the end of the note
LV Let Vibrate Keep the bell sounding until otherwise instructed
damp Damp symbol Stop the bell sounding
RT Ring touch Ring the bell and damp as quickly as possible
TD Thumb damp Put a gloved thumb (or fingers too) against the bell and ring it, causing a deadened sound
PL Pluck With the bell on the table, use your hand to knock the clapper against the bell
SK or
shake line
Shake Shake the handbell to keep the bell resounding
SW or
swing arrows
Tower swing Ring the bell, move it down to your side and up again
echo arrow Echo or "wow wow" Ring the bell then touch it lightly on the foam of the table
gyro arrow Gyro Ring the bell then rotate your wrist to cause a wave in the sound
+ Mallet With the bell on the table, gently hit with a handbell mallet to cause a percussive sound
+ with dot Suspended mallet Gently hit the bell with a handbell mallet, holding it in the air with the other hand
+ with dot&arrow Mallet lift Mallet the bell on the table then lift to keep it sounding
mart Martellato From about 4 inches above the table, land the bell horizontally in the foam
mart lift Martellato lift Perform a martellato but lift the bell to keep it sounding
vib. Vibrato Move your wrist to "wobble" the bell

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Handbell names

An English handbell sounding exactly the same pitch as an American handbell will be called by a different name. This is purely based on historic convention. For example, middle C will be called 15C for an English handbell, or C5 for an American handbell. The English system numbers each bell consecutively, whereas the American system numbers each octave consecutively. (In each case, sharps and flats take the same number as their white counterpart i.e. 15C# English or C#5 American.)

The table below shows, for a standard 5-octave set of handbells, the names for both English and American handbells.

English

American

In music notation

English

American

In music notation

29 C C 3 C311 G G 5
28 D D 3 10 A A 5
27 E E 3 9 B B 5
26 F F 3 8 C C 6 C6
25 G G 3 7 D D 6
24 A A 3 6 E E 6
23 B B 3 5 F F 6
22 C C 4 C4 4 G G 6
21 D D 4 3 A A 6
20 E E 4 2 B B 6
19 F F 4 1 C C 7 C7
18 G G 4 07 D D 7
17 A A 4 06 E E 7
16 B B 4 05 F F 7
15 C C 5 C5 07 D D 7
14 D D 5 04 G G 7
13 E E 5 03 A A 7
12 F F 5 02 B B 7
01 C C 8 C8

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