Also known as “chimes”, tubular bells allow a musician to mimic the sound of church bells from within an orchestra due to the instrument being adapted to being played on stage. The instrument generally has 17 long metallic tubes of varying size, the shorter having a higher pitch when struck, and the longer having a lower pitch. The player strikes the top rim of the tubes with a hammer, causing the instrument to resonate with sound.
Did you know?
It is possible to remove the tubes from their frame. If a player only needs to play one or two notes, they may decide to hang only the necessary tubes on a separate stand, which has the added effect of making the tubes resonate for a longer amount of time.
In the second excerpt, from Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis, the tubular bells are accompanied by other percussion instruments. Can you hear them? In the last excerpt, from the Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninoff, the sound of the tubular bells blends in perfectly with the flute section.
Symphonie fantastique: V. Songe d’une Nuit de Sabbat
Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: II. Turandot (Scherzo)
Symphonic Dances: III. Lento assai – Allegro vivace