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Handbell ringing techniques

Handbell ringers play a range of music by varying the techniques with which they play. To achieve unique tonal qualities or stylistic differences, a bell can be rung in a variety of manners, including:

  • Off-table, or ringing the bell as it’s lifted from a surface
  • Off-shoulder, or bracing the bell against the shoulder and ringing it as it moves away
  • Damp, or silencing the bell by resting it against another surface
  • Pluck, or twitching the clapper with your fingers to make a punctuated tone
  • Mallet, or striking the bell with a cotton- or leather-bound rod
  • Tower swing, or moving the arm up and down to modulate the intensity of projected sound
  • Vibrato, or waving the bell from side to side
  • Shake, or creating a tremulous effect by quivering the wrist
  • Echo, or softly touching a ringing bell to a padded table to create a repeated sound

A handbell ringer can play with a single bell, or one in each hand, or two in each hand – depending on their experience, the requirements of the music, and the size of the handbell choir.