Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Bells!

It's time for Christmas songs and that means it's time to get out the bells! I bought four sets of bells a few years ago from Hobby Lobby and we love to play them as we sing a cappella Christmas Songs. Here's how to get set up and sing with bells.
1. Buy colored hand bells. I bought Rainbow Music's set of 8 colored diatonic handbells. The bells match the C major scale. I used Hobby Lobby's 40% off coupon and bought four sets over time. I'm not sure if Hobby Lobby still stocks them. Schylling sells a set on Amazon. If you have a small group you could get away with just one set. If you have a large Primary you could get a few sets and have the kids take turns. 

Also, if you have the money, you can buy chromatic sets that allow you to do more songs because they include all the half-steps.
2. Make a poster for the song you want to sing. First if you have the 8-bell set, choose a song without accidentals (sharps or flats) and use the interactive music player at to transpose your song to the key of C. I've done Joy to the World, Silent Night and the chorus of Away in a Manger. Then write out the words of the song with a black marker on poster board. Next color each word  the corresponding note color. I use crayons. Lots of crayons. The bells themselves are numbered on their handle and colored: 1=middle C red, 2=D orange, 3=E yellow, 4=F light green, 5=G dark green, 6=Adark blue, 7=B light blue, 8=treble C pink. It helps to know note names! 

There are other ways to make posters, Handbell Heaven for example uses color coded bells with the note name on it. These can be printed so they look nicer and take less time to make. I don't like having so much on the page, though, so I make these more simple posters.

3. Handbell Rules. I always go over the rules and remind them that they loose the bell if they don't follow the rules. 
  • The bell 'sleeps' on their shoulder until I point to their color. After playing the bell it goes back to 'sleep' on their shoulder. Demonstrate before you hand out the bells. Then practice by saying "play" and then "sleep."
  • No touching the clapper part of the bell. (They do break.)

4. Let's Play! No accompaniment is needed, just a good pointer like a ruler. I point to each word  while everyone sings and those with that color of bell ring their bell. If it's a long note, they keep ringing until we get to the next word. 

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