Cymbells® - Let Me Count the Ways

Cymbells® - How Do I Love Thee?

Malmark Cymbells® are another innovation of Jake Malta, Malmark's founder. Did Jake have a vision for how Cymbells could be utilized? Maybe. But we know for certain that our customers have been creative when it comes to taking Jake's creation and putting it to use in their music world. This post is brought to life from what we've learned from you, our customers, about how you are using your Cymbells®.

FIrst, what are Cymbells®?


  1. are comprised of 13 authentic Malmark castings mounted on a horizontal rack.

  2. contain a full chromatic octave in each set.

  3. come complete with folding stand and mallets that fit into a compact case.

  4. are available currently in 3 octave ranges: C5 to C6; C6 to C7 and C7 to C8.

  5. use the familiar keyboard order making the instrument immediately accessible by any musician.

  6. include an adjustable stand allowing a variety of uses, situations and set ups.

  7. have a unique sound color to create another option for bell ensembles, vocal groups, bands and orchestras.

  8. are incredibly more resonant than crotales, orchestra chimes or glockenspiel.

  9. are considerably more affordable than other ancillary bells sets: Silver Melody Bells™ or Bell Matrix™, Whitechapel Bells or vintage Petit & Fritsen handbells, crotales, orchestra chimes or glockenspiel and some have extra costs for the cases.

  10. possess the quality and commitment to excellence for which Malmark has been known for over 40 years.

Now, let's count the ways we love Cymbells® in different settings:

Orchestra: play a glockenspiel part on the Cymbells®, use in place of Orchestra chimes, to replace handbells called for in a score, as a solo voice: anytime you would like a true bell sound that resonates longer than other percussion instruments but with more color than typical handbells.

Band: in addition to the uses above, Cymbells® can be a wonderfully visual highlight of your marching show when amplified and will add a new sound to your percussion section and be another way to help your group "stand out" from others.

Choir: play anthem bell parts when written as an undamped single-line or 4/5th intervals for the bells or in simple rhythms, for example: intervals of a fifth that ring out or an otinato above your singers or in place of a flute or recorder solo line.

General Music: play a part or double a part of any other keyboard-type instrument such as xylophone, metallophone or glockenspiel on the Cymbells. Especially the C5 to C6 octave set of Cymbells® is a useful range for young voices. More than one student can play on the Cymbells® allowing more active participation in music making. Cymbells are also great for demonstrating a melody, an interval or to visually and aurally experience the scale and if played by the student it is also experienced kinesthetically. Again, Choirchime® or handbell parts in octavos will often lend themselves to transferring to Cymbells® successfully.

 Church: many of the uses above will apply to your church music ministry for singers of all ages and for your band or orchestra, if you have one. Additionally, your congregational hymns will soar with the addition of a bell descant to the organ/piano and voices. Many ostinato patterns can be found or written to add a more festive nature to your worship music. One such book is Hal Hopson's book The Creative Use of Handbells in Worship, vol. 2. This wonderful resource is perfect for the Cymbells® because the descants are listed by hymn tune name using bells in a (mostly) single voice line and almost always in an LV technique. One or two people can easily ring any of the written patterns with little preparation.

After using Hal Hopson's book one can begin to see ways to write your own descants using Cymbells® and instead of the 4 to 6 ringers the book is written for, you will only need one person who can play a keyboard! Aside from Hopson's book, many instrumental descants or ositnatos can be transferred to the Cymbells® with little adjustment. And,the bonus is rehearsing can happen without taking time in your bell choir rehearsal to learn a descant with several ringers because one or two musicians can prepare outside of rehearsal time.

More benefits of using Cymbells® with hymn-singing is the ease of playing rack-mounted bells which take up less space than handbells and Cymbells® don't require the distraction of hunting for the bells needed and then returning them to the bell choir table in the midst of worship. Last, remember that Cymbells® are tuned to have more sound color than Malmark handbells so they will more easily carry through the layers of congregational singing and the organ, piano or instruments you use than traditioal handbells. You'll find that the upper 2 octave sets of Cymbells® are inherently suited to carry over layers of sounds.

Bell Tree Solos: many ringers who create bell trees by stringing from a few to many handbells into one or more "trees" and hanging them onto bell tree stands for solo ringing may find Cymbells® to be a wonderful substitute. Cymbells® are in keyboard order so the musician can always find the bells they need and Cymbells® are simple to assemble without taking bells from your main set of handbells. Repertoire continues to grow for the bell tree soloist and is easy to find wherever you purchase handbell repertoire.

Handbell Choir: often handbell choir repertoire calls for stringing treble bells into bell trees and playing using mallets. While a bell tree can be a visual addition for the audience, the bell tree assembling may be less of an addition and more of a distraction as well as a challenge for ringers. The simplicity and added color of Cymbells® will enhance your repertoire without the hassle of stringing handbells and can even be positioned for any ringer in your choir as added flexibility in bell assignments. Once you begin thinking about the possibilities forf Cymbells®® in bell choir literature you will find regular opportunities to add them and sometimes having a set of Cymbells® even solves some bell assignment headaches!

Liturgical Uses: bells have been used in worship for centuries and many churches still use them as a symbol of the spirit's presence or for intoning. Cymbells® can be used for the moments in worship where a bell sound is needed or as an accompaniment to a reading, to introduce a melody of for intoning. Cymbells® can be used out in front and visible or subtly hidden away from sight, and Cymbells® may be played by any musician with keyboard experience. Just remember they are intended to have their sound blur and to die off naturally, so music with quick harmonic changes or fast rhythms may not be best.

Contemporary Worship: some customers have told us they have found Cymbells® to be a good fit for their contemporary worship music. Using chords symbols provides an easy way to add color and substance to the contemporary band without a lot of preparation by playing key notes of the chords.This is an area we'd like to explore a bit more. 

What will you (or would you) do with a set of Cymbells®? Send us an email or post on Facebook if you've found a way to use Cymbells® not mentioned here. We love to learn from our customers and friends and we will update this article as ideas are received. Contact us: or

Thank you for visiting our Blog and happy ringing!

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