A stopped sound used to create more dramatic effects and excitement, martellato is a favorite of ringers and composers alike. If done improperly, however, it may damage your castings. Here is some advice to help ensure that your handbells will keep ringing for a long time.
The definition of martellato is "to hammer." On handbells, this produces a strong "pop" of staccato sound. The martellato technique should never be used on Choirchimes® as their aluminum tines can bend and crack.
To properly execute the martellato technique, the handbell should be held as one normally would, with the handguard resting on the hand and relaxed fingers wrapped around the handle. Then, move the handbell into a horizontal position no more than 2 to 3 inches above the table. Gently push the bell horizontally into the table pad. The handbell should remain in the pad until it is damped. This gentle strike will cause a strong, percussive sound which will be short due to the handbell remaining in contact with the foam.
The technique is notated by a ▼. The symbol will appear above or below a note head. Any notes stemmed to the primary note head should also be played martellato.
Dynamic contrasts are achieved through the amount of force used in striking the handbell on the padded table. When using the martellato technique, it is important to remember that varying dynamic levels can be achieved and are warranted. While the initial result may be loud, ringers should be encouraged to experiment with dynamic levels as directors should be discriminating in the overall balance of the sound with added stopped sounds.
If done improperly, the martellato technique may be damaging to handbell castings, especially the larger ones. There are a few safeguards that may be taken to ensure that no damage will be done:
When done properly, the martellato can be a safe and musical technique that ringers and audiences alike will enjoy!