Technique Tip - Stopped Sounds on Handchimes

From the experts at ChimeWorks® we offer this invaluable information on playing stopped sounds on handchimes, safely and effectively. Find more useful information, tips and resources at

Fundamental Concepts

Because of their design, handchimes do not lend themselves to all the special ringing techniques of handbells. Many of the techniques could be damaging to the handchime tines, which determine the tuning of the instrument. The damage is done when the chime tube cracks at the base of the tines: changing the length of the tines. If the vibrating tine's length is altered in any way, the pitch is distorted permanently.

A tine generally cracks when it is bent from ringing or malleting with too much force or from using the martellato technique. Larger tines can also bend when their vibrating cycle is interrupted in that the larger the chime the lower the pitch and the slower the vibrating cycle. Playing short, repeated notes on bass chimes will weaken the tines and shaking on treble handchimes will weaken the tines. The rule to follow is: the larger the chime, the longer the duration of the note should be. Specifically, bass chimes (B3 and lower) should be used as a harmonic support to the handchimes above - C4 on up.

ChimeWorks® has created the chart below as an easy reference when using special ringing techniques with handchimes:

Finger Damp (TD)

The Finger Damp is an acceptable technique in creating a stopped sound on a handchime. The size of the hand and the handchime will dictate who can employ the technique. The handchime is rung with the finger already in place, therefore the vibrating cycle is not interrupted.

How to play the Finger Damp (TD) technique: Slide the forefinger to the top area of the handchime and place the finger pad in the center of the tine slot and ring the chime. This should result in pitch with little resonance. The size of the handchime will determine if more than one finger is needed to properly execute the technique.

Recognize the Strengths

While we would like handchimes to be a full replacement for handbells, it is not possible because of the design and material of the instruments. We encourage you to embrace the unique qualities of handchimes and consider their strengths in choosing repertoire and determining when to substitute them for handbells:

  • Chimes have a strong fundamental pitch and fewer overtones for a richer sound quality; which is why we love to use them for slow moving harmonies.
  • Chimes are ethereal. Because aluminum is a softer metal, handchimes are more mellow in tonal color. This is also the cause of handchimes being slower to "speak" than handbells and why slower tempos are recommended.
  • Chimes create a pure, intense tone which resonates through more complex tonal sounds making them perfect as a solo melodic line.

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