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The Advantages of Using Handchimes in Music Class

You, like many music teachers, may have a set of handchimes in the instrument cabinet of your classroom that have been sitting for years.  Now’s the time to open the case and put those handchimes into the hands of your students for successful music-making.

If you don’t have access to a set of handchimes, you should consider adding these valuable instruments to your classroom. While the initial investment may take some planning, they will ring on for years bringing thousands of children enjoyment. The lifespan of these instruments, along with the number of children who can play them at once, make them one of the most affordable instruments that you can choose – even less than recorders!

No worries about embouchure, fingerings, or being in tune; the beauty is instantaneous.

Why?  Using handchimes in the classroom offers bountiful benefits. Perhaps the greatest is that they will generate excitement with their simple beauty and ease of use. Handchimes create a beautiful tone; they have been said to create the purest tone known to mankind. Children do not have to master the instrument to create this beauty – they just hold the instrument and snap their wrist. No worries about embouchure, fingerings, or being in tune; the beauty is instantaneous, using the wrist to create the sound and the arm to sustain it.

The music skills that can be taught by ringing are many. Students can learn about note duration, rhythm, harmony, and melodic line. Through ringing, students will increase their independent thinking, listening skills, attention span, physical coordination, self-discipline and personal expression. They also gain social and emotional skills through collaboration and the development of self-esteem. Working with a group of ringers teaches tolerance, patience, support, and cooperation, to name a few.

How?  Using handchimes in the classroom does not require all the equipment that goes along with a handchime ensemble – tables, foam, and music.  Distribute one handchime to each student and allow them to sit at their desks, sit in a circle on the floor, or stand. With a chime in hand, students can learn to ring and damp, ring note durations, scales, chords, and melodies – all by rote.

If you desire to start slowly, use your handchimes along with your Orff instruments, allowing students to double ostinati on handchimes. If Kodály is your method, use the handchimes to intone a song by ringing a chord, accompany a modal melody by choosing the pitches of the mode on handchimes, and have them ring randomly throughout the piece. If you have students who are not successful in playing the recorder, have them ring chords on the handchimes to accompany the melody that the students on recorders are playing. The incorporation of handchimes into your existing lesson plans is easy and will enhance your teaching!

Once you have experienced the positive benefits of using handchimes with your existing lesson plans, expand your curriculum by engaging your students with more ringing! Use handchime lessons to accompany singing or to teach music literacy. Add in non-pitched percussion for students to improvise rhythms along with the singing and handchime parts.

After you’ve introduced the success of handchimes in the classroom, consider beginning a ringing ensemble using handchimes. Some equipment will be needed – tables, foam pads, binder/stands and music – but the benefits will outweigh the cost. A ringing ensemble would be perfect for students who may not participate by singing or do not have access to a band instrument.

With the popularity of ringing instruments in secular education, resources are readily available for school ensembles. Handbell music is used with handchimes, although not all ringing articulations can be done with handchimes. Begin with Level 1 music which is usually homophonic in structure and will allow the ringers to work and grow together. Budget-saving reproducible collections are available, allowing you to highlight notes in the early stages of music reading.

View Pepper’s extensive resources to help you get started.

When?  It’s never too late in the academic year to introduce handchimes. Because of the instant success in creating beauty of tone by ringing a handchime, your students will have the opportunity to jump right into the music.

 

Kathy Ebling Shaw
Kathleen Ebling Shaw is a member of the sacred music department at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, where she teaches classes in handbell training and conducts the Westminster Concert Bell Choir and a second handbell choir. She is the Director of Sales and Marketing of Malmark, Inc. and serves as the Creative Director of ChimeWorks® - an online resource community for educators who use handchimes. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College and is well-known as a clinician having conducted workshops and festivals for a wide variety of church and educational organizations.

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