Monday, January 27, 2014


How to Play the Bell Tree

Evelyn Glennie Bell Tree Solo 
Evelyn Glennie improvision on the Aluphone Chromatic Bell Tree "Emilio Grand"

A bell tree is a percussion instrument consisting of vertically nested inverted metal bowls. The bowls, placed on a long vertical rod, are arranged in order of pitch (inexactly) that get increasingly smaller in size. There is no specific number of bells with the number of bowls varying between approximately 14 (with the smaller handheld versions) and 28 (with the larger versions on stands). Versions of the Bell Tree can be found in several cultures and can be traced back before the 6th century in Asia, being used in religious and secular music. 

A bell tree can produce a glissando by striking and sliding down the bells with a metal rod (similar to a triangle beater), a glockenspiel mallet, or a xylophone mallet. When a glissando is played, the inexactness of the order of pitch is unnoticeable; the glissando just sounds fuller. Random or relatively pitched notes can also be played on a bell tree. The bell tree is often used to accentuate the start or end of passages of music with bright shimmering  effects, adding complexity to the music. 

The Bell Tree found its way into Western orchestral music with the first use said to be by Hector Berlioz with his Symphonie Funebre (called a Turkish Cresent ).
Turkish Cresent

The instrument, as it is know today, was created in the 1950's by the sound effects expert Carrol Bratman and its sound is now commonplace in many genres of popular music.