Create Your Own Tubular Pipe Bells

Tube Forming

When I was in high school I joined the school band as a member of the percussion section. I enjoyed the freedom of being in the percussion section. I could walk around in back, and play a number of different instruments as opposed to being contained to one. Most percussionists prefer playing the snare drum and a few the marimbas or xylophone. I however, favored the tubular pipe bells and tympanis. I liked the low boom and ring both instruments produced. Tubular pipe bells have been popularized from the Christmas classic, Carol of the Bells. The vertical bells are also used in the theme of The Exorcist and Futurama. The noise these bells produce sounds similar to church bells.

To play the instrument you must step on a pedal and hit a bell with a hammer. This will vibrate the metal tube creating the desired sound. To muffle the bell you just need to release the petal. I will admit, my fascination with these vertical bells was probably peaked because I think it’s the only instrument you play with a hammer. To make the tubular bells/chimes tube fabricators cut the tubes at different lengths depending on the desired pitch of the tube. Longer metal tubes will have a lower pitch than shorter tubes.

It is possible to make your own tubular bells. First you will need to determine if you want bigger steel tubes or smaller copper tubes. Steel tubing needs to be 0.5 inches thick where as copper tubes only need to be .035 inches thick. Each tube should be cut at a length corresponding to the required pitch the tube will make. Charts can be found online that will provide necessary lengths. However, these lengths are guidelines and further fabrication of a tube may be required to produce the correct note.

After all the tubes have been fabricated, holes are to be drilled at a distance from the top of the tube. The size of the hole doesn’t matter as long as it does not weaken the tube. Next you can string rope through holes to hang the bells up to your liking. You can use this as part of a percussion kit, drum set or even to use as chimes. While playing the tubular bells at school the hammer I used was a wooden mallet with a rubber tip. Something similar to that will produce the best sound.

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