Chimes, (or tubular bells), are perhaps the most awkward percussion instrument to play. They are bulky, rather tall, and like all keyboard percussion instruments, you need to visually locate the correct note to accurately strike. That makes it almost impossible to read music, watch a conductor AND play the right notes, all at the same time!
While most percussionists ignore practicing on chimes, I always found it useful to do a minimal amount of familiarization with the instrument, after all, as an orchestral percussionist, I am called on quite often to play chimes.
Things to remember when playing chimes (tubular bells):
- Always strike the tubes on the top cap.
- Only use good quality chime hammers, preferable double sided (hard/soft).
- Position the instrument so that you can best see the music and conductor.
- Use the pedal effectively, dampening notes of limited duration.
- Use plenty of upstroke, think of “pulling” the tone out of the tube.
To demonstrate, here’s a short clip from a recent concert in Symphony Hall, Boston: