Bell tree

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Bell tree
A simple bell tree, with holder
Percussion instrument
Classification Idiophone
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.242.221
(Sets of hanging bells without internal strikers)

A bell tree, also known as tree bells [1] or Chinese bell tree [2] (often confused with the mark tree ), is a percussion instrument, consisting of vertically nested inverted metal bowls. The bowls, placed on a vertical rod, are arranged roughly in order of pitch. The number of bowls can vary between approximately 14 and 28. An effective glissando is produced by sliding a triangle beater, a glockenspiel mallet, or a xylophone mallet down the length of the tree. The bells are usually pitched to microtonal intervals and do not represent any formal scale. [2] When a glissando is played, the inexactness of the order of the bowls' pitch is unnoticeable, merely creating a fuller sound. [3] [4]

The bell tree is often used to accentuate the start or end of passages of music with a "bright", "shimmer" effect, adding complexity. [5]

Chick Corea and his group Return To Forever occasionally used the bell tree (i.e. album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy), as has the group Santana. Isaac Howie has sometimes used the bell tree in his compositions. The rock band America utilized one in "Bell Tree," a song named for the instrument, found on their 1975 album Hearts . Neil Peart from Rush used this instrument for the song "The Trees" from the album Hemispheres (1978), as can be seen on the official music video of the song, and the live album Exit... Stage Left.

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Percussion instrument Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

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Bass drum Drum, produces a note of low definite or indefinite pitch

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Marimba Wooden percussion instrument struck with mallets

The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with yarn or rubber mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators or pipes are suspended underneath the bars to amplify their sound. The bars of a chromatic marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of two and three accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone. A person who plays the marimba is called a marimbist or a marimba player.

Vibraphone Musical instrument

The vibraphone is a musical instrument in the struck idiophone subfamily of the percussion family. It consists of tuned metal bars and is usually played by holding two or four soft mallets and striking the bars. A person who plays the vibraphone is called a vibraphonist,vibraharpist, or vibist.

Glockenspiel Percussion instrument

The glockenspiel is a percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone, although the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, additionally, is usually smaller and, because of both its material and smaller size, higher in pitch.

A slide whistle is a wind instrument consisting of a fipple like a recorder's and a tube with a piston in it. Thus it has an air reed like some woodwinds, but varies the pitch with a slide. The construction is rather like a bicycle pump. Because the air column is cylindrical and open at one end and closed at the other, it overblows the third harmonic. "A whistle made out of a long tube with a slide at one end. An ascending and descending glissando is produced by moving the slide back and forth while blowing into the mouthpiece." "Tubular whistle with a plunger unit in its column, approximately 12 inches long. The pitch is changed by moving the slide plunger in and out, producing ascending and descending glisses."

Timpani Large percussion musical instrument which produces a definite pitch

Timpani or kettledrums are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum categorised as a hemispherical drum, they consist of a membrane called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. Most modern timpani are pedal timpani and can be tuned quickly and accurately to specific pitches by skilled players through the use of a movable foot-pedal. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of ensembles, including concert bands, marching bands, orchestras, and even in some rock bands.

Extended technique Unorthodox methods of singing or of playing musical instruments

In music, extended technique is unconventional, unorthodox, or non-traditional methods of singing or of playing musical instruments employed to obtain unusual sounds or timbres.


The Rototom is a drum developed by Al Payson, Robert Grass, and Michael Colgrass that has no shell and is tuned by rotating. A rototom consists of a single head in a die-cast zinc or aluminum frame. Unlike most other drums, this type has a variable definite pitch. Composers are known to write for them as tuned instruments, demanding specific pitches. Rototoms are often used to extend the tom range of a standard drum kit. They were commercialized by the drumhead company Remo Inc., of North Hollywood, California.

Flexatone Modern percussion instrument

The flexatone or fleximetal is a modern percussion instrument consisting of a small flexible metal sheet suspended in a wire frame ending in a handle. Used in classic cartoons for its glissando effect, its sound is comparable to the musical saw.

A handbell is a bell designed to be rung by hand. To ring a handbell, a ringer grasps the bell by its slightly flexible handle – traditionally made of leather, but often now made of plastic – and moves the arm to make the hinged clapper inside the bell strike. An individual handbell can be used simply as a signal to catch people's attention or summon them together, but handbells are also often heard in tuned sets.

Mark tree Musical instrument

A Mark tree is a percussion instrument used primarily for musical colour. It consists of many small chimes – typically cylinders of solid aluminium or hollow brass tubing 3/8" in diameter – of varying lengths mounted hanging from a bar. The chimes are played by sweeping a finger or stick through the length of the hanging chimes, or the strings that suspend the chimes. They are mounted in pitch order to produce rising or falling glissandos.

Standing bell Bell with rim upwards, eg a singing bowl

A standing bell or resting bell is an inverted bell, supported from below with the rim uppermost. Such bells are normally bowl-shaped, and exist in a wide range of sizes, from a few centimetres to a metre in diameter. They are often played by striking, but some—known as singing bowls—may also be played by rotating a mallet around the outside rim to produce a sustained musical note.

Bell plate

A bell plate is a percussion instrument consisting of a flat and fairly thick sheet of metal, producing a sound similar to a bell. They are most often used in orchestral and theater music.

Chime bar

A chime bar or resonator bell is a percussion instrument consisting of a tuned metal bar similar to a glockenspiel bar, with each bar mounted on its own wooden resonator. Chime bars are played with mallets again similar to a glockenspiel.

This is a partitioned list of percussion instruments showing their usage as tuned or untuned. See pitched percussion instrument for discussion of the differences between tuned and untuned percussion. The term pitched percussion is now preferred to the traditional term tuned percussion:

Classification of percussion instruments

There are several overlapping schemes for the classification of percussion instruments.


  1. Beck, John. Encyclopedia of Percussion. Taylor and Francis, 1995.
  2. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2019-11-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Bell Tree". Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary. 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  4. Robert M. McCormick (1985-03-01). Percussion for Musicians: A Complete, Fundamental Literature and Technique ... Alfred Music Publishing. p. 41. ISBN   0769233651 . Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  5. Kalani (2008). All About Hand Percussion. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 21. ISBN   978-0739049648 . Retrieved 2012-11-24.