Using ChromaNote colored chimes for 2- and 3-octave choir assignments for "at home" or virtual ringing

Kathleen Wissinger © 2020

I teach 5th- 8th grade handbell classes at Redeemer Classical School (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and am lucky to have just enough hand chimes and resonator bars for each 6th- 8th grade student to take their ringing position home should we go to virtual learning. However, this is also a crucial formative year for my 5th graders, just starting their first year of Handbell Class. They are learning how to ring chimes, how to play chords, how to read music on a Grand Staff using a space note and line note, and how to track music and play from a score. I thought it was extremely important that they also have playable instruments at home. So, at my request, my school bought 3 sets of ChromaNote chimes [1 octave chromatic sets of 13 notes - each with 8 diatonic notes C to C and 5 additional chromatic notes (sharps)] for the 5th graders to use “at home” during virtual Zoom lessons. As a bonus, they can also use them in their regular classroom for “music breaks”.

On the first day of class, each 5th grader was given a small container with their assigned 3 or 4 ChromaNote_chimes in it (see picture), along with a numbered music notebook containing the first few lessons from Square One and some easy L1 music scores for the entire first semester. Each box of chimes is topped with a sticker with the ringer’s name and position number (to help keep them straight), and an “Instrument Loan Contract” was sent home for parents to sign. These chimes will remain in their classroom, while the music books will be brought to each handbell class.

Some Notes:

  • Many sharps belong to a person who plays it as a flat (A# counts as Bb for the AB5 ringer).
  • With a sharpie I marked the Flat designation on the right side of the clapper hinge area and the sharp on the left side (see picture)
  • The numbers on the ChromaNote_chime_ stickers don’t correlate to the usual 3 octave designations of C4, C5, C6, etc. Make sure your ringers know their “real” note names, so they can find their notes on the staff.
  • If the entire group played a piece with these ChromaNotes, it would sound odd since 3 octaves of ringers are playing three 1-octave sets of chimes, but for individual practice and unison exercises, they will work fine.
  • Most music, especially beginning music, uses F# and Bb, and then Eb and Ab. C# and Db are the next in line.
    • Therefore, Set #2’s “C#” can go to either the B4C5 ringer (#4) or the D5E5 ringer (#5). Check your music and see which note is used (if at all).
    • If a piece uses a Gb, just tell the ringers involved (GA4 and GA6 ringers) to not play that note at this time…..maybe turn the chime sideways and “air bell.”
  • Set #2 has notes left over (C1 & C8) plus maybe the C#; you might want to use these chimes for demonstrating when you teach.
    • If you are more concerned with just playing unison exercises (not playing from a 3 octave score), you can squeeze out one more ringing position by assigning Set #2 just as you did Set #1 or Set #3 and no one would ring the DE5, FG5 or AB5 positions.
    • I actually bought a 4th set of ChromaNote_chimes, since I’ve maxed out my hand chime and resonator bar supply with the students I have. With Set #4 in hand, I’ll have 3 or 4 more ringing positions in case we add a new 5th grader or even a few more 6th- 8th graders.
  • I think carpet padding will serve well as table mats, and a good-sized piece can be folded and stored in each music notebook.
  • There are two identical sets of instruments available, excepting their color scheme:
    • The ChromaNote_chime_ set specifically matches the color scheme of Boomwackers.
    • The KidsPlay chime set matches the color scheme of KidsPlay handbells, deskbells and educational materials.

Here’s how I assigned our three 1-octave ChromaNote_chime_ sets to cover 3 octaves of 11 ringers - coordinating with each ringer’s position - starting from the top ringer (#11).

3 oct. Ringing Position # Assigned Notes ChromaNote Set Number Actual chime Notes (sticker number) 2 octave Ringing Position #
11 B6C7 #3 A#, B7, C8
10 GA6 #3 G5, G#, A6 (No G for this ringer, unless you have 3 sets)
9 EF6 #3 D#, E3, F4, F# 7 E3 and F4 from Set #1
8 CD6 #3 C1, C#, D2 6 C1 and D2 from Set #1
7 AB5 #2 G# A6, A#, B7 5
6 FG5 #2 F4, F#, G5 4
5 DE5 #2 C#, D2, D#, E3 3
4 B4C5 #1 A#, B6, C8 (C#) 2
3 GA4 #1 G5, G#, A6 1
2 EF4 #1 D#, E3, F4, F# Note: For a 2 octave group these chimes can be assigned to 2 oct. Ringers #6 and #7, eliminating the need for a third set, but there isn’t an extra G to give to the top 2 oct. ringer.
1 CD4 #1 C1, C#, D2

While this will be a year different from all the previous 16 beginning classes I have taught, with these ChromaNote_chimes, I hope it is one that will still encourage excitement and musical growth as well as happy memories for ringing in my students.