How to Read Sheet Music for Hand Bells

By | April 9, 2021


Study the score to get a complete feel for the music. Most reverberation music is written much like a piano part with all the parts represented in a chord notation (stacked notes) on a large staff. This means you can see all the parts of your teammates and how they should interact with the notes you play. Try to imagine how the whole piece should sound like when you watch the music. If you have some time on your own with the score and can play some of it on the piano, it is extra useful.


Find out which notes you are responsible for. Once you have received your watch’s assignment from your conductor, you will see which notes and octaves are marked on your watches. The octave agreement refers to which octave the pitch would be on the piano. As a reference point, the middle C is ‘C4’ with higher toned octaves that have larger numbers and lower octaves that have lower numbers.


Mark your notes in the music. Look through the scores to find each instance of a pitch played by your bells. The best way to avoid missing out is to follow each line or space on the staff with your finger and go all the way through the music to find each note. Mark each note in a way that you won ‘can not avoid seeing use a large circle or box around the note head with a pencil or copy the music so you can mark the notes with colored highlights.


Find out when you need to change the watches in your hands. If you are responsible for more than two watches, you will need to move them at certain times during the paragraph and set one to retrieve another. Make notes in your music about when these switches will need to occur.

Handbells are an unusual musical ensemble, so it should come as no surprise that the music that has been performed for this group is unusual as well. In hand clocks, each player is responsible for just a few of the music’s places instead of an instrument with its own complex notes, so it’s important for players to make a more careful way of reading and preparing their parts. By doing so, the whole ensemble will be better prepared for rehearsal and performance.