The bell is one of the oldest, and certainly is the loudest of, musical instruments. The sound of a bell has the power to charm, to amaze, to warn, to frighten, and to lift the spirit. Bells are ubiquitous even in our electronic age. And yet the way in which a bell produces its sound is complex, and even such a simple question as which note a bell sounds can have surprising and unexpected answers.
This website describes investigations over many year into the sound and tuning of bells. In the early stages of research I developed a software package (Wavanal) which allows easy investigation into bell acoustics. The software is free and can be downloaded here.
In April 2008 I was awarded a PhD by The Open University based on research into the musical acoustics of bells, and in particular the note we hear when a bell is rung. The full text of the thesis and introductory articles are available on this site.
Since completing the PhD the research has continued. I have a growing collection of over 8,800 bell recordings with dates spanning 9 centuries, hundreds of founders and many countries which I use for ongoing investigations. Regular updates to this site document recent investigations.
For an introduction, including lots of bell sounds to listen to, click here.
- Manipulating bell soundsThis page explains the mathematical techniques I use to manipulate bell sounds for various purposes. Sound file examples demonstrate sharpening or flattening bells, adjusting individual partials, and the effect of thin and thick bells. […]
- Simpson, Van Aerschodt, Lower Beeding and KilburnCanon Simpson in his first paper On Bell Tones discusses the bells at Lower Beeding. His conclusions about the way continental founders tuned their bells proves not to be correct […]
- A history of Gillett and Johnston in bell soundsThis article investigates the changes in design of Gillett and Johnston bells from the 1870s to the 1950s, by looking at tierce tuning. […]
- Cyril Johnston’s tuning forksA detailed description of Cyril Johnston’s tuning forks, including investigation of errors in their frequencies. […]
- Two van Aerschodt carillonsDetails of two historic van Aerschodt carillons, one at Eaton Hall, Cheshire and the other at Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, USA […]