How to Make Homemade Percussion Bells

by Darby Stevenson
Make a bell out of metal tubes.

Make a bell out of metal tubes.

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Bells are percussion instruments that make sounds by vibrating when struck. Usually bells are made out of metal and often they are tuned to a specific frequency. The type of metal used, the thickness of that metal and the size of the bell all affect the tone qualities of a bell. While it is not realistic to cast a round metal bell yourself at home, a bell can be made quickly by using a tubular bell design. These bells vibrate similarly to other bells, but utilize an easily obtainable length of metal tubing.

Items you will need

  • String
  • Drill
  • Pipe cutter
  • Copper or metallic tubing
Step 1

Visit a music store or wind chimes store and test the bells. Listen to the differences made by the various metals and pitches of bells so you can decide what material to make your bell from. If you are going to make your bell to a particular frequency, choose a standard size and material of tubing, such as .5-inch-thick electrical metallic tubing or .035-inch-thick copper tubing.

Step 2

Design the frequency of the bell. A longer bell will produce a lower tune. For example, a piece of copper that is is around 1 foot long will produce a D. To make a particular note, refer to a tubular bell sizing chart. If you cannot find what lengths of bell will produce what frequency for your particular tubing material, or you do not have a particular frequency in mind, design a longer bell for a lower tone and a shorter bell for a higher tone. Write the length down that you wish to cut your tubing to.

Step 3

Mark the length that you wish the bell to be on the tubing; cut this on the pipe cutter. If you are making a particular note, cut slightly longer than the required length so that you have some space for tuning.

Step 4

Make a location for hanging the bell. A bell must be held and hung in a location that will not affect the vibration of the bell. On a tubular bell, this location is 22.5 percent down the length of the tube. Measure the length of the bell, divide the total by 100 and multiply by 22.5. Measure this far down from one end of the bell. Drill straight through the bell at this point exactly and tie a string through the hole. Play the bell by either holding it from the string or tying the string to a mic stand.

Tips & Warnings

  • For the bell to be a particular pitch, place a pitch finder near the bell while hitting it with the mallet. The bell will likely be flat if you cut the tube slightly long. Cut off very small amounts of tubing, test the pitch again. Continue until you get to the correct pitch.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images