How to Teach Handbells to Children

Handbells are a relatively easy instrument for children to learn to play.
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Ringing handbells, while traditionally a church activity, is gaining in popularity in both private and public schools. The activity gives children a chance to try a new instrument in a group setting while learning lessons about cooperation and how to read sheet music. While it can be pricey to purchase the bells, they can be used year after year by many different students. A set of eight bells can run between $50 and $75; the more bells you purchase, the higher the cost will be.

  • Handbells
  • White gloves for each child
  • Handbell music

1 Before Beginning

2 Purchase the bells

Purchase the bells. For children, the simplest bells will be eight-note, colored handbells, which can be purchased in many music stores, high-end toy stores or online. The bells are a different color for each note, making it easy for students to know what bell to play and when to play it. If you want more than eight notes, you can purchase expander sets that have higher and lower range bells. The more bells you have, the larger your handbell choir can be.

3 Purchase sheet music

Purchase sheet music. This is optional, but it provides a good way for students to learn to read music. If you have purchased the colored bells, consider purchasing sheet music that has notes of corresponding color. This is especially helpful for younger children.

4 Teach the children

Teach the children how to handle the bells. Gloves should be worn when handling the bells so the oils from the hands do not get on the bells; this can change the sound of the bells. Handbells are delicate, and should never be thrown or dropped.

5 Playing the Bells

6 Child

Determine which child will have which bell. Students should always have the same bell or bells so they don't get confused once they learn the song. If you have very large bells, give them to the largest children as the bells can get heavy.

7 Play the song for the children

Play the song for the children if you can find it recorded somewhere. If you can't find it played on handbells, play it on a piano for them. Helping them find the tune is important when playing.

8 Work through the song

Work through the song slowly ensuring that each student knows when and what note to play. Discuss how long to hold the note as well as how to stop the note short if necessary. You will need to go through it slowly many times; the hardest part is getting the students to know when to ring their bells, not slowing down the song or rushing through their notes.

9 Continue practicing until you

Continue practicing until you can go through the song over and over with no mistakes. Once they are proficient, they are ready to perform in front of an audience.

  • Introduce only two or three songs at a time. The more songs you introduce at a time, the longer it will take to master them all.
  • Make several different choirs if you have more interested students than bells.

Rebekah Martin is a freelance writer and tutor. Her work has appeared in various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Mississippi College. Martin teaches her young children at home and also teaches Sunday School to preschoolers.