The Bells

Sensorial Exploration of the Bells

These are two sets of identical bells showing the Major scale of C. The compromise a set of eight while bells, also called a ‘Keyboard’ mirrored by black bells and in front five bells on black stands mirrored by and five bells on brown stands. These are ideally left out on a bells cabinet, which allows the white bells to be kept by the wall as these are only moved for one exercise. There should be three mallets and two dampers. Damage and polish can affect the tone of the bells, the children can clean them with the duster.

How to carry and strike a bell

While this should be done in the Casa with one child at Elementary it is a good idea to show this to a group so that they are used consistently.

Tell the child, ‘These are the brown bells, we will play them, this is a mallet and this is how we carry it,’ (at each end between two fingers) and this is the dampener, we carry it like this, (hold it from the base) I will show you how we carry the bell (pick up the stem carefully, placing it on a flat open palm, supporting the stem with the other hand). I will show you how we strike the bell, (strike it once on the rim, hold the arm parallel to the floor from the elbow leaving the mallet loose and swinging) comment on how long the should can be heard. If I don’t want to hear the sound for so long I can use a dampener (bring the end of the dampener gently up to touch the base of the rim).

Invite the children to pick up, move and replace a brown bell to encourage them to connect with the material.


Show the children how to strike a bell and mimic the pitch or sing a short phrase.


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A writer on the bells has said,

The tone of the bell which is soft and gentle is an admirable accompaniment to the child’s voice…the children sing or hum very softly…to sing softly is usually an individual lesson which ends as a collective exercise. When it is done everyday the initial interest of the small group spreads until the whole group is interested and develops pitch. The bells allow for the appreciation of the diminution of sound, striking them in different ways gives more or less tone, striking softly makes a clearer sound.’

Matching the pitches of the bells

We match the pitches, building up a memory of the pitch and finally developing the ability to hold a sound in the abstract.

Play the brown bells in sequence. Take three brown bells at random (but not the first and the last as they are an octave which is difficult to distinguish). Place them in a different order in front of the brown set. Play one of the now-unpaired white bells and try to find it’s match amongst the isolated three, strike the white bell after each strike of the brown ones. When you find a match place it in front of the space it used to occupy. When all three have been paired test them with their pair as a control. Replace them. Play the whole sequence.

Invite the children to try. Later pair more than three sets and finally mix the bells with flats and sharps.

Games with Matching

Select a white bell, move it forward so you know it is selected. Play the white bells, pair them with the brown bells which are kept on a distant table.

Select a white bell, move it forward so you know it is selected. Play the white bell, walk around the classroom and then find the brown bell.

Select a white bell, move it forward so you know it is selected. Play the white bell, speak to a friend and then find the brown bell.

Select a white bell, move it forward so you know it is selected. Play the white bell, play all of the bells and then find the brown bell.

The Parade with Matching

This can be done with sixteen children, eight have white bells and make a line, the other eight have brown bells and face them. Another child plays a white bell and finds its pair, she invites them to stand together and she checks, if the pair is accurate the children holding the bells stand together at ninety degrees to the other children, the child continues till all are paired in any order. The child has a sensorial experience of the intervals.

Giving the Names

After the children are very comfortable with this given them the names of the tones that are culturally appropriate. Play a tone and give it’s name in a three period lesson, give two at a time, reviewing ones already done. Give none-adjacent tones so the child can compare.

Games with Names

The child plays a tone and sings it’s name.

Later after the sensorial impression has been given draw the children’s attention to the fact that the names are in the sequence of the alphabet.

Establishing up and down

Say, ‘I can play up the bells’, play three notes in sequence getting higher, ‘I can also play down the bells’, play three tones in sequence getting lower. Invite the children to try, they do not need to go in sequence.

Also let the child know the comparatives and superlatives.

Games with up and down

Relate movements reaching up and crouching down with the tones height, ask the child to move in relation to the way you play.


This is given after matching and singing the scale, the names are not necessarily known.

Play the brown bells ‘down’ and the white bells ‘up’. Isolate the brown bells, putting then to the front in a mixed order. Play the white bell ‘c’ and find its pair, move it in front of its place, and check before you continue. Match the ‘d’ in the same way comparing it to the white ‘d’, then continue by grading (comparing to the full sequence of paired brown bells rather than the white ones so you can anticipate the tone you are searching for). When all the bells are arranged check the sequence before replacing them to their usual position. Begin matching the ‘c’ and ‘d’ to work in a way which is familiar to the children before grading.


  1. Match only the C and continuing by grading.

  2. Use the brown bells independently from the white ones and grade without initially matching. First hunt for the ‘c’, taking the first bell in front of the others and playing it with each other bell, one at a time to determine if the first bell is lower. When you find a bell that is lower replace it in the line and continue using the new lowest to determine which is ‘c’. When it is found isolate it. Isolate the new ‘first’ bell and continue. Work like this with all of the bells and finally play in sequence as a control. The more the bells are mixed up the easier this is, when the sequence is nearly correct it is more difficult.

The Parade with Grading

This can be done with eight children each of who have a brown bell. Another child plays them searching for the lowest bell, she invites the child with the lowest bell to stand at one-side. Then she searches for the ‘next lowest’ At Elementary the children will also participate, organising themselves.

Games with grading

Place the brown bells in at a distance, find the lowest, put it on the bells table and go back to grade the others holding the tone abstractly.
Play a sequence of two or three bells and sing or hum the next tone in sequence.
Play a bell at one table and ask the child to bring you the next higher bell.

‘The next step for the child to distinguish differences and at the same time relations of stimuli is for the child to mix eight bells at random which gives them to find ‘d’, ‘re’ and so on, through the octave, one note after the other’ (p.365). **– Maria Montessori

As these exercises are sensorial and focus on sound we give much less language while doing these presentations even with Elementary children.

The Major Scale Pattern

This draws the child’s attention and gives terminology to a sensorial experience. Here we introduce the terms, ‘half step’, ‘whole step’ and ‘tetrachord’, the children need a well trained ear. We use cards to show the symbols for these.

Play two adjacent bells, saying, ‘We have left a space in between, this is called a whole step’, continue, the next two bells are also whole steps, the next two adjacent bells are half steps, play them, saying, ‘There is no space in between, they are really close together, this is called a a half step’, after giving a few oral examples do some laying the cards as you vocalise what you are doing, place the ‘whole step’ chords in front of these bells and the ‘half step’ card in between the half step bells.

Say, ‘In our scale sometimes we have whole steps and sometimes we have half steps’, do a loose three period lessons with the cards displayed so the children discover the pattern.

The scale has a symmetry divided it in half, four upper and lower four tones. Divide the bells into two groups

Say, ‘Our scale is made of two halves, they are called ‘Tetrachords’. The word ‘tetrachord’ comes from the Latin, ‘tetra’ means ‘four’ and ‘chord’ means ‘rope’. In each ‘tetrachord’ we have a whole step, another whole step and a half step. You should have a control slip so the children can do this independently

Games with half and whole steps

Play either a whole or half step and ask the children to either take a whole or half step with their feet.

Playing music with the bells

The children may spontaneously play songs with the bells that they know or they invent.

Games playing music

Play a song and invite the children to join you by singing, they can try to leave out the highest or lowest pitch.

We give the scale of C as it is the only which has no flats and sharps


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