Improving the sound of the bells

An investigation into the varying sounds produced by the bells at Goldhanger was been undertaken In 2008. The reasons for undertaking this were...

o     The Ellacombe Chimes produce a quite different sound from the full circle ringing. The chimes are quieter but have much longer ring decay times and are generally produce a less harsh sound.

o     When individual bells were being put up for full circle ringing the harshness was very noticeable as the bells came to rest in the up position.

o     In comparison with the sounds at other local towers, it was evident that some bells of a similar size produce quite different sounds - some harsher, some sounding more dead sounding.

o     The cumulative effect on the sound of all bells ringing together at full speed is less obvious, however when the bells are all being lowered together, the change in tone and duration of the collective ring when all the bells are partway down is very apparent and perhaps the best demonstration of the phenomena.

It is well known that during full circle ringing, and for a proportion of the bell wheel's 380 degree rotation, immediately after the clapper has struck the bell, the clapper rests in contact with the bell in the up position resulting in two effects:

The clapper momentarily chatters and some harshness is generated.

Due to this time energy is lost, resulting in a shorter ring decay and a more dead sounding bell.

However, at the beginning of the study it was not known why there was so much variation in the phenomena between the different bells in the same tower.

There were two approaches to the investigation: 1) a study the relationship between the clappers and bells, and experiments with methods of raising the clapper away from the bell surface. 2) consultations with local experts and the study of relevant published material on the subject.

It was soon established that several methods of reducing clapper chatter have been proposed in the past, and one of the methods had in fact been implemented on some of the bells at Goldhanger, probably 50 years ago. A small soft metal pad, probably lead, was inserted near the worn striking areas on some clappers. These can be felt by hand, but are not visible when the bells are in the down position and the clappers are vertical.

However, the devices are worn and flattened and are only effective on one bell. This discovery meant that the problem has been recognised in the past and was significantly severe to justify a solution.

As replacing the worn parts would involve removing the clappers and possibly drilling out the old metal, this solution was not pursued. The alternative preferred was to devise a new method that could be easily fitted onto the clappers of the bells that now suffered the worst effects.

During initial tests it quickly became apparent that a small block of hard rubber strategically placed between the clapper and the bell provided a very simple, low cost and effective solution, and subsequent trials focused on ease of construction and fitting, and most importantly the durability.

The audible benefit of the device was most noticeable when fitted to one side of a clapper only to provide a contrast to the sound coming from the opposite side of the same bell. When tested on the lighter bells however, the benefits appeared less pronounced. When all bells that suffer from pronounced chatter were fitted with the devices the affect on the collective ring was significant and the consensus of the local ringers was that the devices were worthwhile.

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