The Tones of Bells

| Chronological List of Carillons in the United States | History of American Bell Foundries | Import Tariffs on Bells and Carillons |

Early European bell founders including Jacob van Eijck and the brothers François and Pieter Hemony demonstrated the ability to precisely tune bells, but this knowledge was lost with their deaths. The efforts of Arthur Berwick Simpson, an English cleric, to understand why church bells sounded so bad led to his working with bell founders John Taylor & Son in Loughborough, England to develop the ability to tune bells. 

In 1925, Cyril F. Johnston of the bell foundry firm of Gillett & Johnston in Croydon, England, wrote that: "Tuning is the most important of the steps in the manufacture of a bell. The bellfounder of Holland and Belgium of three centuries ago endeavoured to control, with varying success, the harmonies that are in every bell."

The first tuned bells in the United States were cast by John Taylor & Co. in Loughborough, England and imported in 1899 by the  Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts in Ames, Iowa.  Originally a chime of 10 bells, this was was later expanded to a full carillon. 

Arthur Lynde Bigelow wrote in 1946 that the 1901 carillon at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Philadelphia was "the first tuned carillon to be installed in the New World."

1876 Music and Morals, by Hugh Reginald Haweis

1890 "On Bells," by Lord Rayleigh (J.W. Strutt), The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Series 5 29(176):1-17 (January 1890)

1895 "On Bell Tones," by A. B. Simpson, Nash's Pall Mall Magazine 7(30):183-194 (October 1895)

1896 "On Bell Tones, No. II" by A. B. Simpson, Nash's Pall Mall Magazine 10(41):150-155 (September 1896)

1897 Why Bells Sound Out of Tune and how to Cure Them, by Arthur Barwick Simpson

1901 "Bells and Bell Tones," by W. W. Starmer, Proceedings of the Musical Association 28:25-44 (December 10, 1901)

1915 "Bells and their tones," by George E. Allan, Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow 46:92-105 (1915)

1918 "Carillons:  The Art of Bellringing," The Times (London, England), July 27, 1918, page 9. | also here |
Every bell has at least five principal tones in it which can be accurately tuned. These principal tones are the Strike Note, Nominal, Hum Note (these three must be perfect octaves with each other, Tierce (minor 3rd), and Quint (perfect 5th)

1925 Beiaardkunst : Handelingen Van Het Tweede Congres 's-Hertogenbosch, August 14,-16, 1925
Pages 79-81: "The Art of tuning Carillon Bells," by Cyril F. Johnston of Croydon, England | pdf |

1925 Carillon music and singing towers of the Old world and the New, by William Gorham Rice | Also here |
Pages 225-233:  Bell Tuning
Pages 254-259:  Bell tuning from second carillon congress

1928 "The Vibrations of Bells," by Arthur Taber Jones, Physical Review 31:1092-1102 (June 1928)

1930 Carillon Music and Singing Towers of the Old World and the New, Revised and Enlarged, by William Gorham Rice
Page 380:  The Revival of the Art of Bell Tuning

1948 Campanology, Europe 1945-47: A Report on the Condition of Carillons on the Continent of Europe as a Result of the Recent War, on the Sequestration and Melting Down of Bells by the Central Powers, and on Research Into the Tonal Qualities of Bells Made Accessible by War Time Dislodgement, by Frank Percival Price

1961 The acoustically balanced carillon : graphics and the design of carillons and carillon bells, by Arthur Lynds Bigelow.

1964 Acoustics of Bells, edited by Thomas D. Rossing | Table of Contents |

1972 Campanology: A Handbook for the Carillonneur, by Leen 't Hart, translated by Hudson Ladd | also here |

2014 Singing Bronze: A History of Carillon Music, by Luc Rombouts | pdf of book |
Pages 173-176: Rediscovery of the art of bell tuning

© 2022 Morris A. Pierce