Glossary of Carillon Terms

action
The mechanism that transfers the motion of the keys to the clappers of the bells.  In a traditional carillon, this includes wires, usually stainless steel, that carry the motion to a bell crank.  The crank transfers this vertical motion to a horizontal wire connected to the bell's clapper.
adjuster
A turnbuckle device located immediately above each manual key.  It allows the performer to compensate for changes in wire length due to temperature changes, so that the clapper is always in the correct position, neither too close to nor too far from the bell.
baton
Another name for a manual key in a carillon keyboard.
bell
A cup-shaped, cast bronze percussion instrument, sounded by a clapper or hammer.
bell chamber
The space containing the carillon and its frame.  Also called the "belfry," although that name has to do with the Latin word for a lookout tower, not a location for bells.  The bell chamber may be enclosed or completely open, but it must have some openings to allow for the egress of the sound.
bell frame
The system of supports, usually either steel or wooden beams, from which the bells of a carillon or chime are hung.
bourdon
The largest bell in a carillon, sounding the lowest note.  The bourdon is the major factor determining the character of a carillon.  The word comes from a term for a musical drone (a continuously sounding low note, as in bagpipes).
carillon
A musical instrument composed of at least two chromatic octaves of tuned bells, played from a keyboard that permits expression by variation of touch.
change ringing
The traditional way of ringing five to 12 bells in England.  The bells in a ring are hung to swing through slightly more than 360 degrees.  When ringing, the bells are first swung until the ringers can hold them with the mouth of the bell pointing upward.  When it is time for the bell to ring, the ringer pulls the bell rope, overbalancing it, and the bell swings through a full circle, striking once.  The ringer stops the bell's swing in such a way that it stops and stays mouth up again.  In this manner, swinging bells can be rung in order.  The object of the exercise is to change the order in which the bells ring, producing "changes" in the pattern.
chime
A musical bell instrument composed of less than two chromatic octaves, but with at least one diatonic octave of bells.  That is a range of eight to 22 bells.  Chimes are typically American instruments.  They are intended mainly to play the melodies of hymns and popular songs, with minimal harmony.
chromatic
A chromatic octave has 13 notes including both the white and black keys of the piano keyboard.

chromatic octave

clapper
The part of the carillon action that strikes the bell, causing it to sound.  Clappers take the form of balls of cast iron or bronze on the end of a rod or shank suspended from a hinge or pivot called the clapper staple.  The staple is held by the bell mounting bolts.  In a swinging bell, the clapper is free to strike the bell as it swings.  In a carillon or chime, the bell is usually fixed to a beam, and the clapper is pulled against the bell by the action.  Some carillon bells are hung so that they can swing, as well.  In this case, the clapper swings free, and an outside hammer is used to play the bell during performance.  A clapper must be a certain portion of a bell's weight; for a heavy bell, some kind of assistance, either a counterweight or counterspring, must be provided for moving the clapper.  For light bells, the clapper will be too light to fall back from the bell rapidly enough to allow the bell to ring without being deadened.  In this case, a return spring is used.
clavier
Another name for the keyboard of a carillon.
concert pitch
When applied to a carillon, refers to an instrument that actually sounds the notes implied by the keyboard arrangement, as opposed to a transposing instrument.  While carillons may be in any key (see the Carillon Music page), carillon music is commonly written for a carillon in concert pitch.
console
Another name for the keyboard of a carillon.
counterspring
A spring attached to the action of a heavy bell in such a manner that it balances much of the clapper's weight.  It is used to reduce the weight or "touch" of the key.
counterweight
A weight attached to the action of a heavy bell in such a manner that it balances much of the clapper's weight.  It is used to reduce the weight or "touch" of the key.
damper
In string keyboard instruments, a part of the action that stops the string from vibrating when the key is released by the performer.  Dampers have been tried on carillons, but the mass and vibration modes of a bell prevent the kind of instantaneous cessation of sound required by music.  Bell dampers deaden but don't stop the vibration of a bell.
diatonic
A diatonic octave has eight notes using only the white keys of the piano keyboard.

diatonic octave

dynamics
Varying degrees of loudness or softness in a musical performance.
expression
Qualities the performer brings to a musical performance.
fifth
The fourth tone in the series of partial tones produced by a bell.  It sounds an interval of a fifth above the prime or a twelfth above the hum tone.
fundamental
The lowest tone in the natural harmonic series.  Also used to indicate the second tone, or prime, in the series of partials produced by a bell.  The octave of the hum tone.
hammer
Hammers are similar to clappers, except that they are mounted to the bell frame outside the bell and strike the outside of the bell.  Hammers are usually used when a chime or carillon bell is hung for swinging, since the free-swinging clapper can't be connected to the action.  Hammers are also used for clock strikes and automated systems.
harmonic series
The series of overtones produced by vibrating strings or wind columns.  They are caused by the various natural modes of vibration of the sound producer.  When the fundamental pitch of the sound producer is changed, as in tuning, all of the overtones change together.  This is not true of the partial tones produced by a bell.  For a more detailed explanation, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.
hum tone
The lowest tone produced by a bell, generated by the vibration of the entire bell.  An octave below the prime.
keyboard
Also called a clavier or console.  The part of a carillon by which the performer plays the instrument.  It consists of a frame of wood or metal containing the manual and pedal keys, the pedal action by which pedal keys pull down the manual keys, and the music rack.  The keys are arranged so that the black keys are higher than the white keys, as they are in a piano keyboard.  The performer sits on a bench in front of the keyboard.
carillon bell lathelathe
A machine tool used to tune bells.  The bell is turned upside down and placed on a rotating base.  As it turns, a precisely placed tool cuts metal out of the inside of the bell.
manual key
A key, connected directly to its bell, played by the performer's hands.  Each key is typically about two feet long and an inch square.  It is pivoted at its rear end, with a tapered, conical front end, six inches long, on which the performer plays.
minor third
The third in the series of partial tones produced by a normal bell.  This tone sounds an interval of a minor third above the prime, or a tenth above the hum tone.  It gives the bell its rather plaintive characteristic sound, and is not found in the natural harmonic series.  It also requires great care in the formation of chords.
nominal
The fifth tone in the series of partial tones produced by a bell; the octave of the prime, and two octaves above the hum tone.  Tuning this note tunes the strike note, the note that gives the bell its name.  This is usually the highest partial tone tuned by bell founders.
octave:
The interval between the first and eighth tones of the diatonic scale.  Notes that are an octave apart have the same note name.  This is the most consonant harmonic interval.
overtone
Usually used to refer to the partials of a musical tone that are harmonically related, i.e, are part of the natural harmonic series.
partial
All musical tones, except possibly those produced electronically, are made up of many tones, or partials.  These are not necessarily harmonically related.  Often used interchangeably with overtone.
peal
Usually used to designate three or more bells hung to be swung together.  Bells of different weights have different natural swing rates; when three to five harmonically related bells are swung, their changing patterns can produce a glorious sound.  Sometimes, several bells in the lower octave of a carillon are arranged to swing as a peal.
pedal key
A key connected by a transmission system to its corresponding manual key, which is played by the performer's feet.  The key plays the bell by pulling down the manual key.  Pedals are typically about 2 feet long, an inch wide and 2 inches high, and are pivoted at the rear end.  They have springs that prevent them from hanging on the manual keys and dropping when those are played.
prime
The second tone in the series of partials produced by a bell.  The octave of the hum tone.  The bell is named for this tone.  Sounds the same pitch as the strike note.
profile
The shape of a bell, the primary determinant of the bell's tone.  It is created by the shape of the casting mold and is adjusted in the tuning process.
return spring
A spring connected to the clapper of a small bell in such a way that the clapper is pulled off the bell rapidly, so it won't deaden the sound.
ring
Five to 12 bells hung for change ringing.  The bells are hung to swing through slightly more than 360 degrees.
strike note
A rather harsh, short-lived, metallic note sounding the same pitch as the prime.  Its pitch is controlled by the nominal.  The strike note is the strongest tone when the bell is first struck, but quickly fades, giving prominence to the prime.
transmission system
The action of a carillon or chime.
transposing instrument
A carillon that, for various reasons, actually sounds a different key than that implied by the keyboard arrangement.  See concert pitch.
tuning
The process of adjusting the profile of a bell so that the first five partials of the bell bear a harmonic relationship with each other, while at the same time, the bell is tuned to the other bells in the carillon.  Tuning is done by cutting metal away from the inside of a bell with a lathe.  Once tuned at the foundry, a bell needs no further tuning during its life, unless damaged by corrosion.