One of the afternoon blocks at Trego School is music- I was talked into teaching a brief lesson on hand bells this past week. The older class typically spends two hours each week learning to play harmonica- and it actually sounds recognizable when they practice!
Hand bells are easy- playing the right note is as simple as picking up the right bell. This is made easier because each bell has the note written on the handle, and is colored by note.
I color coded the music as well- useful, as harmonica relies on tablature rather than reading notes. I’m always surprised at how quickly children pick up bells. The only consistent reminder I needed to give was to silence the bells after each note.
No more than an hour and I had a group of students working their way through sheet music, distributing bells, and working together to play complex songs. Hand bells have the virtue of being a group instrument- they force cooperation as very few instruments do. Each note is important, timing, patience, and cooperation are all essential. The success is a group success.
A bit of coaching, some reminders that mistakes are to be expected, and a harmonious class was had. One student decided that, now that he knew how the song sounded, he’d be able to play it on harmonica as well.
Elementary isn’t usually my preference, but it made for a very pleasant afternoon. And- the beauty of hand bells? They don’t need me to have that experience again. Those students have every tool they need to play bells together now- adults not required.