Cows are arguably the first ungulates to have played music. No need to rub your eyes in disbelief, there’s every chance this is true – and you heard it here first. The musical cowbell commonly used in orchestral and Latin music first came from a cow probably known as Colin and what a fruitful life they’ve had since they’ve been detached from the free-roaming moo-machines.
Cowbells or Almglocken are often used in classical music, such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 or Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and can be played in a number of ways. They can be hung, hand held or mounted. You can also treat these as tuned instruments or simply play unpitched bells simply for the general noise created.
Another, and probably more popular style of cowbell, is the Latin Cowbell. These are traditionally hand held, but many percussionists prefer to have these mounted in order to do many things at once. The mounted option is commonplace for drum kit players, and can even be played with a bass drum pedal if the player wants to keep both hands free for other shenanigans.
Other bells along the same vein is the Agogo Bell. These are typically hand held, but mounts are available for these too for the same reasons as the cowbell. An agogo bell consists of two bells, one being a much higher note than the other which is…well…much lower than the much higher note. These are typically struck with a beater or stick and often maintain an ostinato throughout any given track which requires it.
Last but not least in this little section is the sleigh bell. Think Santa and his reindeer.