Tubular bells are the modern equivalent of church bells. Each chime or bell is a metal tube the length of which determines the note. Most bells have a welded or braised cap at the top of each bell and it is here that they are struck using specialist hammers normally made out of rawhide although plastic or composite hammers are now becoming more popular.
Also known as chimes, tubular bells are normally manufactured in increments 1”, 1.25”, 1.5” and 2” diameter. The range of a conventional set of modern tubular bells is C4-G5 with a normal diameter on 1.5”. Chimes of a higher and lower pitch are available in 1.5” but below an Eb3 and above an A5, they suffer harmonically.
1” tubular bells are available and known generally as studio chimes. These bells are much lighter, do not generate the same volume as 1.5” models and have a reduced range. However, in certain circumstances they can be useful such as theatre pit work where space is at a premium.
2” bells, also known as bass bells, have a range from C3 to E5. These are popular as individual notes and specific notes within the orchestral repertoire such as the Four Sea Interludes by Benjamin Britten, Symphony No 11 by Dimitri Shostakovich and Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.
Current manufacturers of tubular bells are Adams from Holland, Musser from the United States, Bergerault from France, Majestic from Holland and Yamaha from Japan.