[Bell Historians] Note names (was Kemberton)

bill at hibberts.co.uk bill at hibberts.co.uk
Sun May 15 15:53:45 BST 2022

I have been following the debate on note-names with amused detachment,
trying to understand why it matters :-) Tim Jackson's explanation of the
rules traditionally adopted by Dove sounds about right to me. All that is
required is that someone with a moderate appreciation for music can look at
the notes given for a peal and see there is a musical scale. A scale of Bb
is easier to appreciate than a scale of A# because there are less


As someone who I suspect spends more time than many analysing bell partials
(around 300 bells in the last month alone), I never bother too much with the
note names shown in Dove, any reasonable scheme seems fine to me.


As regards Andrew Wilby's question about the rationale for A=440, it is an
old source, but Alexander Ellis' paper on The History of Musical Pitch in
Europe, on pp 495 onwards in my 1954 edition of Helmholtz 'On the Sensations
of Tone' gives values for A based on historical instruments and tuning forks
from around 380 (Low Church Pitch) to 505 (Highest Church Pitch). He
explains that originally pitches were quite low (Handel's A fork was
422.5Hz) but then in the 19th century pitches of military bands started to
rise to make regimental music sound brighter, until, as Ellis says 'The
mania spread throughout Europe . . . [and] reached A=448 at the Paris Opera
in 1858, and the musical world took fright'.


For bells, except possibly carillons, of course the absolute pitch standard
is irrelevant provided the bells are all in tune with each other.




Bill H






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