[Bell Historians] Kemberton

Richard Johnston johnstonrh at rhj.org.uk
Mon May 16 16:52:26 BST 2022

Andrew A wrote:
>  If we have nominals for individual bells then anyone can interpret them
> as fits their purpose.? However, in terms of communicating this
> information then note names are more easily understood. And for that you
> do need to make some decisions.
> I would have thought that both A=440Hz and equal temperament are
> mainstream enough to be acceptable.? 
> There is a perfectly good system for
> expressing sharp or flat of a given note name and that is by using cents
> (one hundredth of a semitone).? That again is a well understood system.?
> So then the decision say between? G# and Aflat is not based on pitch but
> on ease of communication.? In this case the bells in a diatonic peal can
> be expressed in A flat without resorting to double flats whereas G#
> requires the use of double sharps and is overly complicated.? There are
> three major keys where there is some choice and those are C# (7 sharps) or
> D flat (five flats), F# (6 sharps) or G flat (6 flats) and C flat (7
> flats) or B (5 sharps).? I have never seen C flat used in preference to B,
> F# seems to dominate over G flat and there is a roughly equal mixture of D
> flat and C# (in terms of key notes of bells).??
> We also need to express the octave number of the note name as a search for
> "E" can bring out 18 cwt bells and 3 cwt bells!!
> Is that not a simple system which communicates well?


Equal Temperament has been the standard for 100 years, and is what is 
normally assumed in the absence of other information.  The Cents 
offsets are then clearly defined relative to those note labels.  

If you don't use that system, then there are huge numbers of 
possibilities for temperaments, and everything dissolves into 
uncertainty and confusion, especially if there is an attempt to 
describe rings according to some (conjectured?) original tuning 

Apart from such situations as ringing the front 6 of 10, change 
ringing bells are used only in their primary keys, and are usually 
only "more or less" in tune with each other (according to any desired 
temperament).  They are never used in "distant keys", and they do not 
have to fit in with other instruments.

For these reasons the previous discussions of temperament and the 
colour of different keys (when tuning starting from the key of C), 
interesting and very relevant as it is to conventional music, have no 
relevance in terms of description, and very little relevance in terms 
of how bells are used.  

Tuners can tune a set of bells to achieve any desired key colour, and 
perhaps they should be more adventurous in that respect.  

But for unambiguous *descriptive" purposes equal temperament is 
perfectly  adequate and universally understood.

Anything else must end with confusion.

Richard Johnston

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