New and refurbished ideas for LDS Primary Music Leaders (a.k.a. Primary Choristers)

Monday, March 19, 2012


A Complete 20 Hand/Desk Bell Set
(these are in order,
but both purple-red "B" bells
look more red than purple in the picture)
Thought I would give some info on bell sets. The Kids Play handbell set is the most commonly recognized bells and are color-coded making it easier for children who don't read music to know when to play their bells when using color-coded bell charts. Some common places you can purchase them online are at Kids Play, Rhythm Band and Amazon. You can also check out music and educational stores in your area.

You can either get hand bells as just hand bells or in a combo hand bell—desk set. The ones pictured to the left are the combo ones I purchased. They are a little more expensive than the regular handbells, but can be played two ways; by shaking in your hand and by pushing down the top button while the bells are standing on a table. Playing it as a desk bell is great if you are only having one person play them. I use them this way to demonstrate with sometimes or to have the children listen and name the tune. If you don't plan on using them in the ways I just mentioned, then for just having the children play the bells, you really only need the hand bells set.

There are 20 bells in the whole hand bell set; however, they do now have an additional 5 note super expansion set making the whole ensemble now 25 bells.  You can sometimes buy the whole 20-bell set or they are also sold in smaller group sets, which makes it easier on the budget if you are just starting out. Here is the breakdown of the various sets:

    This is a picture of just the handbell set of 8
    verses the combo hand/desk pictured above.
  • 8-Note Handbell Set: This is the basic starter set that gives you an octave of notes from middle C up to high C—middle C, D, E, F, G, A, B, & hi C. You will be able to play any songs within that range that do not have any sharps or flats. You will pay roughly around $40+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
  • 5-Note Chromatic Add-On Set: This may be the next set you may want to purchase to add to your 8-note set. This set includes C#, D#, F#, G# & A#. These bells will increase your playing options by allowing you to play songs with many common sharps and flats. Most sets come with black handles or sticker to differentiate them from the regular notes. You will pay roughly around $35+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
    • 13-Note Chromatic Set: This set is both of the above sets grouped into one. If you plan on buying both sets, you will usually save money by getting this combined set. You will pay roughly around $70+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
  • 7-Note Expanded Range Set: As its name implies, this set will greatly expand your range of songs to play. This set includes Low A, Low A#, Low B, Hi C#, Hi D, Hi D# & Hi E. You will pay roughly around $45+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
    • 20-Note Handbell Set: This set groups the 8-note, 5-note and 7-note into one complete set. With all 20 bells, you should be able to play just about any song within the average singing range. I've only seen the 20 set in the combo hand/desk bell set and you will pay roughly around $135+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
  • 5-Note Super Expansion Set: If you already own the set of 20 bells and you really want to increase your range of play, then you can get this new super expansion set which includes Low G, Low G#, Hi F, Hi F# & Hi G. Since most Primary songs are rarely sung using these notes, where these may come in handy is when you would play the descants or obbligato pieces. You will pay roughly around $45+ for the set depending on where you purchase them.
When using a bell chart, I like to use my dancing dot stick that I made from an old clear, acrylic Levelor blind stick (used to adjust the angle of the slates of the blinds) and a big, red plastic jewel blingy thingy that I glued on one end. You can use a dowel or something else. This is reminiscent of the dancing dot you see bouncing across your screen when you are doing a sing-along or karaoke. The kids like it and sometimes it is fun to let a kid help do the dancing dot.

Below and attached is a colokey for the hand bells.  If you want to make your own pipe chimes, as I mentioned in a previous post, you can use the colokey file to color-code your pipe chimes to work with bell charts made for hand bells. Please note that the sharps for bells (the bells laying down in the top picture) are denoted by a slightly lighter color of its note color with a black handle instead of a white handle for the hand/desk combo set. For pipe chimes, you could color code it the same as its note color but add a thick, black stripe around the top or middle of the pipe. Below to the left is also a list of the notes, numbers and colors in scale order for a complete 20 bell set plus the new 5-note super expansion set.

This pdf does not show the new 5-note super expansion set.
Click here for the pdf of this color key
Low G    Teal Blue
Low G#  Teal Blue
Low A     Blue
Low A#   Blue
Low B     Purple-Red
1   C       Red
1#/C#    Red
2   D      Orange
2#/D#   Orange
3   E      Yellow
4   F      Green
4#/F#    Green
5   G      Teal Blue
5#/G#    Teal Blue
6   A      Blue
6#/A#    Blue
7    B     Purple-Red
8    C     Red
Hi C#     Red
Hi D       Orange
Hi D#     Orange
Hi E       Yellow
Hi F       Green
Hi F#     Green
Hi G       Teal Blue


  1. Perfect! Thank you so much. I'm excited to start using the bells more. The kids love trying to use them without the color code, but this will make it so much easier.

  2. Wow! Thank you so much!! I've been wanting to buy hand bells but didn't know the details about the different sets. This is very helpful!

  3. On Dec 17, 2013 10:57 AM, "Renee Knutson" wrote:
    I came across your website and I was wondering if you would answer a question for me about handbells. I am looking to purchase a set of inexpensive handbells to use for my children and the children at our church. I found some sets for about 150 dollars. My question is is it better to get the colored handbells or the black and white handbells that look like piano keys? I am a music teacher and the children that will be using them are somewhat familiar with music and the piano keyboard. Thank you for your time. Have a Merry Christmas. 

    Sincerely, Renee Knutson

    1. Renee, I had the same question as you did when I was determining which set of bells I should purchase. It really depends on what your use and intentions are with them. For me, I determined that many of the primary children did not know how to read music or have any musical experience especially the little children and I wanted each child, no matter their musical knowledge, to have opportunities to play the bell, not just those who could read music. As much as I liked the black and white handbells and thought they looked more "adult-like" for performances and if I wanted to use them with older people, I ended up feeling like the colored ones would be more versatile for me in the long run since they could be used with the young children as well as adults. Little kids can more easily "read" color than letters or notes in a measure. The young children could be successful in playing their bells since they knew what color bell they had and knew to ring it when I pointed to their color on the bell charts. And the colors make them fun to look at too for the children. Hope that helps you as you determine what ones you want. I'd love to hear what you decided to do.

  4. Thank you Nalani for your reply. I did end up buying a set of colored bells (all 25). I just received them 2 days ago and brought them for the children at our church to use tonight. They LOVE them. The bells I bought were colored but had black and white handles to match the keyboard so they can learn about "black"notes too. I am very excited to use them more. Thank you again! Renee Knutson

  5. Hey! I looking into buying these for my primary - I am debating whether to buy the set of 20 hand/desk bells combo and then the super 5 pack extension, if needed... Or whether to get the whole set of 25 (but it doesn't look like the 25 set has the combo desk bell option). What do you think? Have you found yourself grateful for for that high and low G with the extra few bells? Or have you managed just fine going from the low A to the high E?

  6. I definitely prefer having the low G, for the many songs that use SO and if you play the Tonic and Dominant triads you will need 2 G's. I also like having the whole set because my own children and I play and improvise on them and use all of them. Enjoy your bells.

  7. I wonder if the companies plan it that way to get you to buy more! :-) Just wondering??

  8. Thanks! I was thinking the low SO (g) would be very useful - good to know you've used it a bunch. Now time to decide whether to get the set of 25 or the desk bells with the extension pack. And yeah, I'm sure someone in the company at one point was wondering that!

  9. If you ever check this...I have a question! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š Do you prefer the hand bells over the combination deskbells/handbells as far as SOUND goes? Which sound or play better? Can you tell a difference? I'd love if you can answer! Thanks!!