Is a bell tree a supported instrument?

Attached is a photo of what I could call a bell tree. It doesn’t seem to exist in Dorico’s instrument list under that name. Is it listed under some other name?


The Halion Sonic SE drum kits have a bell tree mapped to note C5.

Be that as it may, it doesn’t seem possible to add something called a bell tree to Dorico’s score.

:slight_smile: :slight_smile: this is an april fools day joke, isn’t it?
You can add this instrument. Take any instrument that is similar in the kind of notation and sound and rename it afterwards to your liking.

I guess that works as a hack. It seems like a very Sibelius-y thing to do though.

these softwares are tools for creative people i guess.
Michael, can you tell about the instrument bell tree? The picture does look impressive!

It’s a coloristic percussive instrument commonly used for accents. Very common in film/TV/game scores.

How is the bell tree normally notated, Michael? Are they notated with specific pitches? I would guess that you write a kind of glissando? If you have any examples of how things are written for this instrument that will help me decide how to set it up as a default instrument in Dorico.

I normally just put it on a single-line stave and use a slash notehead to indicate rhythm and duration of the gliss, along with a textual comment like “upstroke” or “fast downward gliss” and an LV. (The instrument doesn’t ring out very long so the latter probably isn’t necessary.) A single stroke gliss, or an up-then-down, is much more common than an ongoing swish like you’d have with a mark tree. But for the latter effect, I’d use a single note followed by up and down lines to indicate the general contour and speed.

As the video shows, the instrument can also be used akin to crotales, albeit with unspecified pitch. This is less common, at least in commercial music. For those situations you might use multiline staff so as to give a rough indication of pitch, a la toms. But I suspect a single-line staff will cover most situations.

There must be Bell Tree notation if one can find the charts for South Pacific.

So you would consider the instrument to generally be of indefinite pitch rather than pitched like crotales?

Yes; in that respect it’s akin to the mark tree. The video above gives a very good sense of the physicality of the instrument.

I’ve seen it notated as a vertical arrow with curvy bits along it The arrow head(s) indicated direction. This is not a new instrument, though perhaps more commonly employed by US composers. Look in Google images under bell tree notation. No specific pitches, just top down gliss or bottom up gliss. (Not as rude as it sounds!)


Maybe in the film charts (Alfred Newman), but as for the original stage show… you’d be surprised. Robert Russell Bennett considered even a harp glissando to be a cheap effect, and avoided writing it. (I know you were only making a joke, but this happens to be my area of research.)

Wait, this has become fascinating. What specifically is your area of research?

Example of bell tree notation:

I’ve written it two ways:

  1. As a single line with and up arrow for high to low and a down arrow for low to high.
  2. On a 5 line stave with cross noteheads to indicate a vaguely pitched rhythm up and down the bell tree.

Number 2 I would expect to use a workaround for.

Why an up arrow for high to low? Seems counterintuitive but that’s just me perhaps.

I took the question to a professional orchestrator who does a lot of film and television work. His answer is in the attached image. He said that single-line staff is also fine, though he finds that less readable.

Robert, I draw the arrows in playing direction on a single line staff - I’ve never had anyone play the opposite to what I’d intended. It’s not a weekly occurrence though… :wink:
On a five line staff, I’d be much less happy with arrows that didn’t track the pitch.