The Sound of Bells

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Dorking, Surrey, St. Martin, 10, 18-1-18 cwt in E

Recorded: WAH 27/10/98
Analysed: WAH (often)

These bells are a complete new Taylor ten of 1998, replacing the old peal described elsewhere. The bells are typical examples of the best modern work. Taylor's were kind enough to provide me with tuning figures for the bells, which I used during the development of Wavanal to validate it's output. The tower in which the bells hang is a little cramped - the weight of the new tenor was determined by the biggest ten that would go in at one level - and the inside of the tower is brick. However, the bells are at the base of a large spire and although there is a light roof above the bells for sound control and to keep the weather out, it has a large door in it which is currently kept open. The bells sound mellow and pleasant.

Bell Founder Tuning
1 - 10 Taylors 1998 -

Tuning of main partials

Tenor nominal: 653.5 Hz

Bell Hum Prime Tierce Quint Nom'l S'quint O'nom.
1 -2406 -1206 -913 -432 1603 683 1220
2 -2396 -1200 -916 -461 1390 692 1237
3 -2405 -1198 -899 -515 1201 684 1226
4 -2399 -1205 -915 -488 1100 704 1260
5 -2403 -1205 -906 -497 905 699 1251
6 -2402 -1196 -899 -505 702 701 1257
7 -2400 -1204 -907 -474 503 709 1276
8 -2399 -1203 -915 -505 404 713 1278
9 -2401 -1199 -893 -517 202 695 1251
10 -2404 -1209 -912 - 0 715 1284

(The figures in this table are all given in cents. For all partials except the nominal, the partials are given from the nominals of the bell. Cents of the nominals are relative to the tenor. Pairs of values indicate a doublet. Frequencies for the quint are often not given, especially if inaudible.)

Intensity plots

Here are the spectra of all the bells shown together:

Dorking new ten

and here is the tenor:

Dorking new tenor


The tuning of the hums, primes and nominals of these bells is very exact, as can be seen both from the tuning figures and from the combined spectrum. The least exact nominal - the second, which is a slightly closed up bell, with flat nominal and sharp hum - is only ten cents out. The tierces show a little scatter, and the quints a little more, but all in all these bells show a precision of which any tuner ought to be proud. There's nothing more to say about the frequencies of the main partials. The bells are tuned in equal temperament and there is no stretch at all across the peal.

It's not apparent from the information presented here, but the bells also have a long resonance time - they are distinctly audible 25 or 30s after being chimed. Whether this affects their sound rung full circle I greatly doubt, what with the clapper lying on the bell and a clapper stroke every two seconds. However, it's been suggested to me that this long resonance is a sign of good metallurgy in a bell, giving a satisfactory crystalline structure.

If there is something interesting to note in these bells, it's the strength of some of the high partials. The spectrum of the tenor is given above as an example - compare it with that given for Henfield 6th, which however was recorded from the ringing room. These high partials might cause some of the bells to sound 'brassy' despite their general melodiousness. Whether this is due to the bells or the construction of the tower is a subject for further study. The octave nominals in some of the Dorking bells are also quite sharp - that if the tenor, as well as being louder than the nominal in the plot above, is 84 cents sharp. Really, though, these are points of detail and ought not to detract from one's appreciation of these good modern bells.

These bells have a sister peal, the new ten at Douglas, IOM. The Douglas tenor is just 24 pounds heavier, and the bells were cast shortly after those at Dorking. Unlike these bells, the Douglas bells hang in a large stone tower, in a frame for twelve, with a great deal of room around them. When I rang on the Douglas bells I felt they sounded less aggressive, though one's memory can play tricks. I must go back with a recorder!


Last updated January 26, 2001. Site created by Bill Hibbert, Great Bookham, Surrey