Monday, January 16, 2012

DIY Montessori Bells and Bells Board(s)




Welcome!  I've declared it "Montessori Music Week" here at What DID We Do All Day?.  Each day this week I will show you a little more of our Montessori music materials.  Today I am excited to show your our DIY Montessori bells and bells boards.

I made our bells from two sets of children's handbells like these (from Hobby Lobby).


When I purchased these sets they were $15 each, but with two 50%-off coupons it only cost me $15 total.

This  set of bells from Neinhuis costs $979:



I used parts of a can of white and a can of brown spray paint that I already had lying around the house from making Montessori materials in general. And to answer your next burning question...NO!  Spray painting the bells does not change their pitch.  I know you don't believe me, but it doesn't.  I am a professional musician.  I started by spray painting ONE of the bells from ONE of the sets.  This way I could play a sprayed bell and an un-sprayed bell to compare the pitch by ear.  I also have checked them all with my professional quality tuner and they all still register in tune at A=440.

I taped the handles with painter's tape to maintain their existing white color.  I chose not to spray the underside of the bells.  This serves as an extra (but unnecessary) control of error in that the child can check their matching work by turning them over.  I've asked my kids not to peek underneath and they generally do what I ask when it comes to that type of thing.  If your's can't resist the urge to peek, you could tape the clapper with painters tape and spray the underneath as well.

Some bell sets also are numbered (1-8) and have that number engraved on the top of the bell.  Ours did, so I filled it with wood putty (just smeared some in with my finger) before I sprayed them.  I considered just leaving it alone because the numbers are pretty small and difficult to notice on a sprayed bell.

Here are the boys finishing up matching some brown bells to the white ones.  Me Too is still working on matching.  Kal-El finished all of the matching activities and extensions over the course of two work periods and is now working on grading the bells.


Bess at Grace and Green Pastures has outdone herself and transformed the same bells that I bought into bells on stands just like the real thing.  If you have the patience and resources, this would be a great option:






The Nienhuis bells boards are usually made of wood, come in two pieces and look something like this:



Note:  all of the suppliers photograph these upsided down for some reason.  If you are making them yourself please note that the green goes in back so that you build your keyboard in the right direction. I made ours in one piece from a couple of yards of felt in green, white, and black.  I measured my bells and then cut appropriately-sized squares from the black and white felt.  They are joined the green felt with Stitch Witchery (I can't use a sewing machine.  Yet.). You could use liquid stitch (or sew it properly with a machine) but I find that liquid stitch shows through thin fabrics like glue does when you glue tissue paper.

NOTE:  (added 1/24/12) I may choose to cut my felt "board" in half at a later date in able to properly present the "tetrachord."

We currently have this material laid out on the window seat because I don't want to have to set up the white control bells each time the boys want to use this.  


When they can both successfully grade the bells themselves it they will be moved to a shelf to save room in our homeschool setting.  The bells will go on the tray you see to the right of the bells.  The felt "board" can then be rolled and stored in a very compact manner with the bells.

I'm sure you've noticed that I don't have the black bells.  They ARE available.  You can buy one set of the 5 missing chromatic bells for $30:


 Remember, you would have to buy two sets.  I have decided NOT to buy the chromatic bells, at least for now.  I have looked through all my bells presentations and I found something like 50 presentations that use only the white bells, and 4 or 5 that use the black.  I decided not to shell out an extra $60 to do those few presentations.  The child eventually learns to build a major scale with the bells, but you can only build the C major scale anyway because you only have one octave of bells.  Elementary Montessori students graduate to the tone bars:



I plan to substitute a good set of resonator bells instead like these: Resonator Bell Set



Each individual resonator bell can be removed, carried around, reordered, etc., unlike a xylophone or glockenspiel.  They cover an two full octaves which now allows you to play in any key and construct any scale.  The resonator bells cover G-to-g rather than C-to-c like the Montessori tone bars so I will have to adjust my accompanying materials a bit but I think it will be a good compromise.  You can buy a resonator bell set for about $160 if you shop around.  The $60 I would have to pay for the chromatic handbells seems like it would it would be better put towards the resonator bells. (Update 2/12:  I did buy a set of resonator bells for future use and they are great.  I was able to pick up a set for $145 on Amazon.  Trophy, Basic Beat, and Rhythm Band brands are less expensive than Suzuki brand.  You do not need wooden resonators, plastic resonators are fine)

Stay tuned this week for more music materials!  I'll show you our  Montessori music manual, our notation materials, and the other instruments on our shelves.

If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!


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34 comments:

  1. Oh wow! That is what we did, although we left one set colored and painted the other set black (used the Schylling bell set). I did not make the matching boards so that may get added to my list of projects. I can't wait to see what else you have in your music area. I'm finishing our music area up and can always use more ideas. Thanks!

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  2. This is great! I am so glad you are posting about this. I have no music area at the moment (I know, how aweful is that?), This is becuase I honestly have no idea where to start when it come to music. I am not a musican, I dont play anything, I cant read music (well not much) and I have no idea what half of the musical words in you post mean! lol I guess I need to study up! Any help you can offer will be much apprciated and used! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  3. I bought the same hand bells and they weren't quite in tune, it annoyed me so much I had to take them off the shelf. Maybe I just got a dud lot?

    This looks so great, I am looking froward to seeing where you go next!

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  4. Impressive! I will likely refer back to this post in a year or two!

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  5. Pure Genius! This work will be on our shelves as soon as I get the paint. For the life of me, I couldn't find the way to use the bells the way I wanted to. Looking forward to seeing what manual you are using. I couldn't find a Montessori music manual at all! Ken and DJ said THANK YOU!! The preschoolers are going to go crazy.Thank you so much for sharing.

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  6. I second the comment on "Pure Genius." I like that you transformed the sets into two solid colors for the control and working sets! And your presentation looks lovely, downright professional.

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  7. Thanks for this post! I already have one set of those bells and we love them. Now I have a reason to love them even more!

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  8. I am so excited to see this post!!!
    I have been looking for diy ideas for these...thanks so much for sharing this!!!

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  9. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is awesome - Thanks so much for sharing! I can't wait to get started on ours....

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  10. Totally agree with "Pure Genius"! What an exciting option for homeschoolers! I LOVED the Montessori bells as a Montessori teacher, but they really aren't practical for homeschoolers. Your option is!

    Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and pinned it to my DIY Sensorial Extensions Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/diy-sensorial-extensions/

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  12. I love the fact that you made these yourself. I am totally impressed. Can you strike these bells with a mallet to get the sound? Im guessing these are the ones you shake. A large part of the bells curriculum has to do with striking the bell. Im pretty particular about Montessori materials only because they are made for particular reasons. I still think this is a great idea, but in order for you to really teach what Montessori intended, its extremely important that you can strike the bell with a mallet and that it have only one sound that lingers.

    I agree, that the bells from the Montessori companies are out of control. Who has $2000 to burn just on one thing in their classroom? Im open to other ideas of how you could make these but make them in the way that they were intended..

    To Mama Bear, you should paint yours differently if you aren't going to make the control board that they sit on. On the original bells, the base of the bell itself when aligned serves as a control board. This part is important because it serves as a way of teaching intervals on the staff and mimics the piano keys. Thefore you need one control group (all one color not black or white) and then the second group should be black and white mimicking the piano keys.

    To Discovering Montessori:
    You won't find any really good manuals because you have to be trained in the Montessori Music Curriculum. You can buy something from either Nienhuis or the Juliana Group but those guys take forever to send stuff. Check out their websites. AMI trained teachers get it as part of their training as the AMI folks (and Maria) believe you don't need an outside music instructor. There is a weekend summer training available (which a lot of AMS trained teachers go to) by a woman named Marcia Perez. She is on the east coast in MD. Another person to contact can be found here http://www.wcsu.edu/music/faculty/Matilda_giampietro.asp

    Or, find a teacher who is trained and have them show you. I have a whole notebook filled with the bell and tone bar curriculum, someone could xerox it or you could have your school pay for a trained teacher to come over a weekend.

    Lastly, this should be kept to a one person work. Another child can observe, but only one person should use it. Also, don't skip any steps of walking with the bell, using only one bell first, listening to how long the ring is, singing with the bell etc...Once all those things have happened, you can get into pitch matching etc.

    While my comment is long and particular, I want to end by saying, Im so happy that the classroom teachers are making the effort to make the music portion of their classrooms important!

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  13. Courtney,

    Thank you for your comment :)

    Yes, the bells CAN be struck with a mallet. We used a mallet in our earliest exercises. The boys prefer to just shake them now. I'm comfortable with the compromise due to cost and the fact that they will get even more of the "mallet" experience when we add the tone bars. Having a xylophone around also fills the gap. It's not perfect but it's good enough. If one choses to use a mallet with these, be sure to use a rubber-covered mallet (these come in hardnesses, get a soft one) so that the paint stays on!

    Also, for those who are wondering, the Jean K. Miller album does give presentations for all of the details that Courtney is talking about (walking with the bell, striking the bell, listening to how long the ring is, etc.,).

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  14. Annicles,

    I think I've bought 12 sets of these over the years and I've never had a set that was noticeably out of tune. Either I've been lucky, or you were unlucky :)

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    1. Have you always gotten them at Hobby Lobby, or do you know somewhere else you can get them (for less than $50)??? Do you think all the brands would be about the same? The Rhythm Band and Kids Play sets I've found on Amazon have been at least $50, but there is a Schylling set for $35. Still not as good as getting 50% off $30 though!
      Thanks!
      http://somelittlebugs.blogspot.com/2013/06/purchasing-bells.html

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    2. Mel,

      Blogger REALLY thinks your comments are spam. I just found this one buried in the spam folder. Sorry. I know this is too late to help you, but I'll answer in case someone else has the same question. I've also bought these at Michaels and Tuesday Morning for the super cheap price. I bought many sets through West Music or Kids In Motion over the years. I think they are $37 right now at West.

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  15. This is great! We got our son an inexpensive keyboard recently, and my hubby said "I wish we could teach him the scales!" And I said, "In Montessori we teach them with the bells!" and then I remembered how expensive and unaffordable they are! But your DIY has given me hope, plus our son has Down syndrome and the Montessori DIY bells would be something he could really learn music from! And it's affordable for us! Thanks for sharing!

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  16. This is fantastic! I come from a very musical family and really wanted to teach my sons, but $1000 for bells just isn't in the budget. I have just ordered these bells and will be making the "board" this weekend. I appreciate the detailed technical information such as the effect of paint on the bells (none) and resonator vs chromatic bells.

    I am loving all of your DIY ideas. If you ever have something that must be sewn, I'll trade you sewing for Montessori music ideas. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  17. Thank you so much for all the music posts! They really are just perfect. My husband studied piano for YEARS so he always notices when things are out-of-tune... and he lets me know it over and over until the offending instrument is taken away. So, thank you! You have shed some much needed light on the subject.

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  18. Hi, did you see what these folks have done with the colour bells,
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/SALE-MONTESSORI-SENSORIAL-Bells-Set-WOODEN-Stands-EDUCATIONAL-MUSICAL-TOY-/230682602019?pt=AU_Toys_Hobbies_Educational_Toys&hash=item35b5c12a23

    I'm thinking of combining your work and their work to make the bells. What do you think?

    Thanks,
    Tracey

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  19. Tracey,

    No, I wouldn't. Those Ebay bells are $120 for ONE set. You'd be in $240 with work left to do. Or, for less than that you could buy a discounted set of real Montessori bells elsewhere, such as here for $150 (I imagine the shipping to get them to where you are would bring the price up a lot, but still not as much as the Ebay ones):

    http://www.afok-toys.com/product.php?productid=431

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    1. Have you had any experience with AFOK toys? I was interested in getting this bell set but after dealing with allison montessori, I am weary of buying from chinese manufactures without proper american customer service personell. What do you think?

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    2. It's always a risk. I've never personally ordered from AFOK toys.

      I don't know what you mean about Alison's. They have one of the few brick and mortar Montessori stores in this country. I have dealt with their customer service before and always talked with an American in New Jersey. However, I haven't called their customer service recently. I order VERY frequently from Adena and talk with someone of Asian decent (English as a second language) presumably in California. I've had an issue with every order I've ever received from them (a dozen at this point) but I was always able to satisfy the problem with either replacement or further discount by phone within a few days. That said, the e-mail communications always went more quickly and smoothly because there is less of a language barrier.

      I do know that Mel at the blog http://somelittlebugs.blogspot.com/ just ordered these bells and it is going to take a couple of months to get them. Maybe keep in touch with Mel.

      I have been VERY happy with my homemade set.

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    3. I just bought the bells from AFK and they seem nice so far. I haven't checked to see if they are perfectly in tune yet, but so far so good. I like that they are on stands and they come with mallets. They ended up costing $203 with shipping and Paypal fees. It didn't take as long to get them as I expected, maybe 2 weeks. I tried to find the super cheap ones, but everything I found ended up being $50 a set, so it would have been about $120 for me to make them :(

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  20. Tracey, these bells are meant to be played by pushing the button, but are on a stand and could be hit with a mallet instead. And, they are about the same price as the bells I used. Two sets would only cost about $60:

    http://www.amazon.com/Musical-Instruments-Rainbow-Colored-Children/dp/B003LRI7YU

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  21. Tracey, One more thing, one of the review on Amazon said they were horrible and out of tune (on that last set). I've seen them used in classrooms and they were NOT out of tune...I don't know if that was a fluke or not. Rhythm Band is another brand that makes them Just put "desk bells" into the search engine at Amazon and you'll see all your options.

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    1. I've been auditioning desk bells on Youtube. With these ones, the notes don't sound so precise(could be the recording quality).
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErVNiaKhrHs

      These ones sound really good on Youtube, but does anyone know where to buy them?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAfcz-5X_Yk

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  22. wonderful. really excellent resourcefulness. thinking of making a set for our toddler program.

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  23. wonderful. really excellent resourcefulness. thinking of making a set for our toddler program.

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  24. Just curious, how long did it take your boys as primaries to get through the initial bell presentations, like grading. (The lessons before the notation?) I am trying to figure out how quickly I need to make the other materials that go along with the notation part.

    Also, I found in Elizabeth Papandera's primary album that her article about the bells says that they are only some of the lessons, and that there are many more, but the author doesn't elude to what. I think you got the instructional booklet from Nienhuis, but do you know of any other albums or publications that include a more complete sequence/set of lessons?

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    1. This is not what you want to hear, but...about at day? They *still* will repeat the grading though. My kids went through the music presentations like your kids go through the math presentations, LOL!

      I don't know what is in Elizabeth's album in order to say what's missing? I felt like Jessica's music album is really primary/elementary. It had basically everything in it that the Nienhuis album did and more, because the Nienhuis album purposely eliminates the tone bar lessons to save them for elementary. So, compare Elizabeth's to Jessica's and see if anythings missing. If I get time later I'll try to scan you a copy of one of the pages.

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    2. Okay, I just skimmed that section of Jessica's while holding the Nienhuis and she has everything listed. Sometimes she calls the extensions "games."

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  25. I know this is a SUPER old post, but I just found these http://cdn.opentip.com/Musical-Instruments/Kids-Play-Rb-Note-Black-White-Handbells-p-3592034.html?gclid=Cj0KEQjwztG8BRCJgseTvZLctr8BEiQAA_kBD9_MIpdXfxSeeh7Ky0-JmOD5MXm2Bm8ypsQnQze6jjkaAmQp8P8HAQ ( a 25-note set of handbells that are already painted white and black). Would this set be suitable for both primary and elementary? I could take away the bells that aren't necessary for the primary and add them back in for elementary, no? Please advise. Thanks! I love you blog, by the way!

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