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Next Percussion Project: Saucer Bells

I was looking around at Steve Weiss and found these Saucer Bells. These are inexpensive brass bells tuned chromatically from C7 to C8 (the highest octave on a typical glockenspiel or xylophone). Unfortunately, I found they are difficult to play on the string they come delivered on. So I set out to find a stand for them to be set up in a keyboard layout… and didn’t find anything, so I decided to build my own. Apparently, others had the idea before me. Not too surprising.

Originally, I was going to use a 3″ × 36″, 3/16″ thick flat bar of plain steel from Home Depot (which I later talked myself out of), and use #6 machine screws as posts (2 inches for the 8 white keys and 3 inches for the 5 black keys). I was planning to spray paint the final piece of hardware with Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze, like my newly completed chimes stand. However, I ended up changing my mind, because I didn’t want to have to deal with the pain of hacksawing the bar to 24″ (or finding someone to help me). Instead, I found a 3″ × 24″, 1/8″ thick piece of Zebrawood that I plan to use instead of metal. Zebrawood is very hard and very dense, so I am hoping this will be strong enough for the task, even at that thinness, because it will be much easier to work. I will finish it will a clear coat, so it will look nice and pretty too.

I haven’t received the Zebrawood yet, but here are my “plans”.

You might be wondering… why? My tentative plan for these bells are to be a substitute for crotales.

Forgive me for playing them upside down. I was holding the camera with the hand I would have held them with. I’m also using the included tiny mallet, not what you’d typically use on a crotale.
They’re not a perfect substitution; they cost less than 1/10 the price of a Sabian high octave crotales set, but the overtones are somewhat different. I also think it would be more difficult (impossible?) to bow these bells.
In actuality, I’ve never played a set of crotales before. Pensacola State College has crotales, but in other cases, I’ve simply never had any to play. I’ve had few crotales parts before, and I’ve just played those parts on glockenspiel with brass or aluminum mallets. I think these will work much better, and I think the sound difference will be marginal, especially at a distance.
Maybe someday Weiss will sell a lower octave of these.
I’ll update again when I’ve completed the project.

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