I would like to score a climactic moment in a piece as follows.... a 40 person chorus, (assume a professional adult group) will be singing fortissimo clusters. Can I expect two notes struck simultaneously on standard orchestra tubular bells to be prominently heard?

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    You could specify the type of mallet on the sheet music. Some tubular bell mallets have heads made from hard rolled-up leather, others heads are hard plastic. Leather-headed mallets produce a slightly softer attack than hard mallet heads. But best plan would be mark the part fortissimo and leave the percussionist to get on with it. Sep 22, 2023 at 11:43
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    Any other instruments playing at the moment? Sep 22, 2023 at 14:26
  • @AndyBonner probably a single cello and bass, but down in their low range so it wouldn't compete.
    – nuggethead
    Sep 22, 2023 at 18:13
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    Whether or not one sound drowns out another is not only about loudness, but also about in hwat respects they differ. Sustained notes of the human voice are very different from a metallic percussion sound; the bells should have no problem whatsoever. Sep 22, 2023 at 18:32
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    @leftaroundabout But that's conductors making the choice rather than the composer.
    – PiedPiper
    Sep 22, 2023 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


Tubular bells can be very loud. They can cut through a full orchestra, so what you are proposing should work.

For an example of this kind of writing you might want to listen to a recording of Leonard Bernstein's "Missa brevis" (for chorus and percussion) which uses bells prominently.

(particularly at 2:37)

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