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Partial Frequencies and Chladni’s Law in Church Bells

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DOI: 10.4236/oja.2014.42007    3,901 Downloads   5,424 Views   Citations


The rim partials of a church bell (those with an antinode at the soundbow) generate the strike pitch or perceived note of the bell. The spacing in frequency of the higher rim partials has an important effect on the tonal quality of the bell. Investigations into the partial frequencies of 2752 bells, both bronze and steel, of a wide variety of dates, founders and sizes, show a simple and unexpected relationship between the frequencies of the rim partials. This relationship explains why attempts to tune the higher rim partials independently have failed. A modified version of Chladni’s law provides insight into the musical relationship of the partials, and predicts the partials of individual bells well, but fails to give a simple model of the spacing between the partials seen in bells with different profiles.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

A. Hibbert, W. , B. Sharp, D. , Taherzadeh, S. and Perrin, R. (2014) Partial Frequencies and Chladni’s Law in Church Bells. Open Journal of Acoustics, 4, 70-77. doi: 10.4236/oja.2014.42007.


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