A peal of bells consists of two or more bells that have musical intervals that are pleasing to the ear. The joyous sound of multiple bells ringing denotes a festive occasion in the church or community.
The varied effect has been called a joyful, tumbling sound, since the bells swing in no regular pattern, but rather in alternating rhythms and combinations.
The pealing of the bells follows various formats, depending on the number of bells available and music interval. Most common are harmonic, mixed or diotonic combinations.
Generally, pealing begins with the smaller bell, with each larger bell "catching up" until the largest and last bell is ringing. All bells swing and ring at their own natural rate, giving the peal that unique randomness and beauty not found in any other ring.
Bell peals may be rope operated but normally are supplied with electric bell swinging systems operated by clock controls. Exterior striking hammers may be added to peals to provide clock chimes, the hour strike and tolls.
Many peals are made of a combination of bells that will sound the traditional clock chimes such as the Westminster chime melody and hour strike. A typical musical combination would begin at low C and add three bells musical notes F, G and A.
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