Arranger’s Toolbox 3: Bell Chords to Embellish

Hear the Clamour of them.

Hear the Clamour of them.

As arranger, you have free reign over what your singers will do — this can mean inserting a bell chord into the work when there’s no particular associated thing going on in the original.  In this sense, it’s a useful technique (gimmick) to pull out of your Bag Of Tricks, and use at will.  You might even be tempted to use bell chords all the time, since they make for such a good motive texture.  Here are a few examples of how I have used them over the years:

Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen (Free Arrangement Available)

I have already written up a complete analysis of this arrangement, but one use of bell chords in the TTBB intro is of particular note (har!):

Don't Stop Me Bells

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The interruption of the “dahs” with the sprinkled “din” syllable brings the bell out of the texture — just a small bit of bell chord can go a long way.

Mala Gente by Juanes (Free Arrangement Available)

In Juanes’s Mala Gente, a guitar solo gives way to a swelling accompaniment, and clever syllables in bell chord form makes for a hip entrance.  It’s fun to sing and demands attention, especially with a fp attack!

Nimma Noo

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Spit On A Stranger by Nickel Creek (Free Arrangement Available)

Finally, in a very exposed place in Spit On A Stranger as performed by Nickel Creek, some bell chords imply the type of fingerpicking used, without actually staying true to the notes in the original.  First, the original:

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The arrangement the Achordants sang follows:

spitend

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The bottom line is, if it’s not worth the time and effort to write and practice a delicate and difficult line (or if you’re working with beginners), there’s no shame in writing something like this: evocative but straightforward and easily digestible.  Bell chords are good for the belly!

Special Effects in Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers (Free Arrangement Available)

In the theme to Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers, there is a dramatic sweeping synthesizer arpeggiation in the chorus.  For these, “nimma” makes another appearance and is split between all four voice parts, including the basses.  It only hints at the original, but works rather well.

Original, followed by the TTBB:

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chipda

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Special Effects in Only You by Josh Kelley

Only You was only a small-time hit, but an arrangement of it contains an interesting effect that is worth mentioning.  Same drill:

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onlyyou

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Wrap-Up

Hopefully over the course of these three posts, I’ve done a decent job of showing what types of things can be done with bell chords and bell chord-inspired tricks — they are a tremendously versatile and useful tool in arranging that can serve you very well if not abused too terribly.  If you have any other examples, suggestions, ideas, or questions, please post a comment below!

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