Two of the questions I am most frequently asked are, “How often should we plan to have our bells serviced?” and “How much should our organization budget for the work?” Both are great questions and happily, the answers are quite simple.
Unfortunately, many bell owners believed when they originally bought their bells that they were “maintenance free instruments”. While handbells need far less attention than most musical instruments, it is wishful thinking to believe that any instrument is totally maintenance free. The finest grand piano ever made needs regular tuning and service. Million dollar pipe organs need adjustments, regulation and periodic tuning. A Rolls Royce needs an oil change every now and then, and yes, believe it or not, even handbells require occasional routine servicing. Having followed the activities of hundreds of bell choirs for more than fifteen years and servicing their bells on a repeat basis many times, I have developed the following recommendations.
Most sets of bells, regardless of make, need Basic Servicing at least every third year
or every 200 hours of use. Suppose each bell rings about 100 times per rehearsal. If a choir rehearses one hour a week and performs about once a month, that is an average use of about 5 to 6 hours per month. Multiply that times 12 months for three years and you’ll see that’s approximately 200 hours of use or about 20,000 rings per bell! Organizations with two or three choirs using the same set of bells can double or triple these usage estimates. Therefore, I recommend organizations with one bell choir plan to schedule their Basic Servicing every third year. Groups with two choirs should have their Basic Servicing every second year. And any entity with three or more choirs using the same bells, or any organization that uses their bells in an institutional or school setting where the bells are used daily, should plan to have their Basic Servicing performed annually.