English Handbells

Forum and repository for authors, arrangers and transcribers of music for english handbells

Handbell Notation Symbols & Definitions

Please see http://musescore.org/en/node/4800#comment-51632 for a discussion on and images for use in annotating handbell markings in MuseScore.

Comments (3)

RayW's picture


I have a 5 Octave set of Handbells. Unfortunatley my group is not into all this religious stuff, so I am trying to make up scores using piano selections and doing it in Musescore.

The problem is all the overlaps, ---middle C being in the bass clef, doubling parts, and octave higher doubling etc.

It would be good to have some discussion on "setting up" procedures, that would work for 2,3,4, octave arrangements.

How do you set up Musescore?
Can you rearrange from Photoscore? (saves a lot of work)

I would like to hear your views on what works and what doesn't


Mike Magatagan's picture


First-off, MuseScore is not optimized for Handbells. It is work every time I create a Handbell arrangement as I must "trick" the system into doing something it was not designed for. Although I am not an expert on MuseScore (or English Handbells), I have been working with the developers to provide suggestions that I hope will be realized in upcoming releases (please see: http://musescore.org/en/node/14974#comment-51995).

As you noted, Middle C (or Middle C# and below) is normally designated for the bass clef on handbells. MuseScore has a feature called "split staff" that may help in some cases. if you start with a piano score in MuseScore, you can select the top staff, choose "split staff", select 'C#3', and all notes lower that middle 'C#' will be moved to a new bass clef. There remains a lot of work to do but it is a good start. I'm not sure why MuseScore designates Middle 'C' as 'C3' when most would consider it octave 4 ('C4') and further complicate by the Handbell American Number System designation as 'C5' (please see: http://musescore.com/mike_magatagan/scores/39247).

Although awkward, Octave doubling can be accomplished in MuseScore rather easily by creating a new empty staff above the one you are wanting to "double" (e.g., 1-choose "Create-->Instruments-->Pitched Percussion-->High/Low Hand Bells". 2-Copy the original staff to the new staff. 3-shift the new staff up an octave by selecting all notes and pressing CTRL+UP Arrow. 3-Change the voice of the original staff to 2 by choosing "Voices-->Exchange 1-2". 4-Copy the new staff to the old staff).

I do not have a procedure for setting up arrangements for various octave ranges. This is something I have to do manually and by ear as simply adding and removing notes can change the depth of the piece and can result in “muddy” or “deserted” passages. I have developed a tool to at least validate my ranges once the piece is completed (please see: http://musescore.org/en/node/14211) for the plug-in.

I have never used Photoscore however, if it can export to XML or to .midi, then you might be able to import it into MuseScore natively.

Mike Magatagan

Musikate's picture

I've built a custom palette for handbell symbols. No guarantees. No tech help unless the question is particularly interesting. There are plenty of resources at MuseScore to learn how to use custom workspaces and palettes.
I would be very interested in suggestions, additional symbols to include, etc.
The link (which I'm not sure will work) is:

Login or register to post comments