Improving Expression and Accuracy with Handbells

Grade Levels: 9 - 12

Have students in grades 9-12 perform with expression and technical accuracy. They should have a large and varied repertoire of instrumental literature with a level of difficulty of 4, on a scale of 1 to 6. Meets National Content Standard 2.


Students will play handbells with expression and technical accuracy as they perform a Level 4 piece, demonstrating the solo handbell techniques of cross-over and weave.


  • “My Savior's Love: Medley with ‘And Can It Be’ and ‘I Stand Amazed in the Presence,’” arr. Christine Anderson (Nashville: Word/Nelson Music)
  • Handbells A4 to B-flat 6
  • Handbell tables with pads

Prior Knowledge and Experiences

  • Students have studied music theory.
  • Students have studied basic handbell technique.
  • Students have been introduced to cross-overs, R and L, and weave.


  1. Lay the bells out in keyboard order, with these exceptions: Place A4 between E-flat 5 and F-sharp 5; place E-flat 6 after B-flat 6. Explain the order of the bells to the students, noting that the bells are normally laid out in keyboard order, but exceptions are made here to facilitate playing.
  2. Review the cross-over technique with students. Then have them practice the cross-over at measures 13, 30, and 31 in "My Savior's Love: Medley."
  3. Review the meaning of R and L. Then ask students to change measure 25 from R-L to L and to play R-L in measure 26. Review the weave technique and have students practice weave at measures 25-26 and at measures 28, 32, and 59.
  4. Have students play measures 65-72 in the upper octave for effect. (Note: This change to the upper octave enhances the melody, creating a more interesting result than continuing to play in the lower octave.)
  5. Have students practice the piece until they achieve facility in ringing the bells. Then have them evaluate the accuracy of their playing and make any necessary corrections.
  6. After students correct technical errors and play the piece again, ask them to evaluate the expressiveness of their playing and suggest ways to make it more expressive. Have them play the piece a final time, concentrating on both technical accuracy and expression.

Indicator of Success

Using cross-over and weave techniques, students perform "My Savior's Love: Medley" on handbells with accuracy and expression.

Extension Activities

  • Have students memorize the music for "My Saviors Love: Medley," for ease of performance and more focus on expressive playing.
  • To help students gain greater facility in using the cross-over and weave techniques, introduce other music using these techniques.
  • Have students learn more difficult techniques, including "shelley" and "table damping." Introduce music that uses these techniques.

Standards Correlation

Standard 2a

: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

Excerpted from Strategies for Teaching High School General Music.

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Provided in partnership with NAfME

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