Friday, December 20, 2013

DIY Musical Chimes for Christmas

We had such a fun Activity Days yesterday. We made a Christmas Family Home Evening lesson that the girls were each able to take home to give to their families. We also spent some time playing the musical chimes. We've had these chimes for a few years now. My sister Sheri was the first one to introduce them to our big family Christmas gatherings. We've been playing those same chimes for years and years at Christmas time.

Several years ago I decided it was high-time my own family had our own set of chimes. I got the information from Sheri as to the exact measurements of each chime, and we went to work.

We bought two 10-foot lengths of 1/16 galvanized conduit pipe that is 1/2" in diameter. We cut each pipe to the exact size, using the chart below. It is very important to cut the pipes exactly to the size specified, or you'll end up with some sharp and flat notes where you don't want them. (I may or may not have a pipe or two that needs filing down a little... but we still love to play them!).

After the pipes are cut down to size, we drilled a hole 1-1/2" from the top of the pipe, using a drill press. We then strung some nylon cord through the holes. We have to replace the cord every other year or so. The edges of the chimes are a little rough on the cords. This year, to make it festive, I strung tinsel pipe cleaner. We'll see how long that lasts.

At the top of each pipe, we wrote the chime number with a permanent marking pen (see the chart below), so that we know which pipe is which for various songs.

We also got the biggest nails we could find at Home Depot for the chime ringers. You can use spoons, or little wooden dowels with balls on the end, or whatever you think works best.

My sister sewed a great little storage pouch for the chimes, with individual spots for each chime to slide into. I may just do that some day, but in the meantime, I found a #10 can (coffee can size), covered it in copies of old sheet music, and that's what I keep my chimes in. I also have a smaller soup can that I keep my large nails in.

So, the sizes go as follows in the chart below. Remember, it's important to cut them very accurately.

Key Size Number
A 13-5/8" 0
B flat 13-1/4" 1
B   12-6/8" 2
C 12-3/8" 3
C sharp 12" 4
D 11-6/8" 5
E flat 11-3/8" 6
E    11" 7
F 10-5/8" 8
F sharp 10-3/8" 9
G 10" 10
A flat 9-6/8" 11
A   9-1/2" 12
B flat 9-3/16" 13
B    9" 14
C 8-5/8" 15
C sharp 8-1/2" 16
D 8-3/8" 17
E flat 8-1/16" 18
7-6/8" 19
F 7-3/8" 20
F sharp 7-1/16" 21

We have lots of pages of chime music written out with the chime numbers instead of the notes. That way, those who are playing each chime knows when it's their turn to chime in. I've also made some large posters so that when we have big gatherings, we can have several more people standing all together and they can look down to the chart to see the song as it is played.

All ages can participate pretty easily. When we use the big poster board, I usually go along with a pointer and point to each note as we go so that everyone knows where we are, and knows when their chime needs to be played.

It doesn't necessarily have to be Christmas music that you use these for. You could use them for any music at all. It is easy to transfer the notes to the pipe numbers using the chart above. It might be fun to use them at a family reunion, or any kind of gathering. It's a fun way to introduce music to the event without someone having to perform all on their own. I'm a big fan of that, since I don't really do solos in any way, shape or form.

These make GREAT gifts! We made them one year for various family members and friends, and they all loved them. And it's something they really can use year after year after year and make fun traditions with.

The Christmas songs that I have are:

Away in a Manger
Silent Night
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
The First Noel
Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem
What Child Is This?
Deck the Halls
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
White Christmas
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Jingle Bells
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
O Christmas Tree
Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Joy to the World
Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

I am happy to send you copies of the music that I have. Just post a comment below, specifying three (3) song choices, and I'll email them off to you.


  1. Cute pipe chime handles! We love playing pipe chimes for the holiday as well. We recently stumbled upon a site that has TONS of free Christmas and even LDS Primary pipe chime music. We now play our pipe chimes all throughout the year for family home evenings. Check them out if you'd like:

  2. I would love the music you have emailed if ya will. Thanks

    1. Can you let me know the songs you're interested in? Thanks!

    2. The first 3 would be great! Away in a Manger, Silent Night, and I heard the Bells on Christmas day. Thanks again!!!

    3. I just sent them off via email. Have fun!