One of our recent projects here at Experimental Musical Instruments was Wind Chimes: Design and Construction, a how-to book on the making of wind chimes, with CD included.
The photos on this web page show a few from among the many and diverse sorts of chimes discussed and described, and you can hear some sound samples on the left below.
The uppermost photo is a set of bells made from fencepost caps, available at fencing supply places and scrap metal yards. The bells can be tuned (the book explains how), but it’s nicer to just rummage through a lot of caps of different sizes, auditioning each for pitch, and choose a set that harmonize fortuitously. Most fence post caps produce an attractive, clear bell tone.
The next photo is a fairly standard tubular wind chime. I’ve included this picture here partly just for the color of the surrounding blossoms (it’s not digitally enhanced!).
Tubular sets such as this can be tuned quite accurately to whatever sort of tuning you might wish. You can tune by ear, bringing your musical training to bear, or, if you don’t have musical training or don’t trust your ear, you can tune on the basis of tube-length relationships. The book has the how-to, including a chart of musical intervals and their corresponding length relationships for both just and tempered intervals.
The third photo is a close-up of another set of tubular chimes. You can see that these tubes have been squashed at the center. The squashing has the effect of making the chimes more rigid for vibrations in one direction than vibrations in another. As a result, each individual chime is capable of producing two pitches, depending on the angle from which it’s struck. As often as not, both pitches sound simultaneously and the chime harmonizes with itself.
Here are some sound samples taken from the CD that comes with the book.
First, a very basic set of tubular chimes that the book uses as an example or model, illustrating basic concepts in wind chime design:
These are bamboo chimes shaped in such a way that the air enclosed in the bamboo tube resonates at the same frequency as the bamboo itself, enriching the sound:
A lovely, randomly-tuned set of small copper pipes:
And a set of wind-activated bells made from short sections of steel and bronze pipe: