bar chimes

Also:       mark tree      chime tree      wind chimes      

Title: demo: bar chimes; David Miller, percussion. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The bar chimes is a concussion idiophone of European or American origin used as an auxiliary percussion instrument. It is marketed under a variety of names. Composers occasionally ask for it in percussion ensemble works and even in orchestral and band compositions, but it is most widely utilized in music for film/TV and commercial soundtracks and in some genres of popular music. No special training is required to perform this instrument; professional drum set players will often include it amongst their auxiliary instruments.


This bar chime consists of thirty-six metal rods (this number can vary greatly between different models and manufacturers) made of tempered aluminum and graduated in their length. They are hung vertically in a single closely-packed straight row with monofilament line from a horizontal block of wood that is mounted on a stand. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A player sounds the instrument by stroking across the row of rods with their hand or a stick beater. This causes the bars to randomly concuss into one another and produce a shimmering sound that continues, while gradually decreasing in intensity, as long as the rods still come in contact with one another. Each individual bar produces a definite pitch, but because they differ in length the longer ones sound relatively lower in pitch than the shorter ones (from approximately C5 to F7; however, the scale is microtonal with intervals between consecutive rods being less than a m2). This gives rise to a glissando effect when the row of bars is brushed-over from one end to the other. And that is the basic sound of the instrument--a shimmering metallic glissando decaying in intensity over several seconds.


Holland (1978, p.106) states that the origin of this instrument is in the film music industry, but does not provide even a general dating for its invention. The 2014 edition of the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, however, dates the instrument to 1967 and credits Los Angeles musician Mark Stevens as its inventor. An increasing number of instrument makers have added it to their catalogs since the 1990s, and these companies appear to regularly increase the number of models (as differentiated by the number of bars, the material used for the bars, and the number of rows of bars) to satisfy the demands of their clientele.

Bibliographic Citations

Holland, James. 1978. Percussion. New York: Schirmer Books.

________. 2005. Practical Percussion. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.

Libin, Laurence, ed. 2014. "Mark tree [bar chimes]". GDMI v.3: 404.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: North America

Nation: United States of America

Formation: cosmopolitan (Euro-American)

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.42 idiophone--rod rattle; several rods are suspended vertically in a row from a frame; with a brushing motion along the length of the row, the rods randomly strike against one another

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: brushing

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: rod

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded collectively

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: concussing - indirect

Sound exciting agent: colliding sonorous objects

Energy input motion by performer: brushing

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


24 in. length (horizontal) 7.8 in. to 2.9 in. length of rods .37 in. diameter of rods

Primary Materials

cord - synthetic


Latin Percussion



Entry Author

Roger Vetter