From the dulcet tones of tubular bells and haunting echoes of bamboo, a breezy day is all takes to make a beautiful melody with wind chimes, but how do they make their magic? Let’s find out.
What are Wind Chimes?
Wind chimes are more than just decorative. They’re percussion instruments like any other and have been used throughout the centuries for a range of purposes from scaring birds away from crops and frightening malevolent spirits to attracting good luck and enhancing the flow of chi.
Chimes create what is known as chance music because the series of tones they play are guided only by the direction of the wind. They’re made from a variety of materials suspended from a string that when stirred by a breeze, strike a centerpiece causing the materials to vibrate and produce their characteristic sound.
Wind Chime Anatomy
Wind chimes have four essential parts:
- Suspension Cords – These are the strings that holds the chime together. They meet at the top in a pyramid shape equipped with a hook for hanging. A single center cord holds the centerpiece and sail.
- Suspension Platform – This the round circle of material through which the suspension cords flow, holding the tubes or other media beneath.
- Clapper – This is the center piece that strikes the tubes. It’s typically round to ensure consistent contact.
- Sail – The sail is the decorative piece of material that hangs from the center cord. It’s weight provides lateral stability and in part determines how much wind is required to move the chime.
Each part of a chime plays a role in its function, but the feel of the sound they make is mostly the result of the kind of materials used to make them.
The Magic is in the Materials
The most familiar type of wind chimes are made using metal tubes, but creativity knows no bounds and the variety of sound-producing objects that can be grouped together to make a chime are nearly endless.
From traditional fine-tuned tubular designs to artisan-crafted creations made of recycled flatware, tin cans and keys, chimes can make a range of sounds from energetic to serene. The choice is yours.
Here are some common types of wind chimes and the kind of sound you can expect from each:
- Metal – Unlike other materials, tubular metal chimes can be tuned to produce specific notes. When struck, they vibrate more than other materials and their sound carries further. When grouped together, a well-tuned metal chime makes a gentle, harmonious sound.
- Aluminum – Better chimes are made of aluminum because of it’s superior vibration, but copper and brass are becoming increasing popular and have a similar, but softer sound effect. Quality steel chimes can keep pace with aluminum, but inexpensive steel chimes tend to produce a harsh sound that’s more clanking than musical.
- Bamboo – Bamboo tubes are hollow and create a mellow echo when struck, but the hard exterior also contributes a clear clank. The two sounds together make a balanced, subdued tone.
- Glass – Glass chimes make a light, musical tinkling, but because it doesn’t vibrate like metal tubes, the sound doesn’t carry as far.
- Clay – Clay wind chimes produce a wide range of tones, depending on the density of the material. Light clay produces a high pitch, nearly hollow sound while dense clay produces richer tones closer to metal chimes, but without the long-lasting vibration.
Other popular materials include:
Stoneware and more.
What Makes a Wind Chime Great
The sound a wind chime makes is a matter of preference, but there are few features that help better define the type of tone and performance you can expect. Here are a few tips to make a selection easier:
- The larger the number of tubes or other media, the larger the number of distinct tones it can produce. Long tubes make rich, low-pitched sounds while short tubes vibrate at a higher-pitched frequency.
- Sound from hollow tubes carries further than that from solid tubes.
- Heavier sails take more wind to move and won’t make as much sound as chimes with lighter sails. Their substantial weight also make cords less prone to tangling in high winds.
- Depending on the materials it’s made from, chimes can be heavy or light. Consider the weight when looking for safe places to hang it.
- Cords are vulnerable to the elements. Materials like nylon weather rain and snow better than cotton.
- Think about your neighbors and when you choose a wind chime. Sounds from metal and bamboo chimes carry far.
- Chimes using stained glass and crystal reflect sunlight beautifully.
Wind chimes add a dimension of sound and a unique spark of decorative appeal to any space. Let one bring a bit of magic to yours.
Garden Lovers Club’s Top Picks for 2018
1. Woodstock Amazing Grace Wind Chime
If you like the song “Amazing Grace,” then this wind chime, which is tuned to the opening notes of the song will be a perfect addition to your garden. The wood on this chime is made of a beautiful cherry, and the finish that is on it makes the grain of the wood stand out. The tubes are made of aluminum so that they can produce a beautiful sound in the wind, and it is coated with a weather resistant coating as well.
2. Beautiful Handmade Capiz Wind Chimes
This beautiful wind chime was hand-crafted in Capiz, which is a coastal, Indonesian village. Shells from the coast are used to create this breathtaking chime that is unique and brightly colored. The shells are flattened into circles and squares that are red, pink, purple, green, blue, yellow, and orange. No matter which plants you grow in your garden, this wind chime will match the blooms, but it will look best hanging from a porch or a patio.
3. Woodstock Pachelbel Canon Silver Wind Chimes
For a longer set of chimes, this 32-inch option will look great amongst your hanging plants. The main chimes are silver, but there are four smaller black tubes between the chimes that are designed to help create tones from Johann Pachelbel’s song “Canon.” The wooden parts of this wind chime are made from ash, which is a darker wood that will look great amongst the green foliage of your plants. It is also coated with a weather-resistant finish to help ensure that it lasts for years in your garden.
4. Corinthian Bells
Copper is a rustic color that goes with the earth tones that can be found in most gardens, but it also offers the perfect color contrast to vivid bloom that you may be growing. This wind chime is 44 inches in length, so it will look great in the vertical space of your garden. It is designed to create lovely tones in the scale of C, which means that the sound that it creates will be quite pleasant.
5. Metal Agirlgle Tuned Wind Chime
These wind chimes are crafted out of recycled aluminum, and then coated with a bronze finish that not only makes them look great, but it gives the chimes a water-resistant layer that protects them from the rain. In addition, the wooden part of this wind chime is made from beech wood, which is a very durable wood that will last for years. This is a 44-inch long wind chime, so it will look great in any indoor or outdoor space.
6. Bellaa Sea Shell Capiz Wind Chime
If you are looking for wind chimes to match a garden with a lot of blue blooms, then this is an ideal hanging decoration to consider. The shells on the chimes are blue and brown, which look lovely in the light. The wind chime will look great on a patio, especially if you have blue décor in the space.
7. Seven Stones Chakra Chime
This wind chime looks a little different than most because it has the addition of chakra stones. The stones are located right in the middle of the chimes on the clapper, and there are seven different stones, which represent the seven basic chakras. When blown in the wind, these chakra stones can help balance your body and bring you peace. The chimes are made from anodized aluminum, and the wood is a dark, distinguished ash that creates a beautiful contrast.
8. Woodstock Pluto Wind Chime
This wind chime is part of a collection of planets, and each one has a unique sound. This one represents Pluto, so it will fall somewhere between the high tones of Mercury and the low tones of Neptune on the scale. The chimes are crafted from aluminum tubes, but they have been coated with a protective bronze coating that looks stunning. This is a 27-inch wind chime, and the wood is almost a red color, which looks great against the bronze chimes.