Types Of Bells – Explanation & Visual Guide

There are many different types of bells each with a unique design and unique purpose. Here are the various kinds of bells with pictures and video (for sound).

If you like musical instruments, then be sure to check out the types of saxophone and types of harps for more interesting finds.

Church Bell

church bells
Church bells.

According to Wikipedia, a church bell in the Christian tradition is a bell which is rung in a church for a variety of ceremonial purposes and can be heard outside the building.

Often times, these types of bells were used to summon villagers to church for prayer or worship. However, they can also be rung to signal the start of a wedding, funeral, etc.

Some churches also ring the bell every hour to tell the time. The number of times the bell rings let’s persons know the hour.

Church Bell ringing.


hand bells.

As the name suggests, handbells are small bells that you can hold in your hand. These bells look like miniature versions of the traditional church bell.

To ring a handbell, a ringer grasps the bell by its slightly flexible handle – traditionally made of leather, but often now made of plastic – and moves the arm to make the hinged clapper inside the bell strike.


School Bells

School bells can be both mounted on a building like a church bell or they can be handbells. Whatever type of bell used, the main purpose of school bells is to signal the beginning or end of the school day, the beginning or end of classes, or the beginning or end of break periods. Some schools also incorporate an electrical bell sound that played via the use of an intercom.

Bicycle Bells

Bicycle Bells.
Bicycle Bells.

Bicycle bells are tiny sound instruments attached to a bicycle and their main purpose is to alert pedestrians and other road users of the presence of a cyclist.

These types of bells make a sound when you pull/push the lever attached to the bell. Inside, metal disks make a jingling sound when you release or push the lever.


There used to be doorbells where there were actual bells that you ring to alert the homeowner that you were outside. But, nowadays, most doorbells are electronic buzzers that you press to play a bell-like sound.


Alarm Clock Bells

classic alarm clock.
Classic Alarm Clock.

Classic alarm clocks have bells that had a little hammer that would clang back and forth between two bell-shaped bowls at a set time to make a loud ringing sound.


cow wearing cowbell.

These types of bell instruments are attached to free roaming cows to help herders locate a cow in the event that they needed to track it. The loud sound created by cowbells were also used as a mechanism to scare away predators.


Types Of Bells - Explanation & Visual Guide 1
Agogô Bell.

An agogô is a single or multiple bells now used throughout the world but with origins in traditional Yoruba music and also in the samba baterias.

The agogô may be the oldest samba instrument and was based on West African Yoruba single or double bells. The agogô has the highest pitch of any of the bateria instruments


Altar Bells

altar bells with cross shaped handle.
Altar bell.

An altar bell is a small bell or series of small bells linked together that is common in the Catholic church. As the name suggests, altar bells are usually near the altar and the main purpose of these kinds of bells is to create music during praise.

Call Bell

Call Bell.
Call Bell.

If you ever went into an office or store and tap the small bell on the counter to let the owners know that you are there then you know what a call bell is. These bells are also known as a concierge bell or a service bell.


Most chimes are made up of less than 23 bells. These types of bells are suspended through the air and make a sound when you strike them or when the wind causes them to come into contact with each other.

Electric Bell

An electric bell is a mechanical bell that functions by means of an electromagnet. When an electric current is applied, it produces a repetitive buzzing or clanging sound.


Jingle Bells

jingle bell or sleigh bell is a type of bell which produces a distinctive ‘jingle‘ sound, especially in large numbers. They find use in many areas as a percussion instrument, including the classic sleigh bell sound and morris dancing. They are typically used as a cheaper alternative to small ‘classic’ bells.


Quarter Bells

These types of bells sound after each passing of a quarter on a clock. The most famous example of this type of bell is the one used in the Big Ben in London.

Crotal Bells

Crotal bells were small bells that were attached to carriages the same way that we use bicycle bells today. The reason? To alert other road users that a carriage was passing.

If you like musical instruments then you can also check out this article about the different kinds of accordions.

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