After 40 years at the Whitechapel bell foundry : Nigel Taylor

An interview with Nigel Taylor

Having worked at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for 40 years, Nigel Taylor is the perfect guide to how to tune a bell, talking podcast host Cathy Booth through the whole process from design to casting and tuning. And if you’ve never considered the actual sound a bell makes before, this podcast will be a revelation.

You might never use the word ‘dong’ again after you discover that a tower bell is inharmonic, which means although a bell appears to have a single distinct pitch, the sound is made up of a variety of different tones.

As Nigel describes how this all works, Cathy gets the answers to a host of fascinating questions, such as why new bells sound different to old bells, how the shape of old bells makes a difference to how you retune them and which bells are the hardest to tune.

Be warned though, after listening to this podcast you may well wish to scramble up a ladder into the tower to look at the bells, just as Nigel did as a boy.

Top 5 takeaways

  • Find out more about the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry here
  • You don’t need to have perfect pitch, or even pitch memory, to become a bell tuner. Nowadays there are all sorts of sophisticated computer equipment to help.
  • Listen to some old bells and some new ones. Can you tell the difference? How do you feel when the ringing ends and the tenor sets?
  • Nowadays any inscriptions and decorations on a bell are created by attaching silicone on the bell pattern. Are there any interesting inscriptions on your tower’s bells?
  • Why not visit a foundry and see the process for yourself, or even organise a trip for your tower

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