Carillon keyboard ranges

The table below summarizes the manual and pedal keyboard ranges of all known traditional carillons around the world.  This may be helpful to composers and arrangers of carillon music who are concerned about how widely their work may be playable and whether to offer alternate note options in the bass.

The seven central columns correspond to the five major countries or regions in which the art of the carillon is concentrated, plus two regions for the rest of the world.  Each of those seven column headings is also a link to the keyboard range index for that particular country or region, making it possible to see not only the details that contributed to the construction of this table but also the available treble ranges which are not considered here.

The instruments are divided into four major groups by total range, as follows:
  Group 1 - grand carillon = at least 4.5 octaves, keyboard G - C (i.e., having extended bass)
  Group 2 - concert carillon = at least 4 octaves, keyboard C - C
  Group 3 - medium carillon = at least 3 octaves, keyboard C - C
  Group 4 - small carillon = less than 3 octaves
Each group is subdivided according to the configuration of the bass end of the playing range that defines the group (which often is less than the total range of the instrument).  The subgroups are identified in the leftmost column and described in the column following the regions and countries.  If "missing or added bass notes" is "(none)" then the instruments are fully chromatic throughout the defining range; there may in fact be additional bass notes outside the defining range.  This classification method ignores any additional treble notes outside the defining range.

In each cell of the table there are two numbers; the first is the number of carillons in that region and subgroup, and the second is the number of different keyboard configurations in those carillons.  The second number may be preceded by "≥", meaning "at least," which indicates that some manual and/or pedal ranges in that subgroup are not fully known.  The numbers of carillons are totalled by subgroup in the rightmost column; both numbers are totalled by country or region in the last row of the table.

Following the table are some observations about differences between regions.

  Region:

Subgroup
North
America
Netherlands Belgium France Germany Other
European
countries
Countries
elsewhere
Missing
or added
bass notes
TOTALS
by group or
subgroup
Group 1 - grand carillons = at least 4.5 octaves, keyboard G - C (extended bass) 33
Group 1a 5   :   5 0 0 0 1 0 3   :   3 (none) 9
Group 1b 16   :   ≥ 11 2   :   2 1 1 1 1 0 - G# 22
Group 1c 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 - G#,A# 2
Group 2 - concert carillons = at least 4 octaves, keyboard C - C 305
Group 2a+ 11   :   6 4   :   4 3   :   3 0 2   :   2 0 0   + Bb 20
Group 2a 8   :   5 2   :   2 1 1 1 3   :   ≥ 1 1 (none) 17
Group 2b+ 22   :   ≥ 11 20   :   ≥ 11 33   :   ≥ 14 2   :   2 4   :   ≥ 3 6   :   ≥ 5 1 - C#  + Bb 88
Group 2b 40   :   10 10   :   ≥ 4 5   :   ≥ 2 7   :   ≥ 4 5   :   3 20   :   3 1 - C# 88
Group 2c+ 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 - C#,D#  + Bb 1
Group 2c 20   :   ≥ 9 41   :   ≥ 12 10   :   ≥ 5 6   :   6 6   :   6 6   :   ≥ 4 2   :   2 - C#,D# 91
Group 3 - medium carillons = at least 3 octaves, keyboard C - C 111
Group 3a 3   :   2 3   :   ≥ 2 0 2   :   2 1 4   :   ≥ 3 1 (none) 14
Group 3b 9   :   6 11   :   ≥ 6 4   :   ≥ 3 2   :   2 0 5   :   ≥ 4 2   :   2 - C# 33
Group 3c 23   :   ≥ 13 20   :   ≥ 9 8   :   ≥ 8 2   :   2 3   :   ≥ 2 8   :   ≥ 7 0 - C#,D# 64
Group 4 - small carillons = less than 3 octaves 71
Group 4a 5   :   5 1 4   :   4 1 2   :   2 3   :   ≥ 2 0 (none) 16
Group 4b 5   :   5 1 1 1 2   :   2 2   :   2 0 - C# 12
Group 4c 22   :   ≥ 10 7   :   ≥ 6 3   :   3 1 1 8   :   ≥ 4 1 - C#,D# 43
not categorized - configuration unknown or highly unusual  
  1 67 24 38 20 37 16   203
TOTALS  
  189   :   ≥ 97 190   :   ≥ 62 99   :   ≥ 46 64   :   ≥ 22 49   :   ≥ 21 104   :   ≥ 36 28   :   9   723
Average number of carillons with each configuration  
  1.9 2.0 1.6 1.2 1.4 2.9 3.1    

Observations:

1.  There are so many carillons for which the keyboard ranges are unknown to the compiler of these pages that very few conclusions can presently be drawn.  Resolving the unknown and partially known configurations will almost certainly make significant changes in many of the numbers in this table.

2.  The Totals column on the right side of the table does not include counts of the number of different keyboard layouts because that would require a detailed comparison of all individual keyboard range indexes simultaneously, and that effort seems unjustified when so much data is currently missing.

3.  In spite of all the efforts towards keyboard standardization that have been made by the World Carillon Federation and the various national or regional carillon societies in the last 40 years, there are still an astonishing number of different keyboard configurations in existence -- far more than can be explained by differences in the sizes of instrument (in terms of number of bells).

4.  Among the grand carillons, by far the most common configurations have only one bass semitone missing.  Among the concert carillons, it is equally likely to have one or two bass semitones missing.  Among medium and small carillons, by far the most common configurations have two bass semitones missing.


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This page was created 2020/07/27 and last revised 2020/08/01.

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