The tubes are tuned chromatically and arranged in two rows in keyboard fashion, the back row containing the pitches that correspond to the black keys of the piano. The back row is set about 20 cm higher than the front one so that the tubes can be struck by the player. The best results are achieved by striking the tube near the top. The percussionist uses one or two hammers. Variations in timbre can be achieved with hammers of differing hardness and weight.
Because in many works in the traditional repertoire only a few pitches are required only these tubes are hung separately on the frame. This makes life easier for the musician, but in this case the damping effect is also not possible. In such cases the chimes serve as substitute bells.
The hardness of the hammer influences the timbre as follows: softer mallets bring the lower partials to the fore, the high partials are not set in vibration. This makes the sound softer, rounder and more gentle. Hard mallets allow the higher partials to dominate over the lower, making the sound brighter, harder and more incisive.
A particular difficulty facing the musician, who plays standing up, is how to keep an eye on the large instrument, the music and the conductor at the same time. Long, rapid sequences can only be played from memory.
The function of the damper mechanism
The damper pedal has a latch which keeps the damping system open so that the tubes can ring freely. The damping mechanism is activated by lightly pressing the pedal, which results in all the tubes being damped by the revolving damper rail at the same time. If the musician wishes to damp individual notes while allowing others to resound, he or she uses his hand.