How to Make a Carillon

With a little work by congregation members it is possible to put together an alternative system that has the versatility of a full featured carillon at a fraction of the cost, well under US$1300 (or less than half that if you already have an existing amplifier and speaker in place).

You get all of the main features to be expected in a prepackaged automatic electronic carillon, including:

• the ability to schedule different selections to play at any time of the day, week, month, or year,
• the ability to chime the hours, and
• the ability to change the selection to play and when you want to play it at any time.

Unlike a commercially available carillon, you are not restricted to the manufacturer's preselected music. You can choose your music from any CD or online music source, or even produce your own. (See the caveat on this below.)
The computer side of the carillon consists of the following items:

• an Apple Macintosh computer capable of running the Macintosh OS X operating system and possessing a CD-ROM drive,
• the OS X operating system in version 10.1 or higher (10.3 or higher recommended),
• the iTunes music program, and
• the Track Timer script and Script Timer scheduling program.

The sound system for the carillon consists of:
• a powerful amplifier,
• a preamplifier (optional),
• a cable with appropriate connectors to connect the amplifier to the computer,
• one or more speakers designed for outdoor use,
• a programmable switch (optional), and
• a source of carillon music.

In addition to the features outlined above, you can also use the scriptability of Script Timer to automatically switch among different data files containing different sets of scheduled selections. In other words, you can change what group of selections are played (and when) simply by scheduling a script that tells Script Timer to use a different data file. (For example, you might schedule a change to a selection of Christmas music in early December, then schedule another switch back to your regular set of selections in January.)
A system similar to the one described here has been used successfully by the Cadiz Presbyterian Church in Cadiz, Ohio since 2003. Implementing it on the computer side is as simple as installing iTunes, Track Timer, and Script Timer on the Macintosh, making a play list of your carillon music and scheduling the play list to play at the desired times. On the sound system side all that is required is to connect the computer sound output to the amplifier system input. To save electricity, you can install a programmable timer to turn on the power to the sound system just before the music is to start. (The trickiest thing to remember according to the Cadiz church is that only the computer automatically corrects for Daylight Saving Time!)
The figure below shows a typical schedule for the alternate carillon in a snap shot of the computer screen. Four events are scheduled:
  • on Sunday morning a play list (group of songs) called "Morning Service #1 is to be played at ten o'clock,
    • on Sunday and Wednesday evenings a play list called Evening Service #3 will be played at seven thirty,
    • every day at noon a random selection will be played from a play list called "Noon Selection", and finally
    • on June 17 at eleven a couple to be married has chosen Wedding Medley #2 to be played.

Script Timer Carillon Document Window

A draft copy of a detailed description of how to assemble the system, including music recommendations, that was submitted to a church-oriented magazine is available. Please contact us if you wish further details.

Caveat on Music Selection: Given the controversy surrounding digital music and the variety of rulings from jurisdiction to jurisdiction regarding copyright issues, you should probably consult with a lawyer or congregation member that provides music in a retail store on how to get the kind of permission you need for the source of music being used.