How to use Montessori Bells – the fundamentals of ear training

So you think you can’t hear music? I can prove you wrong. I promise that you soon find out that you can. My online version of Montessori bells is a great tool to help you get started.

All of us can hear music. If you can tell the difference between a statement and a question (voice raising), you can hear music.

Of course, we look up at gifted people like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and think, “I wasn’t born a genius!”. Even for Mozart it was more of a matter of nurture than nature. He was born in a family where just about everyone was a musician and he could hear music all day long even in his mum’s belly. Later he studied with almost every famous European composer of his time.

We often label children as musically talented or musically deaf. If you expose a child to good quality music at an early age or before it’s born, chances are it will have musical tallent. By good quality music I don’t mean the poor production we are exposed to every time we switch the radio on. Try Mozzart instead. It will do you and your family good.

Developing a musical ear is a matter of good quality musical environment and systematic training.

No matter how old you are or if you have always thought you can’t hear music, you can always develop that skill. It might take longer with age but you will improve. Promise.

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So how can I start with ear training?

Montessori Bells from Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook
Montessori Bells from Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook

I like the approach Maria Montessori developed for children in her class. She recommends to start ear training by recognizing tones and matching the similar ones together.

To do that she uses a double series of musical metal bells on wooden stands. The bells all look the same. They are forming an octave with tones and semitones. The reason behind using bells is first, you don’t need any special technique to produce the correct sounds and even two year olds can do it and second, each tone is a separate instrument and can be easily moved and rearanged.

To start with, one set is arranged on a wooden board that looks like a piano keyboard and the other set is mixed in front of a you. You strike with a small hammer the first bell from series 1 and try to remember the sound. Then strike in sequence the mixed bells in series 2 till you find the one that sounds the same. Then do the same with the second bell of series 1 and so on. It’s easy but very powerful exercise. There’s only one downside to that. You need two sets of identical bells.

Where can I get Montessori musical bells?

Getting two sets of Montessori bells is neither easy nor cheap. You could buy manufactured double set of musical bells online liken Nienhuis Bells Set or Discount Musical Bells Set but for most of use this option is pricewise out of reach.

The second option is to go DIY. Bess at posted a nice tutorial how she and her husband made DIY Montessori Bells for their home-schooling.

My friend Zuzka and I, took a similar approach to create musical bells for her Montessori nursery school. We purchased a Gitre Note Finder with Double Set of Bells from Italian company Gitre. There are two sets, one set is colour coded, the other one is grey so there was no need to spray them. Zuzka’s dad made wooden stands for each bell and thet do a pretty good job for a fraction of the price of a manufactured set.

If you have small children, I would recommend to go the extra mile and try to get some real Montessori bells. Electronic sound can’t replace the real experience and little children also learn motoric skill at the same time as training their ears. For the rest of us I decided to create an online version which can get you started right away without being limited by a budget, availability or lack of space at home.

Montessori Bells Online Demo

Your first exercise with Montessori bells online

You can see two sets of bells. Set 1 is a diatonic scale C Major (on a piano you would play only white keys). If a “diatonic scale C Major” sounds like complete gibberish to you, don’t worry, you don’t need to know any of that just yet.

All you need to do is to match the bells in set two to set one. If you can’t do it first time, don’t be hard on yourself. Just keep trying till it becomes easier.

Recognizing chromatic tones

Now it’s time to add those black keys. You can see a chromatic scale on C. Again, don’t worry about the musical talking and match the bells with the same pitch. It’s little bit more difficult than the previous exercise so take your time.

Matching chromatic tones in random order

This exercise is similar to the previous one but the tones are not arranged in a scale. Match the bells with same pitch. Disclaimer: please note that the keyboard no longer looks like a piano keyboard.

Did you know that tones can have colour?

I don’t mean red or blue. If you play the same tone on a guitar, a piano, a violin or sing it, it will sound slightly different each time. We call this colour, timre or tone quality.

For next exercise we are still going to use bells but because we live in an electronic world, the second set will sound like a piano. 🙂 Again, match the ones with the same pitch.

Trying to match tones with different colour is the whole new level so don’t give up if you can’t do it at first.


Montessori bells is a great tool to develop musical hearing. If can’t get hold of real ones, use my electronic version instead. No excuses.

Today we learnt to match tones with the same pitch Next time we will move onto discovering more about musical scales.



  1. Thank you. When I teach a Dalcroze workshop in Poland this summer I will tell them about your website.

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