Just in time to relive all the fun of the holiday concert season, a new web based app designed by Pointless Corp allows you to play bells with your friends between rehearsals. JamBells combines the fun of ringing handbells with the snazzy technology contained in your smart phone. When you access the site from your smart phone you can play bells with yourself or start your own choir, all with the flick of your wrist.
JamBells was created during a 48-hour hackaton, an event where developers were given only 2 days to create a new product from scratch. According to Curt Arledge, a User Experience Designer and part of the JamBells design team, “The idea for a cooperative handbell app came from one of our Data & Analytics guys, Mitch Daniels”. Some of the members of the team had played bells growing up, and some just remembered seeing bells during their childhood. “I also grew up in a church that had adult and youth handbell choirs, and while I never actually played, I was familiar with the concept and always thought the crisp white gloves were cool”, Arledge commented.
There are currently 4 songs in the program, ranging from an easy version of “Jingle Bells” to a “crazy hard” version of “Shake It Off”. When performing, you can ring your bell by either tapping the screen or moving your phone like a handbell. In an email interview, Arledge mentioned that “one of [the designers], Becky, was very insistent that the app’s motion control should accommodate the proper ringing technique.”
Being a handbell fanatic, I of course had to try out the app with all of my friends. We had blast trying to play songs with our phones. The app works great on iPhones, and pretty well with my Android (if you play with an Android, use your phone’s Chrome browser and not the default browser). It is super easy to use, just go to jambells.com and start ringing! There is also a freestyle mode where you can select the note your phone plays and then have fun.
Arledge also shared with us a anecdote about the app’s creation all of us can sympathize with.
“One of the hardest things turned out to be naming the app. Midway through the weekend, we lost several hours of work time to a pretty passionate debate between factions advocating one name or another. At the height of the debate, the top contenders were JamBells, AmazeBells, and Chime Time, but there were so, so many others: More Handbell, BellDinger, JollyBells, Bells with Friends, Handbell Hero, Bells Bells Revolution, Share-a-Bell, BellFellows, BellPals, StellarBells, PhoneTones, ExcelBells, DeciBells, DigiBells, BellChimp, and the list goes on… It cracks me up looking back at all of those names, but I think we settled on one that’s universally fun and easy to remember and type into a browser.”
I think at the next Handbell Musicians of America Board Meeting I might propose the next National Seminar be renamed “Bells Bells Revolution”.
If you were to name an app to play bells on your phone, what would you call it?
Cover Photo: a picture from the 48-hour hackathon on the JamBells website.