Last updated: November 2019
Looking for a beautiful, melodious set of wind chimes?
Wind chimes, which date back thousands of years, are common garden ornaments.
People tend to love or hate them. I can’t begin to imagine how many arguments between neighbours have been caused by wind chimes. Personally, I’m firmly in the “love them” camp.
For this post, I’ve selected five of my favourite wind chimes. I also offer some buying advice.
Take a moment to listen to the sample videos for each set of wind chimes to get a sense of how they might sound hanging on your porch or balcony.
Best Wind Chimes: Quick Guide
- Woodstock Baritone Gregorian Chimes
- Cohasset Bamboo Wind Chime
- Japanese Glass Furin
- Porcelain Koi Fish Wind Chime
- Woodstock Bronze Chimes (Pachelbel Canon)
What are Wind Chimes?
The question, “What are wind chimes?” might seem silly. But it’s worth getting to know the different components. This understanding will help you pick the perfect one.
In essence, wind chimes are arrangements of (usually small) pieces of bamboo, metal, glass, shell, or porcelain, suspended from a frame or “top circle”. A “sail” (in the form of a weight attached to a string) stirs whenever there’s a breeze, which in turn moves the clapper, creating the pleasant tinkling sound that everybody recognizes.
I’d say that more or less sums it up. Wooden chimes, bamboo in particular, are my favourite type. I find that they make a pleasant, dull sound that doesn’t echo for miles around (and thus don’t inspire the ire of the neighbours).
Wind chimes are typically made up of six different parts. You’ll want to remember that size measurements given by retailers almost always refer to the length from the very top of the hanging hook or “O-Ring” to the bottom of the wind catcher or “sail”.
Starting from the top, you have the hook, ring loop, or “O-Ring” (1), which attaches to the suspension cord (2), which carries all of the different parts of the set, including the sail. The top circle (3) separates the tubes (4) and the striker or clapper (5). A central cord (6), which can be attached to either the hook or the top circle, holds the striker and the sail (7), the job of which is to catch the wind.
What Are the Different Types of Wind Chimes?
Wind chimes have a fascinating history. Their primary use, across a range of different cultures, seems to have been the warding off of evil spirits.
Whether the bells hung in Ancient Rome, India or Japan – where they are called furin, literally “wind” (fu) bell (rin) – they were all intended for this common purpose.
A variety of materials are used to make wind chimes, each of which imparts its own unique sound.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Metal – Aluminium, steel, and copper are the most common materials for making wind chimes. Tubes made from metals like aluminium and steel produce a sharper sound compared to copper.
- Wood – Wood, and bamboo in particular, produce a hollow, somewhat echoing sound. Wood chimes are my favourite type. The clattering of the wood is another thing that I like.
- Clay/Ceramic – Ceramic chimes have a short, sharp sound, resembling that of pottery clanking together.
- Glass – You can also buy glass chimes. They produce sharp, high-pitched, tinkling notes that a lot of people like.
- Other materials – Chimes made from shells and other recycled materials can’t be tuned to specific notes. These are usually bought more for their visual appeal.
- Closed tubes – You can also buy wind chimes enclosed in a single hollow tube. Koshi chimes are an example. The chimes are attached to the inside of the tube, through which a striker hangs. This creates a much more “rapid” sound, where the notes are heard in closer succession than with traditional chimes. Click here to see an example of Koshi chimes.
Features to Look for in Wind Chimes
Here are a few things to look for when picking a set of wind chimes:
- Number of tubes – The first thing to look for when deciding kind of sound you want is the number of tubes. Chimes with lots of tubes produce a more intricate tapestry of notes, compared to those with only three or four. Ultimately, it will come down to taste.
- Length of tubes – As a rule of thumb, longer tubes produce lower, deeper notes and shorter tubes produce higher notes. This isn’t always the case (the type and width of the metal can also affect the sound), but it’s a good working principle.
- Size of sail – A bigger sail will produce less noise because it takes more wind-power to move it. The inverse is true for smaller sails.
- Weatherproof – A good set of chimes will last a lifetime, as long as they have been treated properly for protection against the weather. This is particularly the case with wooden chimes (look for a good varnish). Opt for metals that don’t rust, like bronze and copper.
Best Wind Chimes: Top Picks for 2019 (With Recordings)
***Full Disclosure – Where appropriate, I’ve linked product images to commercial sites and Amazon (see Amazon Disclosure). If you buy from these sites, I earn a small affiliate fee, which helps me keep Urban Turnip going.***
1. Baritone Gregorian Chimes by Woodstock
Woodstock Chimes is one of the world’s biggest chime-makers. Their products are all of superb quality (I could probably just have replaced this list with the Woodstock catalogue and gotten away with it) and there is a heavy emphasis on musicality. This isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that a musician founded the company.
These chimes are tuned to a medieval scale, hence the “Gregorian” sound. Personally, I love Gregorian chanting, and the deep, resonant sound of these chimes (note how long they are) is very evocative. It’s also a very durable item, with a nylon cord, varnished wood top, striker and sail, and aluminium tubes.
This chime set comes in three different ranges: soprano, tenor and baritone. My favourite is the set of baritone wind chimes because of the deep, echoey sound they produce. All in all, this is a really special piece.
One final point: this set is 56 inches long so make sure you’ve got somewhere to put it!
2. Cohasset Bamboo Chimes
One of the wonderful things about wind chimes is that they’re mostly still made by independent companies with an interesting backstory, as opposed to flying mass-produced off a production line. Cohasset’s products are hand-made in Bali by local families, and the chimes’ design mirrors its Asian roots.
The six individual chimes on this set, which are made from bamboo and coconut tree wood, are each hand-tuned. There’s a nice varnish on the wood, so they’re very long-lasting. If you’re worried about annoying the neighbours, then these are a good option – the sound is quite “dull” and not overly loud.
3. Japanese “Furin” Wind Bell
If you’re looking for something a little less obtrusive, this little Japanese Furin may be the way to go. It’s hand-painted in Japanese style with small blue fish. The sail is a piece of paper (in line with traditional design), so it’s best left somewhere that’s protected from rain, under a balcony, roof, or by a window.
The great thing about Furin bells is that they are much quieter and gentler than normal chimes, though if you want a louder sound you can always buy more than one (see the video below). All in all, this is a charming little piece and will work wonderfully as a gift.
4. Ceramic Fish Chimes
Ceramic chimes produce a unique sound. If you haven’t heard them before, watch the video below. This particular koi (or carp) shaped set of chimes is available in three colours and has a lovely weathered look to it.
The clay is weatherproof and extra-strong (porcelain for use as chimes undergoes a special heating process). The whole set is 15 inches long. If you’re considering porcelain chimes, don’t be put off by their staccato sound. I’ve found they take a little getting used to but are very enjoyable once you’ve “acclimatized”. I also think they sound especially lovely when they’re grouped together…a shoal of carp?
5. Woodstock Bronze Pachelbel Canon Chimes
Some of the earliest discovered chimes were made from bronze. This set from Woodstock, which is 32 inches long, is made with six bronze tubes and is small enough to fit into compact spaces whilst still making a statement. It is held together by a nylon cord and the sail at the bottom is made from wood.
The copper tubes, which are tuned to the notes of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon, have a delightful sound (see the video below) and will weather beautifully over time. The balance of this set is also just right. They’re heavy enough to withstand lighter breezes, so won’t jangle madly when the wind picks up. If you just want a high-quality, “normal” set of chimes for either inside or outside, then go with these.
Let us know your thoughts! Leave a comment below!
Have you bought any of the wind chimes listed here? Do you have any of your own favourites? Leave a comment below and let me know!