Death Knell

Death Knell

(Death Bell, Death Toll)

4 ft tall metal bar. 6 metal resonators amplify different harmonics. Darker, more unsettling feeling than chimes.

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In certain ancient cultures, a "death knell" was traditionally the bell sound used to announce someone passing. Emil Richards bought it from the late percussionist Chet Ricord's estate in the 1980s. The bar is 4 feet tall, and internally, six different resonators which snake around help give the death knell its characteristic eerie sound.


  • The Batwing gets shot down by The Joker and the death knell marks this moment with repeated, hard hits in Batman (1989) by Danny Elfman.

  • The death knell contributes dark and forboding color to the title of Jumanji (1995) by James Horner.

  • Death knell subtely doubles chimes in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) by James Horner.

  • In this cue from Planet of the Apes (1968) by Jerry Goldsmith, the death knell brings in a soft, dark timbre, at times alternating with a low tubular bell.

  • In Independence Day (1996) by David Arnold, the death knell subtlety marks this sorrowful scene. 

  • In this film, Deadly Blessing (1981) composed by James Horner, the darkness of the death knell combined with low voices makes for an unsettling feeling.

  • The disturbing Kali Ma ritual scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) by John Williams repeatedly features the ominous death knell.

Please note: these are just examples, as playing technique and mallet/stick choices often have a great effect on the timbre.

These sound excerpts, to the best of our knowledge (unless otherwise noted), include this actual instrument from our collection. To hear the instrument yourself, or to let us know of any errors, please contact us.