History of the Musical Chimes Chimes (also known as tubular bells) are musical instruments in the percussion family. Chimes are metal tubes varying in length, the length of the tube determines the note that the chime plays. Chimes were invented in England in about the 1880’s. Chimes were first used as a substitute for church bells in towers. They were also foundin large clocks such as the grandfather clock. Musicians then discovered that chimes created a precise rhythm and a clearer tone and soon built smaller chimes that they could play in the orchestra. Chimes are still used in many orchestral pieces today .