Ace Hardware Employees Play 'Carol of the Bells' Entirely on Store Products
You haven't heard "Carol of the Bells" until you've heard it played on 65 different products sold at Ace Hardware.
Who needs strings, brass and woodwinds when Dewalt power drills, Ego hedge trimmers, STIHL chainsaws and assorted charcoal bags and trash cans are on hand? As for the bells, well, Craftsman wrenches and Yeti beverage tumblers ring out loud and strong.
Agency O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul and Beacon Street Studios worked out the instrumental arrangement of the Christmas classic—composed in 1914 by Ukraine's Mykola Leontovych—and recorded the track live. To be clear, there's no accompaniment or underlying sync, just Beacon Street producers "playing" products, while five brand associates—billed as the Ace Holi-DIY Orchestra—make in-store "musical" contributions.
What, no leaf blower solo? Still, we must admit, the Rube Goldberg sequence with workbench blades was impressive. We never saw that coming!
In our conversation below, the team behind the project tells all:
Muse: Did you always know you'd use actual tools and associates, or did that idea evolve?
Dave Petti, group creative director, OKRP: While the song itself changed multiple times, the initial idea was always to have real music made on real items from Ace using real associates. With post manipulation and mix, we could've made any object sound like any instrument, but the challenge was to keep it authentic and build a song out of the actual items you can find at an Ace.
Why did you ultimately choose "Carol of the Bells"?
Andy Sciamanna, creative director, OKRP: We considered dozens of holiday classics. The most important elements were complexity and build. We needed the widest variety of musical elements so we could experiment with the widest variety of giftable items throughout the hardware store. We wanted it to feel like a full orchestra played at an Ace.
Can you walk me through the production process?
Mike Cornell, creative director, OKRP: We set out to create the track first, with our partner Danny Dunlap at Beacon Street. With multiple trips to his local Ace in Pittsburgh, he recorded and sampled everything needed to compose the full song. No detail was missed—he started with a tuning fork to ensure we had the right pitches as he played everything from wrenches, grills, power tools, even PVC pipes, and then recorded each "instrument" when the store was closed to ensure we had the quality we needed.
Once we had the song, we made the music video with our director, Gabriel Shalom, who specializes in nontraditional sound experimentation in film. We cast five employees from Ace based on their music and dance backgrounds and recreated each section, including the Rube Goldberg device made of saw blades, for the final piece of the melody.
How'd you decide which tools to use?
Danny Dunlap, composer, Beacon Street: We created a spreadsheet of which pitches each tool or item naturally produced. This was a fun and interesting process since no one may have ever cared that a Milwaukee drill and a Dewalt drill actually produce two different pitches!
Once we knew which pitches we had to work with, we then chose the key of the piece based on the available notes. We then took some of the smaller items into the studio to record live performances. Each tool was recorded individually, so we would have maximum control in the mix. The parts were performed live by a crew of Beacon Street composers.
Then we did a location recording for the larger items in an Ace store. The manager of the store, Greg Gold, was a very gracious host. He went as far as turning off the air conditioning so we could get clean recordings of people beating the snot out of Traeger grills. The whole thing took about four days to put together.
Did you tweak the gear to get just the right tone?
Danny Dunlap: Thankfully, we found all the pitches we needed without having to alter any of the existing tools.
What was the toughest part of the project?
Danny Dunlap: The most challenging part from a performance standpoint was using the multi-speed drills. It took an hour or so of practice to get the hang of that live. It was like learning to play a teeny tiny battery-powered violin. There are no frets, of course, and the amount of space on the trigger squeeze between notes is probably about a millimeter.
Associates Fraz Baig, Melissa Steen, Taylor DeLeeuw, Tim Shuller and Greg DeLuca perform in the video.
Agency: OKRP, Chicago
David Petti - Group Creative Director
Mike Cornell - CD/Art
Andy Sciamanna - CD/Copy
Laurie Nations – Client Managing Director
Devin Racca - Senior Account Executive
Elena Robinson - Head of Production
Scott Mitchell - Executive Producer
Lindsay Nettles-Chism - Director of Production/Business Aﬀairs
Production: Vocoder Films, Long Island City, N.Y.
Gabriel Shalom - Director/Editor
Mandi Nodorft - Producer
Bryan Mir - Director of Photography
Lena Rush Smith - Art Director
AC - Arthur Neinhuis
Gaﬀer - Spencer Ortega
Grip - Sam Rogers
Audio Tech - Patrick Budde
Video Playback/DIT - Dave McCoy
HMU - Kim Goodman
CCO - Kate Cole
PA/BTS - Emmanuil Morari
Music: Beacon Street Studios, Venice, CA
Danny Dunlap: Composer
Leslie DiLullo – Executive Producer