In an ideal world, you would first, choose your biggest bass bell (your "blagovest"), since that's the foundation of your bell-set and sounds the fundamental note of your peal.
A 1500 lb bell was standard for every parish in Russia prior to the Revolution (and thus we see that the big bell at San Francisco's Holy Trinity Cathedral which, at some six or seven feet in diameter and 1588 lbs in weight, strikes us as "huge" is really only "standard".) We recognize, of course, that not every parish can start with a 1500 lb bellor even perhaps a 300 lb bell. But even tiny parishes can probably afford a 150 to 200 lb bell. But the quality of a bell tower is in the sound, not the size of its bells, so you can start smaller. Nevertheless, it's always good to think about what you'd ultimately like to have, and then start with as big a bell within that vision as would be practical for your parish, budget, and neighborhood, and add the others later. In our experience, 5 or 6 bells is a good number to start with that won't tax the budget but it will give you enough to make some music with.
So once you've established your blagovest, you're ready to choose some alto ("podzvonnie") bells. A perebor of alto bells gives your zvonnitsa dynamism and full body. Ringers love to play altos, and to have as many as they can. Less wealthy parishes could start with only twobut since Russian zvons are based on rhythm and tempo, it's good to get at least two.
Finally, select your soprano ("zazvonnie") bells. Two little bells will work, but we suggest a triad. If you have a large set of bells, you can also select an intermediary between the zazvonnie and podzvonnie bells.
It's important to have a ringer present to choose your set of bells so that they all sound good together. Naturally, that might be difficult since the bells are cast in Russia and you are here but our foundries do have professional bell ringers on staff, and they will personally test each set. Also, we can have the Russian Campanological Arts Association select, test, and certify your bells. But Russian bells are not mass produced or machine-tuned, so each bell is different even if it's from the same mould as another, and has its own voice. That's what the person who selects your bells has to listen for. How well does this bell play with this other one over here?
When you're ready to chose your bells, you should work through the following
1. What is the purpose of your zvonnitsa?
2. Where will your zvonnitsa be located?
3. How many ringers do you intend to use, and how will they ring the bells?
4. How do you expect to finance your bells and your zvonnitsa?
5. What tonality and scale do you desire (i.e., do existing bells require you to keep to a certain scale)?
6. How many bells do you want?
7. What are your requirements for appearance and sound?
8. Select the foundry or foundries. Because foundries cast bells of specific tones and other qualifications, you may need to acquire bells from more than one foundry to compose the set you need. Generally, however, this is not recommended.
9. Choose the bells for your zvonnitsa