Developing listening and striking skills with your ringers

Listening is one of the foundation skills for ringing. Without the ability to hear their bell it is impossible for a ringer to reach their full potential. New ringers frequently find difficulty identifying the sound of their own bell. This article provides a few tips on how to help your ringers hear their bell and develop the good rhythmic ringing we all want to hear.

From the very first lesson

We teach on tied bells so as not to annoy the neighbours with the sound of a random bell or bells ringing. However, we do need to start to make the ringer aware of the importance of listening to and hearing their bell right from the very beginning.

If you have a simulator in your tower and you are teaching a single learner you can provide the simulated sound of that bell ringing during the teaching process. If you are teaching several learners in the tower together this is not possible unless you have multiple computers and use earphones.

So how can we overcome this difficulty?

  • Using a laptop with suitable software for the ringer to make the bell sound by pressing a particular key on the keyboard is a good starting point. Earphones can be used and the new ringers can take their turn at listening and striking exercises on the laptop when they are taking a rest from the immediate handling lessons. It is usually easiest for the ringer to hear the tenor to start with. After a session, use the “Review Striking” facility to emphasise the importance of accuracy and to allow the ringer to notice improvement in future sessions.
  • While your new ringer is still learning to handle a bell they can attend a practice and ring individual strokes [back or hand] with the band so that they start to be aware of the sound of rounds. In both of these examples encourage them to identify the place in the row their bell is sounding and to start to count that place. If the ringer is struggling to identify the bell they are ringing, try using a familiar phrase to help identify the place. A commonly used one is “we all like fish and chips , I want some for my tea” .In this example the ringer is ringing bell number four in rounds and emphasising the fourth sound in the row with the words fish and for.

Now the ringer can ring an individual bell unaided

Once your new ringer can ring an individual bell without assistance they can start ringing with others. As the teacher you need to be certain that your ringer is identifying the sound of their own bell. One way of doing this is to start the ringer ringing rounds on three bells - start with them on the third and then let them ring the second. You can use the rhyme “Three – Blind – Mice” if they are struggling. The familiarity of the rhyme aids in the identification of the sound of their bell.

Many ringers can perform rounds on three accurately right from the start and can be moved on to rounds on four and then six on the first practice night. However, there are others who may take a few weeks to hear the sound and take ownership of what they are hearing.

At this stage ringing on a tied bell with a simulator is invaluable. If you don’t have a simulator in your tower a neighbouring tower may let you take your ringers to them for a few sessions on their simulator.

Listening and striking exercises with a group

Ideally, these exercises would not be practised on open bells but with a simulator!

  • Setting alternate bells at backstroke and then getting your ringers to pull off and ring rounds is a challenging exercise for beginners and sometimes for experienced ringers as well. It provides variety and is fun to do.
  • Facing outwards from the circle one ringer at a time so that the ringer is unable to see the bell they are following is useful. Ensure your ringers make the turn when the rope is up at backstroke, this will ensure there is no likelihood of getting tangled with a moving rope.
  • Whole pull and stand for a whole pull, keep the tenor ringing for the whole pull while the other bells are standing. Then practice the perfect pull off each time.

Moving on to elementary change ringing

An ability to control and hear the bell are both necessary to produce good rhythmic ringing. For rhythmic change ringing a knowledge of theory and ropesight needs to be added into the equation.

  • Plain Hunting can be used as an exercise to develop rhythmic ringing; this is equivalent to practising scales on a musical instrument and should be repeated frequently when working towards good striking on a certain number of bells. For instance when a ringer is moving from Doubles to Minor, Minor to Triples or Major.
  • Treble Bob Hunt [right] with all the bells following the same line can be used when moving ringers on to Treble Bob or Surprise methods. It is false. The coursing order is Plain Hunt coursing order so there are no ropesight issues and ringers can concentrate on striking and rhythm.
  • Kaleidoscope ringing can be used to help develop good striking. Long places [two whole pulls], places [a whole pull] and dodging can be combined to make different exercises. Work is done within two places and the ringing frequently returns to rounds in which it is easier for the less experienced ringer to identify their own bell. The changes can also be started on a backstroke.
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This video resource describes ropesight using a dynamic diagram of Plain Hunt on five bells. You can then watch this being rung in a tower.


Pip Penney