Tower bell ringers can learn methods and test themselves quite easily by reciting the work of a method or by drawing out the blue line on paper. If they can do this quickly and without error, and their ropesight is good, they can be confident that this will translate into a reliable performance in the tower.
However, for handbell ringers it is much harder to confirm whether you know a method well enough to ring it on handbells, because knowing a single line or a grid pattern doesn’t mean that you can ring two bells based upon this knowledge. To demonstrate that you know a method by drawing it on paper, you would have to be able to draw two lines simultaneously. This is impracticable.
These old-fashioned methods have the advantage that you can practise anywhere, but be mindful of the funny looks you might receive from others. Such practice also has a distinct up and down stroke which ringing using keyboard strokes does not. In many ways ringing using your thumbs or pens is harder than using a ringing simulator as you have no auditory cues (gaps or clashes) telling you if you've made a mistake. The converse is that if you can ring something successfully on thumbs or pens then you've probably got it!
An alternative is to practise methods with a simulator, using two
keys on the keyboard to ring two bells while the simulator rings the
Many ringers seem to manage to ring a simulator using the keyboard quite successfully, but it is generally acknowledged that this is much harder than practising with real ringers. There are a number of reasons for this:
Dummy handbells with electronic switches for clappers can overcome the first two points and includes a design to help you build your own. Handbell controllers aren't currently available to purchase, although if you're technically minded you might can make your own.
Handbell Manager is free software (under the GNU General Public Licence) that enables USB motion controllers to be used as dummy handbells with simulator software. There is no computer keyboard or mouse interaction required – the controllers are swung to ring two bells and buttons on the controllers are used to start the others ringing, initiate the method and call bobs and singles.