Teaching Foundation Skills


Handling

Whether you are teaching a non-ringer or a proficient tower bell peal ringer you need to start with:

  • An appropriate positioning of both the handbells and the ringer
  • Basic handling and rhythm

Appropriate positioning

  • Rivets can be either up or down – but consistency is required to preserve handles.
  • Lie the bells mouth down, not mouth down, to protect the spring.
  • Don’t clash the bells together – they go out of tune.
  • Inter-lock handles with a 90o turn.
  • Posture – feet flat, back straight and rest knuckles on knees after the down stroke.

Appropriate action

  • Don’t double clapper – the hand or (up)stroke to be flipped right over so that the mouth of the bell is facing your chest (clapper on downward lip of bell).
  • Flick of the wrist – not a town crier. Compact style aids precision.
  • Open handstrokes at the lead.
  • Count the sounds of the bells and anticipate your place

The initial pitch

Everyone must have good rhythm and handling but then differentiation is important. How you start and how you progress depends on the needs of the individual ringer and the capabilities of the supporting band.

» Plan your teaching around the needs of the learner


Rhythm

Exploring rhythm with rounds

  • Write out rounds and then ring rounds rhythmically.
  • Swap two bells, write it out and then ring it rhythmically.
  • If your student is not an experienced tower bell ringer discuss the place each of the swapped bells is ringing in.
  • Listen to some good handbell ringing.
  • Hear the rhythm of even handstroke sounds then backstroke sounds then a (handstroke) gap. Repeat.
  • Tap out 3-4 on the table following your 1-2 and before another teacher's 5-6.
  • Encourage the practising of rhythm at home through clapping or using a ringing simulator package set to ring either rounds or with the tenor covering.

Ring tunes

Try some tunes to build rhythm

Jingle Bells

4, 4, 4, - 4, 4, 4, - 4, 2, 6-, 5, 4,
3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 5, 2,
4, 4, 4, - 4, 4, 4, - 4, 2, 6-, 5, 4,
3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 2, 2, 3, 5, 6.

Happy Birthday

8, 8, 7, 8, 5, 6, 8, 8, 7, 8, 4, 5,
8, 8, 1, 3, 5, 5, 6, 7,
(3, 6), (3, 6), 3, 5, 4, 5.

The First Noel

6, 7, 8, *, *, 7, 6, 5, 4, *, *, *, 3, 2, 1, *, 2, *, 3, *, 4, *, *, *,
3, 2, 1, *, 2, *, 3, *, 4, *, 3,*, 2, *, 1,*, 4, *, 5, *, 6, *, *, *, *,

Other ideas to reinforce rhythm

  • Everyone chants the rhythm of rounds (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, -, ) as the bells ring.
  • Handclap or tap the table rather than ringing whilst counting the rhythm, this is good homework as no bells are required.
  • Slow rounds becoming gradually faster then back slower again – harder to be rhythmical if ringing slowly, quicker really is easier!

Plain hunting

Teaching theory

Hunting is the starting point for all method ringing – make sure everyone understands what it is and how we achieve it – this will be time well spent if you are teaching handbells to non-ringers. Here is a representation of hunting:

XXX
IXXI
XXX
IXXI
XXX

Walking Plain Hunt

Line up your ringers and get them to walk the pattern. Every time they arrive in a new place they should ring one stroke of their bell – or announce their place. Ringers / walkers moving up to the back of the row should walk behind the ringers moving down to the front. This establishes the routine of moving to a new place once a single stroke is rung.

Why not tie a ribbon around someone’s wrist so onlookers can watch one bell’s progression?

Lapping

This exercise is not appropriate for socially distanced handbell ringing.

  • Sit three people down at a table with two bells each in front of them on the table.
  • The most experienced ringer (or you as teacher) should ring the middle pair.
  • Pick up and ring in order right to left. Everyone crosses their hands and replaces their bells in front of them.
  • Pick up and ring in order right to left. The end two ringers keep their outside bell in their same hand but place their inside bell on the table closer to the inside of the line of bells – at the same time the centre ringer splits their bells placing each one out towards an outer edge.
  • Pick up and ring in order right to left. Everyone crosses their hands and replaces bells in front of them.
  • Pick up and ring in order right to left. The end two ringers keep their outside bell in their same hand but place their inside. bell on the table closer to the inside of the line of bells – at the same time the centre ringer splits their bells placing each one out towards an outer edge.
  • Repeat until rounds return.

Teaching the coursing position

  • Encourage your students to draw the pattern out in two colours (be consistent – always use red for left hand and blue for right).
  • 90% focus on the lead hand, other follows with a gap of one bell or learn the pairs of numbers.
  • Lead hand stays the same until the next meet and cross.
  • Learn in two halves. Start with all bells up for reverse rounds.
  • Ring several times without stopping.
  • Ring on higher numbers.
  • Trebles to a bob course of Plain Bob Minor.
  • Ring Plain Hunt on bells 3-5 or 4-6 or 5-7 or 7-9 or 8-10 – this can be a challenge but it gives everyone the same chance and underlines the nature of coursing.

Teaching the opposites position

  • Encourage your students to draw the pattern out in two colours – consistent use of colour.
  • 90% of the ringer’s focus should be on the lead hand, the other hand follows as a mirror or reflection of the lead hand or learn the pairs of numbers.
  • Lead hand stays the same until the next meet and cross.
  • Extend by ringing several times without stopping and ring opposites on higher numbers.

Learning the 2/3 position

  • Encourage your students to draw the pattern out in two colours – consistent use of colour.
  • 90% focus on the lead hand other follows as a gap of three but on only six bells that ‘signature’ is not overly apparent so know your crossing points or learn the pairs of places in each row by rote.
  • Be aware that the lead hand stays the same until the next meet and cross, then 2 between, 3 between, 3 between, 2 between, meet, cross.
  • Extend by ringing several times without stopping.

Mental agility

  • Rotate bells (i.e.pass one to the right) and plain hunt from here – twice through, three times through.
Lots and lots of practice of the three positions is required.

These positions form the foundations of all subsequent method ringing and must become automatic.

Lesson plan

To bring non-method ringing students up to speed with their method ringing colleagues.

» Download plan

Principles of teaching

ART principles apply to the teaching of handbells just as for teaching tower bell ringing.

Explain key words
Lead, hunt, rounds, minor, major etc.

Feedback
It's easy to stop at a crunchy bit and review what happened straight-away.

Vary your teaching style
What works with one learner won't work with another, so always look for different ways of explaining and practising concepts.

Whole-part-whole

If someone is not getting something, break it down into smaller parts.

Differentiate lessons and add variety
You'll find lots of ideas on these web pages.

Set appropriate targets
Plan for the next lesson. Let them know what their homework is and ensure the next practice goes along as planned – that way everyone feels a sense of progress.


Using videos

Watch the plain hunting YouTube videos on website and count together with student. Ask them what are they thinking. Ask them to count out loud while they watch.