Group name - Hull Handbell Change Ringers

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Methods - hints and tips

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Learning How

What is "Learning"?

When you learn, you change your brain. When you learn something quickly, your brain uses chemicals, and the learning is short-term and fragile. Here today, gone tomorrow.

When you learn something thoroughly, your brain changes in structure, and the learning is longer-term and much less fragile.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. So ringing is about rhythmic movement, sight and sound; all of these are built into the memory.

Why do some people learn more easily than others?

The brain structure is highly complex, and every brain is unique. No two people have identical brains.

There was a time when you could not walk. Eventually you stood up, took faltering steps, and learned how not to fall over. Now, it's so automatic, you are not even aware of walking most of the time.

Bellringing is like that. There was a time when I couldn't ring Plain Bob Minor. Now I can.

However, the analogy with learning to walk is not enough, it only goes so far. Bellringing has numerous dimensions, it's dynamic, it's diverse, it's a team sport. Every bellringer has their own set of boundaries at which they are learning, and a team setting in which they are testing their new knowledge.




The Learning process:

Understand. Assimilate. Practise.


To understand means to see the whole picture, and know that it encompasses detail; and to see the detail and know where it fits in the big picture.
Understanding means that you have resolved any apparent conflicts, filled in the gaps, tied up loose ends of ideas.
You can test your understanding by explaining the topic it to someone else.


Some "baby steps in bellringing" need you to memorise strings of numbers, e.g. "Cross in 1-2, lead and 1 between, 1 from lead and 1 between". etc.
It is not enough to have the related picture in your head, you need to express it with your hands, at handbell speeds.
(In the privacy of your own room) say it out loud and move your arms up and down in the correct sequence, at handbell speed. Be honest, did you get it right? or were there gaps and pauses whilst you worked it all out?


Right. It's in your head, now let it flow on the bells.
If you have a computer with handbell manager and Abel or Belltower, use them. See Simulator Notes for further input on this.

Do it again. And again. and again.

Move on to the next topic, start the learning, and assimilation, etc.
Once you can ring touches of Plain Bob, shoot for a quarter peal; this is a great way of driving the skills into the sub-conscious so they are as automatic as walking.


Whether you have just reached "Base Camp", or conquered your K2, or even rung your first course of Double Helix, offer a prayer of thanks for the joy of achievement, for the team that helped you, and raise a glass of your favourite tipple. Celebrate!


Learning point:
The concept of change-rows, striking position within a row, changes of position within a row, is fundamental to everything that follows.

Rounds and Call Changes

Learning points
The end product is a sound, but the process includes sight and movement in a team environment. So if a bell is rung and by accident doesn't strike, don't "waggle the bell", just leave it as if it had properly been rung because other people will have counted the movement as a bell having been rung.

Learning point
Use the spacing of bells inside tittums and whittingtons as a preparation for plain hunting; one apart in tittums is like 1 apart in coursing.

Plain Hunting

Learning point
On 6 bells there are three hunting patterns (see Hunting Patterns), and they all need to be learned in preparation for ringing Plain Bob.
The patterns are easier to ring by concentrating most (e.g. 66%) on the first bell in the row; the other bell is rung relative to the first (spacing 1 apart, etc) and takes he remaining 33% of concentration.

Teaching point
Don't assume the learner has read, marked and learned the structure of plain hunting, take time to go through it thoroughly. Test the learner's understanding by getting them to write this out, and then to generate the pattern by joining together the positions of the pair of bells they are learning to ring.

Learning points
Part of learning is the repetition to enable assimilation. However, the early assimilation of the "tune" of Plain Hunting starting at diatonic rounds can cause mistakes when the hunting starts from other sequences, as it does in Plain Bob. Two techniques are noted that force a learner to rely on the visual pattern rather than the auditory tune:

a) Swap the bells so that the ringer of 1-2 pattern has bells 1 and 3; 3-4 pattern has 5 and 2; 5-6 pattern has 4 and 6; thus the tune is now "Plain Hunting from Queens".

b) Ring 8 or 10 bells with the front 6 ringing Plain Hunting and bells numbered 7 and above stay in place (covering).

Teaching point
Accidentally using the word "position" when we should say "starting position", or better "pattern" will confuse learners.

Learning point
On 6 bells there are three hunting patterns (see above), and they all need to be learned in preparation for ringing Plain Bob.

Plain Bob Minor

Double Bob Minor

Learning exercise
Place notation is so important that it is worthwhile taking the time to write out a lead or two, or even a full plain course of Double Bob, Little Bob, etc.

Do this using graph paper, first mark the hunting path of the treble, then sketch in any places that are made. e.g. 5ths when the treble lies behind in double bob.

Then fill in the other bells one number at a time to understand:
a) The way that the treble dictates the method structure
b) The way the places define the method in detail.
E.g. 5-6 to Double Bob Minor.
Course down, 5ths under treble at half lead, dodge in parallel 1-2 & 3-4 down
Course down, treble turns 5, 2nds and 3-4 up, 2-3 pattern hunting
Course up round treble, 6 makes 5ths at half lead making 5 dodge 3-4 up, course up.
etc. for all ten half leads.

The above exercise derives the work of the method from the position of the treble together with the places that are made.

Treble Bob Minor

Right Place Surprise Minor

Learning points
Whilst Cambridge Surprise is an elegant method, it is also quite "busy" compared to Kent and Oxford T.B. Cambridge intermingles fluid hunting with long places.

An experienced tower bell ringer might get a long way in Cambridge by looking at the double blue line, however, a safer approach is to learn several different aspects of the method. These include, Place Notation alone, Place Notation and where's the treble, Visualisation of the Grid, 14 and 36 cages, double blue lines, lead end transpositions.

Wrong Place Surprise Minor