Group name - Hull Handbell Change Ringers

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Change Ringing on Handbells

Teaching notes re: change ringing on handbells

This page captures what we learned, sometimes the hard way, on the Hull handbells project. We hope it helps you along to becoming change ringers.

Selecting Learners

Some teachers advise that a selection process should be used and people with poor natural rhythm should not be taught, or if they are a lot of effort is applied to improving their rhythm. Our experience in Hull is that (older) learners will rapidly decide either to stay the course or gracefully discontinue.

Teaching Style

On the one hand, a teaching style of "tell, show, and sell" can work, on the other a teaching style of "raise their curiosity and they will teach themselves" can be valid.

A good teacher needs quickly to be able to assess what style will produce the best result.

Irrespective of previous experience, learners need to adopt a habit of "doing their homework" before the next practise session. And testing the quality of the homework might be valid

Teaching and Learning Principle

Whatever stage a learner is at, the detail needs correctly to be in the learner's head, otherwise it will not come out correctly on the bells. This principle applies to both the teacher and the learner. The mental skill of knowing and correctly memorising in which places a pair of bells is to be rung absolutely precedes picking up the bells.

Teaching points
There will be a gap between the aspirations of the leader and the difficulties being experienced by the learner. Occasionally bridging the gap is important as the leader and the learners need to stay connected.

It is easy to overlook the team nature of handbell ringing; ringing one's own bells correctly is part of enabling the other ringers to do likewise, this includes the leader.

Mistakes are inevitable, and part of the teamwork is to try to recover from a mistake, rather than just stopping and starting again.





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

Hence it is essential that this is taught and tested before moving on. Demonstrate / teach by the use of moving people and moving bells if necessary.

Rounds and Call Changes

Teaching points
The visual aspect of ringing needs to be mentioned, so if a bell is rung and by accident doesn't strike, the learner needs to be taught not to "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.

Teaching points
There is more value in Rounds and Call Changes than would first appear; for learners struggling with theory, being able to produce a pleasant sound is re-assuring; on higher numbers, the patterns can be a lead-in step towards Plain Hunting.

Teaching points
The spacing of bells inside tittums and whittingtons should be used to emphasize the team nature of handbell ringing and as a preparation for plain hunting; one apart in tittums is like 1 apart in coursing.

Teaching point
Use an experienced ringer to ring 1-2 when possible, in order to demonstrate and emphasise the open handstroke lead.

Plain Hunting

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 join 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 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 position has bells 1 and 3; 3-4 position has 5 and 2; 5-6 position 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 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.

Plain Bob Minor

Double Bob Minor

Teaching points
To the experienced ringer, place notation is straightforward. To the novice place notation seems to be irrelevant in the struggle to remember where to ring one's bells in the changes, and the symmetry of the leads and patterns is not obvious.

Showing how plain hunting is created by place notation is not enough. It was when we started to write out a course of Little Bob (from -16-14/12) that the penny started to drop.

In change ringing on handbells, the ringer is much more involved with the structure of the methods, and detailed understanding of those structures is an invaluable aid to accurate ringing. Hence the early emphasis on place notation.

Awareness of the place notation is also an aid to developing an awareness of the position of the treble, the key to all basic ringing methods.

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