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RTFM (read the flipping manual) is well known advice when something won’t work. Often we never read manuals, and assume we will be able to work things out as we go along. Usually we get by, maybe taking more time or effort than we could, but since we don’t know any better we just accept that’s the way it is. Only when we get completely stuck do we resort to the manual.

What does that have to do with ringing? After all, a bell isn’t a complicated electronic gizmo, and it’s obvious how to ring isn’t it? Well it certainly isn’t obvious when you start, and it can’t be all that obvious later or none of us would have difficulty learning methods, or putting ourselves right when we make a trip. And we would all know how to strike accurately, and have the technique to control very small, or large, or ‘difficult’ bells.

Ringing may not be like an electronic gizmo but it is a complex process. Controlling the timing of half a ton of metal on the end of a rope to within a few hundredths of a second takes quite a bit of skill, and requires techniques that have to be learned. Likewise, translating lines on a page reliably from memory into what you do on the end of a rope, and making sense of how you fit in with the sea of ropes around you requires technique, all of which has to be learned.

Where does a new ringer (or a not so new ringer) acquire all the knowledge and techniques?

With ringing it’s more important to learn the right way to do things early, because unlike operating a gizmo after you’ve muddled along for a while your physical and mental habits become engrained, which makes it much hard to change even if given good advice later.

Helping new ringers to learn more effectively was the motivation behind The New Ringer’s Book. It explains how to ring effectively, both the physical aspects of bell control and the mental aspects of learning methods. It doesn’t pre-suppose a particular way of teaching and it supplements whatever information is (or isn’t) provided by the ringer’s tutor. It includes lots of pictures, not just words, and it is physically robust with a heavy spiral binding so it can be repeatedly folded back without damaging the spine. It is intended to be used heavily as the new ringer’s constant companion – from the start and well into his or her ringing career. Every new (and maybe not so new) ringer should have their own copy. The book is available from Central Council Publications See: cccbr.org.uk/bibliography/#newRingersBook 

Another book written for ringers who want to understand and develop their core ringing ability is Ringing Skills. It focuses on the difficult skills of rhythm, listening and ropesight and how to integrate them for optimum performance. It was originally published as a book in 1993 but has recently been revised and made available for free download.

The PDF version can be download from the author’s website. See: jaharrison.me.uk/book 

There are two books to help ringers develop their method learning skills, ie to be able to learn new methods more easily and then to be able to ring them more reliably. They are: How to Learn Methods and Learning Methods

How to Learn Methods is available from the Whiting Society, see: How to Learn Methods (or cccbr.org.uk/bibliography/#howToLearnMethods  ) and Learning Methods can be downloaded from the CC website, see: cccbr.org.uk/bibliography/#learningMethods 

The Guild bookstall (and many branch bookstalls) have a range of other useful books on ringing. Take a look when you next attend a Guild or branch event.

John Harrison, Education Sub-Committee Chairman (March 2014)

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