The Tower Handbook

11.10 Teaching rhythm and good striking

a: Can you teach someone to strike well?

You can't pump the skill into people's heads like you could teach them the words of the Lord's Prayer, but that is true for many things. You can offer useful techniques, you can expose them to good striking and you can provide sustained advice and constructive criticism of their efforts. Best of all you can show them you value good striking in your own and other people's ringing.

b: When should we start teaching learners about rhythm?

While they are learning bell handling. Start as you mean to go on. When they start to ring with others, there will be a strong temptation to abandon rhythm and rely too much on correction. Ropesight is very useful at this stage (providing the other bells are all in the right places) but do not let it overshadow the main skill you are trying to encourage, ie changing the speed of the bell swing to move it from place to place in the sequence. Letting them ring with a simulator is very useful because they can only do that by rhythm.

c: What factors make good striking harder or easier?

A good rhythmic style of ringing by each member of the band produces good striking, but some things make this harder, even if you are trying.

d: Which bells are best for learning a good rhythm?

Different bells are good for learning different aspects of rhythm. Don't let your learners become too familiar with one bell. Keep them moving so they experience the subtle differences of different bells and learn to adapt to them, rather than falling into a rigid style of their own.

We have used the terms 'heavy' and 'light' because there are no hard dividing lines. In general, bells of 3 - 8cwt would be considered medium weight. Much less than this, especially with a flighty rope, will test light-bell handling skills. The heavy end is more dependent on physique, technique and what is being rung. For someone of average build, heavy-bell handling skills would be needed to cover on a 15cwt bell, or turn in a 10cwt bell to minor. For a child or someone of slight build, the figures would reduced.

e: What conditions help develop a rhythmic ringing style?

To develop the physical aspects of rhythm requires a combination of:

Some of these conditions can be provided during solo bell handling, some while ringing with a (good) band, but one of the most effective ways is to use a simulator. With a simulator, it is impossible to ring accurately (or even near accurately) without using some rhythm, there are no distracting ropes and ringing against the metronomic beat of the other bell sounds gives extremely good feedback on accuracy.

f: What exercises can we use to help develop rhythm?

Noting the conditions listed above, these exercises should be helpful.

Some people are shy about doing the dong exercise, but it is worth doing. You shouldn't need it a lot but everyone should have a go at it some time.

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