The Tower Handbook

11.11 Teaching listening

a: When should we start teaching learners to listen?

It's very tempting to leave listening until after bell handling and learning to ring rounds, but don't be tempted. By that stage, a feeling for what ringing is like will already have developed. If listening is a part of that basic experience, it can be developed along with other skills. If listening is not part of the experience, then it is much harder to try to graft it on. For example, on a silent bell one may imagine that the bell would strike when it is pulled off and focus on that alone, whereas in reality it is only the prelude for the moment a second or so later when the bell really strikes. It is important to learn the habit of mentally aiming for the strike point.

Introduce the listening side of ringing right at the beginning. If possible give bell handling lessons with sound. With good sound control you can ring the bell open, otherwise you could use some form of quietener. See section 6.4i. If you have a simulator, then you can use that to provide sound without any external disturbance.

Follow the importance of listening through at each stage. Use the exercises below. When the learner is ringing rounds, show an interest in his or her striking. Comment if it is good, ask whether he or she can hear when there is a consistent error, show that you value good striking and enjoy listening to it.

b: How can we help someone who can't hear his or her bell?

This is mainly a problem for people who have not been taught to listen when they were learning. The problem is not failure to hear the bell, but rather an inability to pick out its sound from the others. This must seem dauntingly difficult to anyone who has not learnt how to do it, so it is not surprising that some stop trying.

To help, you can do three things:

c: What conditions make listening easier or harder?

If the bells are very quiet in the ringing room, it is hard to hear what is happening, but making them louder may not make things better. To listen effectively you must pick out individual blows from the background sound, but opening a trap door would make both louder. If the bells made short sharp pings with no background sound they would be very easy to hear (but not very inspiring). With normal bells, things are much harder. The sounds run into each other with a lot of hum. If there is much rope noise, organs playing in the background or aircraft flying above things get harder still.

If the ringing room and bell chamber are very reverberant [145] then even though you can hear the bells, often quite loud, you will have difficulty picking out the sound of individual bells, ie listening in a useful sense. Some towers have solved this problem by fitting sound absorbent material to the inside of the tower walls. This does not affect the direct sound from the bells, but damps down the reflections that otherwise tend to smudge out the sound.

d: What exercises can we use to help develop listening?

All of these exercises force the ringer to listen in order to complete them. This contrasts with normal ringing, where it is possible to get to the end without listening. If your pupil does not strike very well, no one will be sure whether it is listening, bell handling, method mistakes, tiredness or whatever. Some of these exercises need special aids but others do not, so they are suitable for use in any tower.

PreviousPrevious  Sheet  NextNext

Currently hosted on