Group name - Hull Handbell Change Ringers





Coursing Order




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. Some people are better at concentrating their mind than others.

Also some people have a better learning environment than others. Two experienced ringers can bring one (young) learner on far faster than if the whole band is struggling at the same time. The availability of a simulator is a significant aid to learning.

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.

Essential attributes

A motivated learner will progress quickly if blessed with:

  • An ability to concentrate their attention and listen carefully
  • A keen sense of rhythm
  • Logical thinking ability

Other attributes are advantageous, such as team working, sense of humour, strong memory, persistence, etc.

Eyesight is an advantage, but lack of eyesight does not stop a person from learning to ring handbells.

Site Sections:

A set of 12 handbells

A set of 12 handbells
Method Ringing

A set of 12 handbells

A set of 12 handbells

A set of 12 handbells

A set of 12 handbells
Hull Project

A set of 12 handbells

An Approach to Long Term Learning :

The Direct Route versus the Scenic Route

The Direct Route.

The Direct Route focuses on the intermediate or even eventual goal and tackles it head on. Each blockage or problem is overcome by hard work and persistence, it's a slog, and the sense of elation when the goal is reached is immense.

The Direct Route would be Plain Bob, Kent Treble Bob, Cambridge Surprise, London Surprise.

If that is your track record then handbell change ringing holds no fears for you.

The Scenic Route.

The Scenic Route takes longer, but is less of a sweat for each goal. Achievements are savoured rather than skipped past in a headlong rush for achievement.

The Scenic Route probably leads to better and more thorough learning than the Direct Route, and the Scenic Route would almost certainly entail ringing most of the method progression documented on this website.

Anyone who has arrived via the Scenic Route will be a more complete, and reliable ringer, demonstrating good memory skills and ringing techniques.


Which comes first, the skill, or the method?

Sometimes you will want to improve a skill such as ringing by structure, seeing the coursing order, counting dodges by the position of the treble. Over-use of a preferred technique (which for towerbell ringers is often blue lines) can stop you developing a new skill. So occasionally you will attempt to ring a method without learning it in your preferred way, just so you can concentrate fully on developing the necessary skills.

A classic example is trying to learn how to ring X 34 X when treble is in 5-6. Morning Star TB Minor is a great way of tackling this skill, and for maximum skill-learning benefit, try it before memorising the double blue lines.

Use it or lose it?.

When you have succeeded and rung your challenging method to your satisfaction, you need to decide whether to keep it or let it go.

"Keep it" entails keeping the memory fresh, basically ringing the method sufficiently often to keep it burnt into long term memory. There is no shame in "letting go".

As long as you keep using your newly acquired skill to ring a method, any method, the skill will stay with you. All you might be losing is the immediate familiarity with one specific method.

Motivation / Motives:

Why do you want to learn a method? There are many possible answers:

  • The novelty of doing something new
  • The joy of ringing something very musical
  • The challenge of achieving something difficult
  • Take a step towards a long term eventual goal
  • Extend the number of Place Notation elements I can ring
  • Try a new memory technique
  • Develop an existing skill (like ringing by the work of the treble)
  • etc.

Learning is an investment of (precious) time, so make wise investments.

  • Learning only enough to “have a go” at a new technique, or novel method is fine if you are learning for the learning, rather than learning to ring longer lengths.
  • Some methods need you to learn enough to “get going” so that you can get “a feel” for the method and know then what you need to memorise thoroughly to become reliable.
  • Learn a method thoroughly if you want to score a quarter or peal or if you are helping others. “Thoroughly” might imply a variety of techniques.
  • Learn the method very thoroughly as well as the composition and coursing orders if you are going to conduct.

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 rung your first course of Bob Minor or a quarter of Cambridge 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 Difficulties:

Why can't I transfer my tower bell skills and experience to my handbell ringing?.

The root issue is that the pair of handbells needs to be rung with one simple thought for each piece of work. To do that means that the method needs to be re-learned. But the brain tries to re-use the existing knowledge and hence overlay a new pattern against the old. This gives a false sense of familiarity.

So ringing one bell by towerbell techniques, and letting the other drift along leads to trips, mental overload and frustration. The solution starts with recognising the problem, and to then .


Go back and learn the spacings (learn = commit to memory) for the double line.

Apply the Bill Jackson "thumbs" approach.

Abel Abel Abel.

Why are Kent places so difficult to get right?.

Kent Places are evil little creatures lurking in plain view to trip up the unsuspecting handbell ringer.


Go back and learn the spacings (learn = commit to memory) for the double line, especially the points where the bells ring next to each other but do not cross over for the next change row.

Chicken out and ring Oxford Treble Bob.
NB. This is only a temporary solution, Kent places have to be rung in the end.