Group name - Hull Handbell Change Ringers

Development Section Index

Concept Pages

Ringing Pages

Key Concepts on this page

  Development: Ringing - Overview


Double Handed Change Ringing -

A place where mathematics and music converge.

Question: What is handbell ringing?
Answer: Change ringing on handbells is a mathematical art form that uses abstract patterns to create pleasing sequences of rhythmical sounds using musical handbells.

Apart from solo practise using a computer based simulator, bellringing is a team activity. When ringing takes place, each member of the team has two of the available notes; there are typically between 6 and 12 notes (1 per bell), of a diatonic scale.

Question: Has handbell ringing changed as a consequence of COVID-19?
Answer: Yes.
The need to work as a team without physically meeting led to the development of ringing simulators which were linked via the internet. Our experience relates only to two simulators, Ringing Room, and Handbell Stadium. The use of these developments has been a significant help in keeping the handbell skills in the Hull Project moving forwards.

Question: What aspects of handbell ringing changed as a consequence of ringing online?
Answer: The execution skills are performed via hand held motion sensors or a keyboard, the musical sounds are compouter generated. Team working still dominates the activity.

Question: How do you do it?

A portion of the grid for a bellringing method

Diagram: 01.01.01 An example method grid.

The abstract patterns are used to create permutations and combinations of sound sequences with minimum or no repetition. No two bells should sound at the same instant, no series of bells should repeat a sequence unnecessarily.

Visual aids to memory are not normally used, and in some circumstances are not allowed.

The abstract patterns are called methods.

The pattern shown to the left is part of a moderately difficult method, known as "Norwich Surprise", for six bells.

Site Sections:

Making Music

Making Music

Turning the abstract pattern into mathematical music has 4 key components:

The essential components of bellringing

Diagram: 01.01.02 The knowledge and skill categories of bellringing.

As a bellringer's skill increases, so the related theory becomes more complex, and the related techniques and skills become more extensive. Documenting these aspects of handbell change-ringing is the primary purpose of this website.

Question: Why ring changes rather than play music?

The physical limits of towerbells which turn a full circle, and which can weigh many hundreds of kilograms (although bellringers still work in hundredweights, quarters and pounds) preclude swift repetition of notes, therefore conventional music is impossible. Once some control had been gained over the periodicity of a towerbell, ringing sequences and changing those sequences followed. Handbell change ringers choose to work within the rules applying to towerbells.

How do you learn?

The information on this site is presented as a logical progression. Small steps, thorough understanding, and concerted practise in a team environment ensure progress in line with the natural talents of the learner.

Key Qualities

What are the key qualities of a good learner?

  • An acute sense of rhythm
  • Motivation to succeed in spite of difficulties
  • Ability to listen in detail
  • Ability to absorb instructions and take action

As with any specialist activity there is much jargon. Our "jargon buster" is a glossary of terms, do browse the Glossary of Terms before diving in.

First Steps

First steps in Handbell Ringing

The handbell has a clapper which is held away from the bell to avoid damping the sound, but to make the sound the clapper has to be thrown against the side of the bell. So each upward and then downward movement of the bell is terminated crisply rather than gently. Each learner needs to achieve this and then fit in to a team ringing rounds and then rounds and call changes.

Once the learner is comfortable ringing rounds and call changes, the spacings for Plain Hunting need to be learned and then practised. See Plain Hunting.

These two steps are (Call changes and Plain Hunting) the first example of the model in diagram 01.01.02.

  • The structure of Plain Hunting is the theory
  • The spacings of the pairs are the memory technique
  • Counting the bells is the execution technique
  • Practise takes place with a tutor in a team environment
  • The output is the fluid (but abstract) music of Plain Hunting