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  Development: Ringing - Memory Skills

Method Learning Techniques

Every human brain is unique, and hence some learning techniques are more approachable to an individual than others. This page lists seven different aspects of method learning, to enable method ringing.

Inevitably there is overlap amongst these techniques, e.g. a Grid can be seen simply as "all the lines in one place".

Know your own preferred memory technique.

What comes most easily to you, words, pictures or numbers? Are you left biased, right biased, or ambidextrous? Memory works by association, neurons that fire together, wire together.

Choose the techniques that work for you, and set yourself clear and immediate learning goals.

Also please be aware that there is no one single simple way to learn and ring a method. You need to learn enough of your preferred approach to get going; once you are in there you will see things that were not evident on paper. That's when the real learning starts.

How long does it take to learn a method properly? There is no single answer to that, my reply would be, "How long will it take to ring your first 1,000 courses of the method?"
Think on, a quarter of Bob Minor is 21 courses, a peal is 84 courses, 1,000 courses isn't such a big number.

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What is structure? It is all of the interlocking pieces of work that go to make up the method.

Plain Bob has a simple method structure, the Plain Course can be defined with three Place Notation elements, X, 16 and 12. And because of the simplicity it can also be described in a simple set of ringing rules.

Cambridge Surprise is a more complex structure, and whilst it can also be described in a simple set of rules, the application of those rules is too hard to be used as a means of ringing the method. More advanced techniques are required.

Using Structure to learn methods

If you are starting to learn a new method, look at the overall structure and complexity.

  • Is it like anything you already know?
  • Is it straighforward enough to be defined in rules?



A simple method can be expressed in a set of rules; Plain Bob, Double Bob, Little Bob, Kent TB and Oxford TB are all accessible in this manner.

The application of a set of rules will normally depend on the ringer having acquired some skill; for example ringing Double Bob by the rules requires the ringer to be able to see the treble hunting in 4-5.

However, the ability to use a simple set of rules can relieve a ringer of a substantial amount of rote learning of double blue lines.

See Method Rules in the local glossary.

Beyond basic Treble Bob, rules become unwieldy, and other techniques are easier to use.



The Blue Line is an excellent graphical representation of a method being simple and clear, and has been the mainstay of many bellringing careers; and with a little extra information can be the basis of learning and ringing methods from Bob Minimus to Surprise Maximus.

Equally, many handbell ringers learn double blue lines as the primary way of ringing two-in-hand.

However, as the complexity of methods being attempted rises with more structure and more bells, the limitations of double lines may cause difficulties. The addition of more information on the work of related bells (e,g, places in Cambridge Surprise) can ease some of the difficulties.



In the context of handbells, artefacts are an extension of structure as an approach to learning. An artefact is a named subsection of the work depicted in a blue line.

Artefacts are normally encountered as pairs of artefacts, indeed, they have already been met by anyone ringing an inside pair. Dodge together in 5-6, is the same as the two artefacts: dodge 5-6 up and 5-6 down simultaneously.

Other examples: Stedman whole turn / point, cats' ears and coat hangers.

Solitary artefacts occur for example in Cunecastre Surprise Minor where 6ths place bell rings a "crankshaft" between the two dodges with the treble.

The visual name is an aid to memory.



A grid is simply a graphical representation of all of the bells for one lead of the method. E.g. Little Bob:

Little Bob Minor - grid

Diagram 1r.08.01 Little Bob Minor - grid

For simple methods, the grid is a powerful pictorial representation, and can be used to learn a method. For complex methods the power of the grid is to highlight how the bells work together, and illustrate any artefacts.

Place Notation

Place Notation

If you are not a "numbers person", Place Notation is a poor way of learning a method. However, when combined with other techniques Place Notation can be a powerful aid to memory. See Place Notation for an explanation.

Having the place notation in your head might be a life saver if other memory techniques get blown away by a trip.

Experienced ringers develop a blend of those memory techniques which they find useful, Place Notation is often part of that blend.



"Pictel" is short for "Picture Element". A Pictel is a graphical representation of a few rows of a method, the graphic being easier to remember than the related Place Notation element. Indeed, "pictel" in the first instance was little more than a pictorial place notation.

We have now adapted the word Pictel to mean the graphical represntation of a Treble Bob Section and Cross-section. This aligns with the Bill Jackson approach to learning to ring Surprise Major in hand, but begins with Surprise Minor.

A benefit of the Bill Jackson approach is that each Section is defined by the unique work of the Treble. And learning the work relative to the treble is one of the major execution skills.

Pictel Example - Cambridge Surprise Minor, Section 1

Graphic of Cambridge Surprise Minor - Grid

Diagram 1r.08.02 Cambridge Surprise Minor - The Grid

From the grid we can extract a picture of each of the 6 sections.

Graphic of Cambridge Surprise Minor - Section 1

Diagram 1r.08.03 Cambridge Surprise Minor - Section 1

Cambridge Surprise Minor, Section 1
The treble dodges 1-2 Up, and then hunts through 2nds and 3rds.

Whilst the treble is dodging in 1-2, the bells in 3-4-5-6 Plain Hunt, and then when the treble has finished dodging in 1-2, it hunts 2-3, 4ths place is made, and the bells in 5-6 dodge together.

Verbally: Treble dodging in 1-2, maximum hunting above; treble hunting 2-3, maximum dodging above.

This analytical / descriptive technique can then be applied to each section for each method being studied.