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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.

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.

This website has information on the double lines for both Cambridge S and London S.



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:

Pictels graphic

Diagram 105.02.00 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.

The grid is also the source of pictels.

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.

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



"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. An exposition of this can be found in the Cambridge and Pictels page.

Pictels graphic

Diagram 001.05 Pictels

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. An example of the use of pictels can be found in the Cambridge Cages page.