A practice session with everyone

Following up on the previous post, here's a report on what we did yesterday evening. We're not going to give a blow-by-blow account of our sessions in general, but just this once it might be interesting to describe exactly what we did; maybe it will provoke some comments making comparisons with other people's sessions.

  1. Rounds on 12 with our daughter Dorothy, who is 5. She likes ringing rounds, but she still finds some of the bells difficult to strike, especially the little bells of our 12. Dorothy then went off to play; she just likes a little ring at the beginning of our sessions.
  2. Rounds on 12 with our son, Thomas. He wanted to try the tenors.
  3. Plain hunting on the front 6, with the back 6 covering.
  4. Plain hunting simultaneously on the front 6 and the back 6. The idea was to practice ringing changes with a 12-bell rhythm, without having to find our way through the whole change. This didn't work very well; we didn't give enough thought to the band placing, and it would have been better to first try plain hunting on the back 6 with the front 6 ringing rounds. Nevertheless, we think this idea has potential, and Tina is planning to try it (or maybe an 8-bell version) with the school handbell club. Thomas then decided that his arms were tired from ringing big bells, and went off to play.
  5. Plain Bob Major with Josy on the tenors. We decided to do some 8-bell ringing before starting to work on 10-bell ringing. Angela was ringing 5-6 and Jonathan 1-2, which is very far from our usual band placing - good practice for everyone.
  6. Bastow Little Bob Major, to get used to it before trying Bastow Royal.
  7. Little Bob Major. By this time we had moved Josy to the trebles and I was ringing the tenors, where I managed to stay for the rest of the evening. We started trying to ring a bit faster in order to build up more momentum and a better rhythm. I don't want to become obsessed with ringing faster and faster, but I feel that sometimes we ring the opening rounds fairly slowly, for no very good reason, and then we just stick to that speed. The problem then is that any hesitations during the ringing threaten to bring us grinding to a halt. We often ring slowly and carefully in more difficult methods, for example in our recent attempts at London, but easier methods are an opportunity to practise a brisker pace. We rang Little Bob twice, as the first attempt didn't quite come round.
  8. Kent Major, which might have been Josy's first attempt at it. I think we had a false start, but then it went quite well.
  9. We then embarked on 10-bell ringing. The first step was to ring treble bob hunting. We started with rounds for a while, tower-bell style - normally on handbells we ring "up, down and off", but sometimes it's useful to start with rounds. The idea of ringing treble bob hunting rather than plain hunting is that you have two chances to find each position, so it might be a bit more stable. We didn't ring any plain hunting, though, so I can't say whether or not treble bob hunting was easier with that band on that occasion. Anyway, we managed some treble bob hunting with a good speed and rhythm. We rang it several times. One of the big differences between handbell practices and tower bell practices is that on handbells, if we're ringing something short, we usually ring it two or three times consecutively, trying to get better each time. We find that harder to do at a tower-bell practice because there are always people sitting out.
  10. Next we tried Bastow Royal, and it went quite well. By this time we had managed to establish a good 10-bell speed and rhythm, and we rang several plain courses (a plain course of Bastow is only 36 changes). One thing to work on in future is that the treble, like the slow bell in Kent, has to concentrate on ringing the backstroke leads without hesitation. But ringing Bastow was a success! There's a 10-bell method that we can ring quite decently - hurray! It's a good start to build on.
  11. Finally, we rang a very nice touch of 8-spliced Major. Our work on 10-bell speed and rhythm had paid off and we started much faster than we often ring on 8, and maintained the pace throughout. Sure, there were a few trips (we haven't rung much Pudsey or Superlative for a while), but overall it was much better than we usually ring it in the tower. Very encouraging indeed.

The strategy we're trying to put into practice (probably this sounds very obvious):

  • Have a clear goal for each session and work systematically towards it.
  • On higher numbers, first master a simple method with the most favourable band placing, then work towards more difficult things.