ITTS and Handbell ringing

A few weeks ago I attended my first module of the ITTS (Integrated Teaching Training Scheme), and while I am not sure I ever gained mastery over the many acronyms floating about, I came away with some interesting ideas, which have some applications to handbell ringing.

The most productive concept is that of breaking down a task into simpler elements.  I have found myself thinking of how to apply this to progressing our own and others' handbell ringing.  We were giving it a lot of thought during our latest Scottish Handbell Day too, as we were doing more focussed practices than in previous events.

Our usual philosophy of learning something new in handbells is to start from the beginning and plough through as much as possible.  When you break down completely, stop and start again and hope you get further.  This has been a reasonably successful strategy for our own band, but, are there ways to increase the success rate?

One of the more common ways to break this down is to start from a lead partway along the plain course.  This is a good way to practise specific dodging patterns, such as a parallel dodge or a scissors dodge, or moving from one pattern to the next.  Bastow can also be useful in ringing handbells in order to practice treble-bob hunting without the other distractions of slow work on the front, or places in 3-4.

In most common handbell training, there is an idea of starting with Plain Bob and building up to more and more complicated place notations in an orderly way.  This has the same principle at heart, but I feel that it is designed less to make ringing methods easier, than to hardwire the idea of taking different patterns apart and putting them together in new ways.  A very important tool, but not quite the same thing.

So this blog is a bit long on questions and short on answers.  However, we did put this principle to good use just after our latest Handbell Day.

Over the last year we have been trying to master 8-spliced Surprise Major, and we have taken the project up again after a few months' hiatus.  We are a bit rusty, but after a practice quarter attempt that ground to a halt a couple of times, we began to discuss in earnest exactly what was holding us back (apart from lack of experience).  We concluded that cleanly going in and out of London was the biggest (and toughest) hurdle for us.  (You can also read Simon's take on this session: The Concentrated Essence of Spliced Surprise Major.)

So, Simon devised a two course touch of alternating London and Bristol, joined by singles, so we could practice the transition very intensively.  It was fiendishly difficult, far more difficult than any transition we would have in an ordinary all-the-work peal composition.  Definitely exposed a weakness we had been skating over in longer touches.  We all agreed it was a most excellent practice tool.  So now we have our homework to do before our next meeting.