Solving problems in practice

If the bells make noise or roll when you set them on the table, remove your hand straight up, and be sure the bell is all the way down to the table before you release it. Set the bell down, don’t drop it.  It also helps to unwrap most of your fingers from the handle as the bell moves down to the table, so you’re holding the bell between the tips of the thumb and index finger. I’ll talk another time about how I prevent the bells from rolling in the way I set up my equipment. Continue reading Solving problems in practice

Getting started as a soloist – repertoire

When you consider the number of hours that go into learning a handbell solo, and that even the most advanced soloists may have a repertoire of fewer than 100 pieces, you can see the need to choose each piece very carefully. It’s fine to choose your favorite hymn or song as your first piece, but after that you need a strategy for repertoire selection. You want your future concert pieces to have something more in common than that they’re being played on handbells. Every piece needs to be one you truly love, because you’re going to play it literally hundreds of times as you learn it. Continue reading Getting started as a soloist – repertoire

Getting started as a soloist – skills

Before you launch into learning your first solo piece, take the time to develop good technique. Plan to spend time on drills at every practice session; you want to form good habits from the beginning. The basic skills you’ll need immediately are changing bells, table damping, weaving, four-in-hand (ring and knock), Shelley, and an understanding of which hand to use to start a passage. If you don’t know how to do some of them, maybe you’re not ready to start solo ringing. You would be better off finding a quartet to ring with; small ensemble experience is an ideal way to transition from choir ringing to solo ringing. Continue reading Getting started as a soloist – skills

Finding a solo handbell coach

Whether starting to solo or learning specific techniques, look for a teacher. Finding a handbell instructor in your area may prove difficult, and you may need to travel. (While books and videos will be helpful resources, you really need a teacher. Would you try to learn the violin with only a book to guide you? ) Maybe your handbell director can help, or an advanced ringer in your bell choir. Look online for soloists who may live near you, or who travel. If there’s a community bell choir nearby, call and ask if they offer workshops, or if someone in the choir would meet with you to teach you the skills you need. Always check out the prospective coach’s work to see if s/he seems qualified to teach others.

Note:  I’m always happy to give advice or feedback on videos, and I also coach soloists remotely using online video chat.  Please let me know if I can help you.

Continue reading Finding a solo handbell coach