Note: The term “best practices” means a methodology that consistently produces superior results.
Preparation – director: Do score study, breaking down each piece to determine how you’re going to approach teaching all the elements, such as rhythm, techniques, musical expression, etc. In the 1990s (and perhaps other years), Overtones ran an excellent series called Conductor’s Roundtable, where accomplished conductors explained how they would analyze and teach a piece. If you’re a member of the U.S. handbell guild, you may find some of the articles online, or you could order back copies. Always go into rehearsals with a plan for what you want to accomplish, and consider how that fits into the bigger picture of preparing to ring in church or present a concert. Continue reading Rehearsal “best practices”
Often ringers struggle to keep up with others in a bell choir. Joining an established handbell group is like jumping onto a moving train. Integrating new ringers, especially if they don’t read music yet, can take time but yield big dividends. Or maybe they aren’t new, but they struggle because they didn’t get a good orientation to ringing. As the director or fellow ringer, you may struggle yourself to help them, because you just don’t understand what causes their mistakes. Many struggling ringers are adult beginners, and they haven’t learned the language of music. If you learned music yourself as a child, it’s second nature, and you may not know how to teach basic music principles, or remember how you learned them. It would be like a native speaker teaching the language to an immigrant. Continue reading No ringer left behind – Communication
This article was written in response to a series of bullying incidents in the online handbell forums. Some of the attacks stemmed from ignorance of (or blatant disregard for) copyright law. Most details have been omitted to protect the guilty. Continue reading Doubt
If you work with an accompanist only occasionally, you don’t need advice about how to conduct your rehearsal: you scheduled the appointment for a reason, so there you are. But if you’re considering a set schedule, like a weekly or biweekly rehearsal, you may wonder how best to use the time. Though this depends on your own priorities, here’s some insight into my experience. When performing regularly with the same accompanist, there’s always something to work on. Pieces are in various stages of development: selection, learning, interpreting, polishing, rehearsing for performance, and reviewing after performance for needed improvement. Like any interesting “job,” no two days are exactly the same, but I’ll recap this week’s rehearsal to give you an idea of how my accompanist and I work together. Continue reading Accompanists: rehearsal
In general, it’s the soloist’s responsibility to set the tempo. Your accompanist will expect that, and it’s hard to stay together if each of you waits for a cue that never comes. You want to develop the confidence to lead and trust that the accompanist will follow. A major exception is when the piano has the moving part. For example, if you’re playing whole notes while the piano plays 8th notes, the pianist can’t conform to your tempo; you have to listen and follow her. You have the option to ask the accompanist to lead the whole piece while you follow. That’s especially helpful if you’re inexperienced, and need to develop the skill of keeping a steady tempo. Continue reading Accompanists: tempo setting
You can expect your accompanist to:
Accept only engagements she can fulfill, both technically and from a scheduling standpoint.
Tell you if the music you’ve selected is too difficult for her.
Pay attention when you demonstrate how you plan to play a piece – I once worked with an accompanist who failed to do this, and the rehearsal went downhill from there. Continue reading Accompanists: mutual expectations
This article assumes your accompanist already understands accompaniment fundamentals, but may not be familiar with handbells. I’ll write another article for beginning soloists learning to work with an accompanist. Continue reading Accompanists: handbell-specific issues