Doing exercises will help you learn solo handbell choreography (sometimes called “blocking.”) That, in turn, will free you to explore works not specifically published for solo handbells. You can create your own exercises by writing out a 1 octave scale, both ascending and descending, in any key. Try several different approaches to choreographing the scale, document it with solo notation, then try another key. You can also do this with a phrase of any handbell solo, or any musical line within your bell range. Continue reading Choreography exercises
Holding three bells in each hand (called six-in-hand or 6IH) can solve certain ringing problems. For example, you may need to play an ostinato (repeating pattern) with more bells than you can comfortably play with four-in-hand, even traveling. Become proficient in four-in-hand before attempting six-in-hand. Having that experience will help you master the setup with an additional bell in hand, and you’ll find more uses for four-in-hand, anyway. It can take several months to master six-in-hand, though I hope the suggestions below, as well as the video tutorial, will shorten your learning curve. Continue reading Interlocked six-in-hand
In this article, I’ll cover practice tips that apply both to bell trees and bells malleted on the table, and discuss how to solve common problems. Continue reading Mallet technique: practice tips, advanced techniques
See the article on Mallets for information on buying mallets and matching them to bells.
I strongly recommend scheduling some sessions with a professional percussionist to learn proper mallet technique. Ask around for a marimba instructor: call music stores that sell percussion instruments, contact the local music schools, and ask your musician friends for recommendations. There’s no substitute for hands-on instruction by a pro. Try to have someone come to where your bells are so you can work with your equipment, both trees and table bells. Second best would be to take your bell trees to your instructor’s studio. If neither will work, you can learn a lot using the instructor’s mallets and marimba, but you’ll be on your own transferring that knowledge to bells. Continue reading Mallet technique: basics
Once you figure out how you’re going to play a handbell solo, record the choreography for future reference (and possible publication). There are several approaches you can use. I prefer the system found in Nancy Hascall’s notation guide (part of which appears in the Guild’s notation guide), which I find easy to use and intuitive. I recommend buying a sheet lifter from Jeffers that summarizes single bell technique notation on the front and multiple bell technique notation on the back. Continue reading Documenting solo choreography