Joanna Duhaime designed and made these Christmas handbell ornaments, and she kindly granted permission for me to share this information with you for personal use. You can also order ready-made ornaments from Joanna; see below. Continue reading Christmas handbell ornaments designed by Joanna Duhaime
Rudy Rodriquez designed and built these bass bell boxes to help his son ring large bells, and he kindly granted permission for me to share his instructions and drawings with you to download for personal use. Continue reading Bass bell boxes by Rudy Rodriquez
Bells of the Cascades, an auditioned ensemble in Portland, OR, recently hosted a composition contest. Their director, David York, prepared an excellent summary for composers, and he kindly granted permission for me to share this document with you.
These guidelines have been prepared to assist composers who might be unfamiliar with handbells. Get a copy of “Handbell Notation, Difficulty Level System, Solo and Ensemble Notation” published by the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers and follow its guidelines on notation standards and techniques. Continue reading Composing for handbells by David York
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”
There are special challenges to ringing chimes in solos. They are harder to pick up quickly than bells and require modification of multiple bell techniques. Continue reading Chimes in solo work
Struggling ringers often feel like their ringing problems are their own fault, but how the director runs the bell choir makes a huge difference in results. In this article, I’ll explore how assignments, music choices, and equipment problems affect struggling ringers and beginners. Continue reading Setting ringers up for success
Marking music can help – or hinder – music reading. Inexperienced music readers write too much information on sheet music instead of learning to read music notation. Sheet music already contains 95% of the information needed to play the piece. Cluttering it up with English is a crutch, and makes it more difficult to read, not easier. Continue reading Marking music
There are many resources for learning music notation, both in print and online. This article won’t attempt to duplicate those, but instead focus on challenges and confusion handbell musicians may experience. Ringers with little or no prior music reading background may want to work through a workbook. I especially like Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory – Complete. Note the catalog number (16486 – book with 2 listening CDs), as Alfred has several similar products. It’s an inexpensive resource. Though the book is available without CDs, ear training will help ringers improve. Ringers can start wherever the book presents new information, on page 1 for some, perhaps a few chapters into the book for others, and work through the book as far as the director suggests. Continue reading No ringer left behind – Music reading challenges
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
It’s fun to share videos of handbell ringing on YouTube, but there are some formalities to take care of first. Continue reading YouTube videos – permissions