Category Archives: Practice tips

Memorization – Jeffers article

At National Seminar, I was thrilled to be asked to write an article for the Jeffers catalog Vibrations. After reviewing the list of topics covered in previous issues, and considering what I was teaching at the time, I decided to write about memorization. This article (published in Holiday 2013 Vibrations) draws from the memorization article previously published on this site, adapted to include suggestions for bell choir musicians and small ensembles, as well as soloists. Continue reading Memorization – Jeffers article

Interlocked six-in-hand

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

Bell trees: tips and tricks

As I continue researching articles on equipment, I’d like to share various tips I’ve learned in recent months of working with bell trees. I’m preparing for a group concert at a museum to celebrate the opening of a Russian art exhibit. Due to space constraints and the need to play a non-seasonal work by a Russian composer (Nutcracker would be frowned on in February), I decided to adapt Nancy Hascall’s arrangement of Orientale for bell trees. Continue reading Bell trees: tips and tricks

Trust your training

I know a successful venture capitalist who reads every newspaper article thinking, how could I make money from this idea? I find myself looking at the world through the lens of, what can this teach me about music? Watching Olympic men’s gymnastics this week reminded me of an important performance principle. One gymnast is coached by his stepfather, who performs a little ritual with him before every routine. He sends him out with the admonition, “Trust your training.” Continue reading Trust your training


A reader asked me to elaborate on how I use the pins mentioned in the gadget box section of the Concert equipment article. This started me thinking about the whole topic of table landmarks. With many other instruments, the pitch position is fixed (like a piano keyboard or harp strings) and the musician stays anchored to a bench or chair. Handbell soloists move along the table; the bells move around the table. We need all the help we can get keeping track of our instrument. Enter the pins. Continue reading Landmarks

Rehearsal marks

While I’m grappling with the next choreography topic, I’d like to share something I recently learned about: rehearsal marks in handbell works. Rehearsal marks (typically letters) are used in orchestral works, so the conductor doesn’t have to wait while everyone finds, say, measure 213. S/he would refer to “Section G, 4 measures in” or “the pickup to section L.” They’re useful landmarks for working with others, like an accompanist or quartet partners, or someone learning new music. Continue reading Rehearsal marks

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