Exchanging primary and secondary bells

This article assumes you understand the basics of Shelley ringing and four-in-hand “ring and knock.” Today’s topic is moving the primary bell to the secondary position, or vice versa. You would generally do this to create new four-in-hand pairs (either Shelley or ring-and-knock), because you need the bells grouped differently the next time you ring them. Often the best time to set that up is when you’re already holding one of the bells in a different four-in-hand configuration. Rather than explain all the possible combinations, which would be confusing, I’m going to introduce four different techniques, along with a few principles to apply them to different situations.

Move primary into secondary in the air:

• Start with a single small bell in primary position, between your thumb and index finger.
• Withdraw your index finger, supporting the bell handle with the tips of your thumb and middle finger under the handguard, and the base of the handle against the heel of your hand. It should feel stable with those three points of support.
• Bend your index finger and move it to the same side of the handle as the thumb, and grip the handle between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers.
• Release your thumb. You should be able to balance the bell there, with your hand horizontal and the casting vertical.
• Reverse the process to put the bell back in the primary position.

Set down primary in hand to primary on the table (for the same hand):

• This will be easier to do if you’ve mastered the technique above.
• Start with two small bells in Shelley position in your right hand, and one bell flat on the table with the casting pointing to 12:00.
• Grip the secondary bell between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers, and loosen your thumb.
• Ease the primary bell casting down, mouth first, to the left of the handle of the bell on the table.
• Slide your thumb and pinky along the handle as you set the primary bell down on top of the other handle, in Shelley position.

Set down secondary in hand to primary on the table (for the same hand):

• Start with two small bells in Shelley position in your right hand, and one bell flat on the table with the casting pointing to 12:00.
• Lay the handle of the secondary bell across the handle of the table bell, in Shelley position. The secondary bell in your hand should point to 10:00, and the primary bell in your hand should point to 8:00. It may help to stick your elbow out to the right, and angle the left side of your body away from the table.
• Release the secondary bell.
• Practice this move to include damping either or both bells on the table.
• To set down the bell in ring-and-knock position, lay the handle on top in Shelley position as before, then turn the handle towards you by dragging the index, ring, and pinky fingers.
• Experiment with different “clock” positions; you may like 9:00 and 7:00 better, especially for ring-and-knock.

Pick up secondary in hand from primary on the table (for the opposite hand):

• Start with two small bells on the table set for ring-and-knock with the right hand, and one small bell in your left hand in primary position.
• Open the index and middle fingers of your left hand into a “V.”
• Slide the open fingers under the handguard of the primary bell on the table until the bell is in the “knock” position of your left hand. This is called “scooping,” and is notated as seen at right.

• If the bells on the table are set for Shelley, you can carefully pick up the top bell into Shelley configuration. Push the handle of the bell you’re holding down toward the table to angle the casting up and avoid clashing bells.
• If the bells on the table are set for Shelley and you want to pick them up in ring-and-knock, use the tips of the free fingers to turn the handle toward you as you scoop.

Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you can experiment with applying them in other situations, like from one type of setup to the other, or from a setup for one hand to the opposite hand. Keep these basic principles in mind:

• If you know how to set down a bell, you know how to pick it up: just do the move in reverse.
• If your position feels awkward, try turning your body and/or stepping to the side.
• You can usually convert a Shelley to a ring-and-knock, or vice versa, by pushing, pulling, or turning the handle with free fingers.
• You may use these techniques on their own, or in conjunction with Shelley plus and minus.
• Remember that if you want to exchange one secondary bell for another secondary bell, you would use traveling four-in-hand.
• You can do these techniques starting from a single bell in hand or on the table, as well as starting from four-in-hand.
• For most of these moves, you can use standard four-in-hand and Shelley notation.
• Avoid extraneous noise: handle against handle, casting against casting, clappers clattering, clappers striking from the force of the casting against the foam, or from the bell bouncing as you set it down. To eliminate noise, start the moves closer to the table.

Copyright © 2011 Nancy Kirkner, handbells.com