Striking Tips

Striking tips

(The original version of these notes was brought out to supplement the discussion in the podcast episode titled '15 tips to improve your striking')

  • What is good striking and why is it important?

Good striking is where the ringing is absolutely regular, with a metronomic even beat, so the space between each of the bells is exactly the same. The overall length of the row should be exactly the same, without bells slowing up or speeding up and the rows getting longer or shorter. The leading should also be consistent.

We may ring methods, or rounds and call changes but we measure our quality in terms of our striking ability and how well we strike the bells.

Because it’s a public performance. the noise you’re making outside is very, very, very loud.  People can’t avoid it. We have neighbors. We need to do it to the best our ability so that they come past and they say, goodness me, that’s a lovely sound.

People outside, do recognise good striking compared with bad striking. Some of our villagers comment when we’ve had a visiting band whether they’re better than the locals or not. It’s a myth that people outside of the tower don’t know what good sounds like.

You should be trying to do it to the highest possible standard that you and your band are capable of. It’s never perfect though and we need to work very hard at it. 

It’s also very important from a Ringer’s point of view as well. None of us really want to be part of what we describe as bad ringing. It just becomes demoralizing and degenerating in a way.  You get far more enjoyment if you are ringing in a good well struck piece of ringing than you ever would do if you were just crashing around in something.

In ice skating, you get a complexity score, and then you get an artistic impression score. striking is the artistic impression score. In ice skating, if you do simpler things, but you still do them very well, you can get a medal. Ringing should be like that. It’s better to do simpler things and execute them well, and have good striking.

An example of good striking:

  • When to start?

Any person coming into ringing needs to know what striking is about right from lesson one. If they don’t know what they’re aiming for and what they’re trying to achieve, it’s very, very difficult for them to progress in such a way as to achieve good striking.

  • Picking out your bell

You’ve got to be able to identify which bell is yours. And that’s very hard because there’s a big delay between you pulling the rope and the bell actually striking.

On a single bell, on your own, you can practice saying ‘dong’, when your bell makes a sound, and get the two to coincide.

People often have difficulty hearing their bell amongst five others. Start with two – ding dong.  Then then three blind mice, ding, ding dong, then rounds on four, then five and six.

  • Making striking automatic

There’s so many skills involved with ringing your bell, you are multi-tasking and the listening is one of the things you switch off first if you’re under stress.

I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of driving and you’ve got a passenger that’s talking to you and you come to a big roundabout with five lanes or something. You’re wondering where to go. By the time you get to the other side, you’ve no idea what they’ve been saying. You switch off that part.

What you need to do in order to learn to hear, is to have stress, less multitasking, so focus on ringing rounds, lots of them, so that you can concentrate just on hearing. You need to hear your bell before you can make progress.

  • Simulator Technology

Simulators can be connected to a bell in your tower with a sensor, and you can also purchase ‘dumb bells’ which can be fitted in your loft and used at home.

Simulators can be used to emulate the other bells that are ringing. So, you can ring something really simple, like rounds to teach somebody how to hear their bell within a row, without the need for a strong band. The simulator can ring the other bells, and then the only bell that can be wrong in that row is the student’s bell.

There’s a visual cue from the computer screen, with red, yellow and green coding, and you can see a graphic afterwards showing how well you have struck each row. You can also play back a recording.

Start with lots of rounds on four, and I mean loads and loads and loads of them before moving on to five and moving to six. If you try to progress too fast, striking suffers dramatically.

Further information:

  • Home computer and smart-phone apps

You can actually use simulator software on a Smart-phone or on a home computer, and make the bell sound with your finger on a key. So you’re still practicing your listening skills, just without the physical ringing of the bell, and the delay that’s involved with that.

Further information:

  • Talking about striking

Striking is not spoken about enough in ringing circles. It becomes very political. It would be very difficult for me, for instance, to turn up at somebody’s, local practice where the ringing actually isn’t very good because they might have a whole new group of people, or they might have an aging band there who’s not as good as they used to.  I can’t go in there and correct people. it’s not the done thing.

What we need to do as ringers is start talking about striking more and start talking about it at a very early stage in development. Then it doesn’t become a taboo subject, which it has done in a lot of places.

  • Get your striking and bell-control right first

There’s not enough time given to consolidate one thing before moving onto the next. I think that there’s an underlying fear that a ringer is going to become bored if they don’t move from rounds onto basic changes, onto Cambridge minor or whatever they do quickly.

If a tower values striking, then by ringing some good rounds, people can come away from it and say yes, that was really good.

Change the focus a bit during practices. People would value much more, someone in the tower saying that was really good striking, or those rounds and call-changes at the end were really good. And they come away glowing from that, rather than thinking, oh gosh, they didn’t manage to ring plain hunt.

  • Devon call-changes

In Devon they ring a slightly different style to us, slightly faster and with closed handstroke leads (Cartwheel style) but 90% of what they focus on is good striking.  Listen to some examples here:

  • Rhythm

Good rhythm starts at the same pace and it’s absolutely relentlessly the same length. You don’t go for a gap. You don’t wait for anyone.

You walk down the street in a calm, collected way, and you think about the pace and the rhythm that you’re walking at. One, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five, six. So you keep that even rhythm. You don’t try to avoid other bells when you’re walking down a pavement. You don’t try and avoid the cracks unless you’re playing some game.  You just walk evenly down the pavement. What happens when people are ringing  is they look at each other and they try to avoid and make judgements about whether they should ring by seeing things.

The important thing is to get in touch with your inner rhythm and sense and learn to deliver consistently.

I think everybody has access to their own internal sense of rhythm and their ability to follow a consistent beat. I think it’s 100% coachable. You have tools available in terms of metronomes also the use in ringing of things other than a tower bell. Something where you get a more immediate sound.

  • Clapping a rhythm

People could clap along to a metronome. They could clap and sing along to it: one, two, three, four, five, six,…. They might not get it first time, but don’t worry. Practice.

Tapping the rhythm of pieces of music can also help you internalize the rhythm that’s there. 

The rhythm in ringing is actually very straightforward because we’re only looking for even gaps all the time. We’re not looking for anything that’s in any way complicated. It’s just a steady beat all of the time. 

The accuracy to which the top 12 bell teams ring, is between one 40th of a second, and one 67th of a second. You can’t process that in your head.  You can only do that by knowing and the physical rhythm. 

There are many people who have succeeded in ringing, but in my mind there’s two general types:

  • Beautiful bell control, complete control of what they’re doing. Excellent focus and concentration, and they work very hard at it, and
  • The good ones amongst them will have that innate sense of rhythm. They might not be musical, they might not have perfect pitch, but they still just rhythmic, and a very straightforward walking down the road and a nice even rhythm type of way.
  • Raelentando and accelerando

Good bell control is an important part of being able to strike your bell in the right place. Ralentando is to slow down. Accelerando is to speed up.  You need to be able to ring your bell more slowly and more quickly.  So this particular exercise starts with ringing rounds, it can be on any number of bells  and you issue the instruction ‘Ralentendo’ and the bells gradually space out further and further until they’re ringing incredibly slowly, but most importantly, still ringing accurately.

  • Handbells

Handbells are very immediate. You swing your arm and check the bell and it goes ting. So, if people can’t get striking right on a single handbell, it’s going to be quite challenging for them to strike well on tower bells.

Handbells allow people to learning how to lead and getting the hand stroke gap right. Every two rows, there’s a space before the treble starts the next.

If you can get that right on handbells before moving on to tower bells, it’s really useful.

  • Feedback and coaching

Ask for feedback. Never get miserable when you get the feedback you’re given is not what you want to hear.

People respond to different feedback and feedback given in different ways. Feedback should be given in a positive way. It is then helpful

I think people have plateaus of where they’re going to get to. If they have reached a plateau and they’re happy at that place, that’s not a problem. but when you’re coaching it’s finding a way to actually resolve a problem and not everybody responds the same. And striking, I would say, is probably the hardest thing in ringing to coach effectively.

I have successfully moved somebody from struggling to ring rounds on eight all the way down to rounds on three and, and got a result on the rounds on three, but they only managed to get back up to six again, and they could never hear their bell in rounds on eight.

Don’t expect immediate success either. learning to ring well takes a very, very long time. It’s not something that you can pick up and be excellent at in six weeks. So, if you want to make progress, go out and find the opportunities, but be patient and consolidate at every stage.

  • Ringing with others – placing the band and the prime ring

You need to ring with people who are better than you are. Otherwise  it’s very hard to tell whether it’s you or them or some inherent inconsistency with the rhythm.

Do make sure that there are not too many learners in any touch at the same time. Some ringers also perform better on certain bells, so don’t just grab hold and do not be upset is the tower captain tells you which bell to ring. Good tower captains will make sure that each ringer gets a ‘prime ring’, something specifically for them, where they others are unlikely to go wrong.

  • Tower acoustics and odd-struck bells

The other thing that can be a problem, is the acoustics of the tower. If the noise of the bells is level and even all the way around the circle, then everyone can actually hear what they’re trying to do.  But in many churches you’ll get a bell that’s quiet.

You may also get a bell that’s odd struck (the bell strikes early on one stroke and late on the other) and that’s a problem as well because if you haven’t got the hearing skills, you won’t be able to cope with that odd struckness.

  • Learning the Ropes

There is further advice on the Learning the Ropes website

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Roger Booth
Roger Booth
Winchester District ringer