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Mind the Gap

Change Ringing is called change ringing because we change the order in which the bells ring, constantly.  When you hear it, all the notes should be heard in a regular rhythm, very steady.  The order of the notes change, but the rhythm does not.

It sounds like it might be boring, but change ringing has a special rhythm, and it is called the 'handstroke gap'.

This is a little extra bit of silence at the beginning of each handstroke (the 'UP' stroke).  It helps ringers to know where the beginning of the change is.

How does the handstroke gap work?

Say you are ringing six bells, and counting 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6 and so on.  Now, count and clap your hands 1-2-3-4-5-6.

An absolutely even rhythm would be like this (clap your hands steadily while counting out loud without any pause):


With the handstroke gap, the rhythm is like this:

    1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6 (gap) 1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6 (gap) 1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6

How to Remember the Gap

If you keep forgetting to leave a gap, try one of these tips:
  • Nod your head.  Each time the bells come down at backstroke, nod your head before ringing the next handstroke.  The whole band can nod.
  • Use a silly word.  Count your ringing out loud and insert a short silly word after each backstoke.  Like:  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - PIE!

Practising the rhythm

Start by counting to 4.  Clap your hands on each count: 1-2-3-4

Hold your hands up in the air, and clap as you count: 1-2-3-4
Then put your hands low, and clap as you count: 1-2-3-4

Then alternate:  Hands up 1-2-3-4; hands down 1-2-3-4.  Try to keep a steady beat.

Now, we'll add the gap:

Hands up, clap and count: 1-2-3-4
Hands down, clap and count: 1-2-3-4
Open your hands, like you are catching a ball for count of 1.

Keep repeating until it is just automatic.

Once you get the hang of it, increase the counting to 6, and then to 8 (always increase by even numbers).  How high can you go and still keep your handstroke gap?

Now Ring it

Try ringing rounds with a handstroke gap.  Make sure you take turns being the Trebles.  Nod your head each time the handbells come down at backstroke to remember to put the gap in.