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Ringing Rounds

In handbell ringing, we ring two bells at a time.  In other words we have a bell in each hand.  This is called two-in-hand.

Handbell ringers sit or (sometimes) stand in a circle, so that it is easy to see all the bells.  It also feels similar to way people ring tower bells, because the bell ropes fall in a circle.  Sometimes handbells ringers call sitting in a circle the rope circle, and they call be able to see all the other bells ropesight - even though there are no ropes!

 Handbell ringers seated in a circle
 The rope circle in a bell tower
handbell circle
Inveraray ringing chamber

 To start, all bells are rung clockwise (right to left) in a descending scale.  That means the first bell to ring is the lightest bell, and the last bell to ring is the heaviest bell.  This is how tower bells are arranged, and it also sounds nice. This descending scale is called rounds, because the bells go around in a circle!  All ringing starts and ends in rounds.

Because we ring two-in-hand, one person will ring the two lightest bells, the next person the next two heavier bells, and so on, around the circle.

Numbering the bells

Bells with Names

There are some special names for certain bells:
  • The lightest bell is called the Treble (this is always bell number 1)
  • The heaviest bell is called the Tenor.

In handbells we talk about special pairs (sets of 2 handbells):
  • The lightest two bells (bells 1 and 2) are called Trebles
  • The heaviest two bells are called Tenors
All other bells or pairs of bells are just called by their number, like 'three' or 'four', or 'three-four' (pair).

If you look at the handle of a handbell, you will see that it has a musical note on it.  In fact, handbell ringers don't care too much about what note a bell is, as long as all the notes are in the right order to ring rounds.  Ringers refer to bells by numbers, like this:

1 = the lightest bell (and the bell with the lightest note)

2 = the next lightest bell

3 = the next heavier bell

4 = the next heavier bell

5 = the next heaviest bell

6 = the heaviest bell

If we were ringing on 8 bells, then we would count up to 8, and so on.

Rounds at handstroke and backstroke

When we are ringing, all the bells have to ring before anybody can ring again.  That means that everyone rings one handstroke (all the bells are sitting at our shoulders), and then everyone rings one backstroke (bringing the bells back down to our laps).

We always ring a handstroke (Hand UP), followed by a backstroke (back DOWN), and then another handstroke, and another backstroke.

One handstroke and one backstroke is called a whole pull.  All ringing is done in whole pulls, starting with a handstroke and ending with a backstroke.

All ringing starts at a handstroke.

All ringing ends at a backstroke.