Technique Tip - Kickstart Your Ringing

No music reading? No problem! Kickstart ideas enable ringers to immediately experience music that is simple, yet satisfying. These ideas work great for a short-term event (VBS, Camp, learn to ring class) or as a jumping off point for a new group or for a one-time ringing experience for kids, teens or adults. You can even invite non-ringers to join you for a one-time easy performance as a recruitment tool.

Ring First, Damp Later
Focusing first on the ringing stroke gives ringers a chance to develop the stroke, from the grip, then lift or preparation of the clapper strike, to the strike and follow through, without the complication of damping. So, start with music that doesn't require damping and focus on the ringing stroke. Later, introduce the damp concept by itself as an isolated skill. Learning to ring, damp and read music takes TIME so it's helpful to use simple activities while ringers are developing skills.

Ringers are more successful when harmony changes occur less frequently in the music. Sometimes beginning groups sound like they are playing wrong notes when the dissonance comes from a failure to damp precisely allowing the sound to carry over into the harmony changes. That's why it's helpful to choose music without quick harmonic changes and no chime changes. (A change is an advanced skill which requires the ringer to table damp the chime and pick up a new one.)

Rote Ringing: Pentatonic Ringing
Using the notes of a Pentatonic or 5-note scale makes your group sound amazing no matter what they do! The melody is provided by your group (or another) singing or an instrument playing it or a keyboard, piano or organ. After introducing how to ring and hold a chime, you can quickly move on to group ringing activities.

  1. For an easy Pentatonic scale, pick up all the black chimes – voila! That's it – the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th scale tones in any key: omitting the 4th and 7th scale tones. In the key of C, omit the B and F.
  2. For example, C Pentatonic is CDEGA. Any scale key will work, so pick one that works with your melody instrument or is good for voices to sing.
  3. Google "Pentatonic Tunes" and you'll a lot of ideas for songs that your group will enjoy. Here's one useful website:

Try Free-Ringing
This fun, first experience works with any pentatonic melody and it's just as easy to do as it sounds! With the above scale tones in hand allow ringers to ring at will, anytime they like, randomly. Give direction as to what the character of the tune is, either fast or slow feeling, then let them loose! But WAIT: devise a signal for starting and more importantly, stopping! This can create a nice introduction for some pentatonic tunes and if you add more verses as described later, you can create an entire fun and performance-worthy song.

An ostinato is a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm which can form the basis for an accompaniment or a "build your own" processional. Ringers can devise their own ostinati easily if you are using a pentatonic scale. Or, you can create patterns to compliment a melody or simply enjoy the harmonies of the patterns. After teaching all the rhythms, pass out index cards with patterns written in notation or rhythm words, write on the board or a poster or overhead. Or, even easier, just teach the rhythm patterns by rote to the whole group and then assign groups of ringers each of the patterns. If you have time, allow each ringer to experience independent ringing by having their own unique rhythm and note pattern. Add percussion or any instrument you've got and you'll have something really fun going!

Tunes to try: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee or Go Now in Peace (UM Hymnal) or any pentatonic or simple tune. Start with everyone ringing the same rhythms at first: you can divide into groups with each doing an independent rhythm and work up to individual ringers playing their own rhythm pattern. An intro can be built by playing one pattern and layering others on top until the melody is added, then remove each layer for the outro. Have fun creating a processional using ostinati and try walking AND ringing! (Kids love it!) Ostinato ringing may be done using LV (let vibrate) ringing or with standard damping.

Easy Does It:

  1. It's easier for new ringers to feel and ring together on half or quarter notes but any rhythm you can teach them is workable.
  2. If you want to have 3 verses of a song or hymn you can use 3 different rhythms, one for each verse or if the song has a chorus use one rhythm for the verses and another for the chorus. (See example below.)
  3. Try to vary each verse by ringing different dynamics (remember Choirchimes are not intended to be loud) or alternating treble or bass chimes in some fashion.
  4. If the tune has a pick up note you'll need to teach when to start the ringing, for example Amazing Grace or A Tisket a Tasket both have a quarter note pick up.
  5. Teach the rhythms by writing them on the board or a poster or by teach by rote using word rhythms and clapping. You can take words from the song or use chime or ringing related words, like this:

Whole note – say "ring the Choir-chime" and so on: 
Half notes – "ring chime, ring chime" 
Dotted half notes – "ring the chime" 
Quarter notes – ring, ring, ring, ring

Chord Ringing: Quick to Learn
Methods: make a poster or handout or teach by rote what notes are in basic chord progressions: I, IV, V, V7. Indicate what and when to play using your fingers for numbers, cards with numbers or colors or lyrics/chords on song sheets.

1. For example: using 2 octaves in Key of G works well: I=GBD; IV CEG; V=DF#A; V7=DF#AC and for 3 octaves use key of C: I=CEG; IV=FAC; V=GBD; V7=GBDF
2. (For simplicity, use: 1, 4, 5, 57 or colored circles on cards after ringers learn the chords/colors.)
3. Write out the chords for a familiar song, such as You Are My Sunshine for senior citizens. Practice ringing and damping between different chords plus when to keep    the note sounding. (For instance, a G ringer playing a CEG chord followed by a GBD chord would not damp between ringing these two chords.) Once ringers can successfully change chords under your guidance try a song. Here's an example of lyrics and chords:

                       IV                                I                                                  V7                     I
You'll nev - er know dear, how much I love you; Please don't take my sun - shine a – way.

Tip: start by ringing the 1 chord for 3 beats to get the pickup, then ring on strong beats of 1 and 3.

4. Find chord songs in Learning to Ring Director's Manual by Janet Van Valey and Susan Berry, available from Malmark here:

Chord Ringing - and MORE!
NEW: For chord ringing ideas using chord symbols, colors, icons, ostinati or Ring and Sing methods - check out ChimeWorks™ which offers many ideas for beginning ringers. ChimeWorks is a new division of Malmark with an online community where you can find lesson plans, songs and resources. Plus, you can also share your ideas with others and get paid for them! Currently titles are updated weekly and you can also read a new post to ChimeWorks Blog every week. Explore what's available here:

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