Technique Tip - Learn To Turn

Learn the Turn

Page turning is sometimes overlooked by directors and ringers as a skill to be learned. To accomplish a page turn a ringer will draw upon both musical skills and physical skills. There is also an emotional element to page turning because if ringers don't feel prepared anxiety can interfere with the performance of the music. So, if a musician feels prepared she will approach page turning with confidence and can focus on the musical aspects of the performance rather than the physical act of page turning.

Plan the Turn

Make a Plan which includes playing all notes, dynamics, etc. ... and avoids the "turn" becoming part of the music. (Turn silently and discretely.) This skill needs to be rehearsed not just suggested prior to the performance.

  1. When – when will the actual page turning task happen? After putting down a bell? At a certain point in a measure? Crucial decisions on timing should be clearly marked.
  2. Which hand – is free or could be free to turn? Remember, you can pass a bell to the other hand and you don't need to hold a bell that doesn't play for 2 measures or more. Clearly mark which bell to put down and when it should happen.

Be sure to notate and then practice the Plan. If you write it down you're more likely to be consistent; then, consistently use the Plan. Using a plan haphazardly will only cement your lack of commitment to one plan, which can spell disaster in performance.

Teach the Turn

Clearly, the problem with turning pages is lack of the "unknown." Ringers don't know, or aren't confident they know, precisely what's coming in the score and this can cause anxiety, missed notes, rushing, inattention to dynamics, etc. ... in the name of turning the page. Often directors fail to consider that page turning is a skill to be learned and therefore it should be taught along with rhythms and special ringing techniques.

So, to learn page turning ringers need to "rehearse where they're going" first and build on that. Isolate the measures on the new page first, then isolate the last measure or two on the first page. And, finally we put the entire phrase together with a (hopefully) flawless page turn.

Assuming ringers already have a plan (ask them!) rehearse the first 2 – 4 measures after the turn first. (The new page after the turn.)

Do it in a loop or add one measure of silence after each repetition, depending on what's happening musically; repeat until ringers are very familiar with the notes. You might even say these measures are "almost memorized."

Do some repetitive playing of the last few measures on the first page until they are "almost memorized." Now, play these measures and include the first measure on the new page without turning to it.

They will be able to do it and this will give them confidence they know what's coming ahead. It's o.k. to slow down the tempo at first but makes sure you do go through the repetitions up to tempo before moving to the next step.

Now, turn back to the first page and start at the beginning of the page turn phrase and put it into context and play through the page turn to the end of the phrase or section.

You shouldn't need to do this entire sequence on every page turn but it can help on page turns ringers are not working out on their own. Sometimes just isolating the first measures on the new page is enough. Last, a prepared director will also be aware of the challenges for each ringer, including page turns, and be ready with possible solutions, so be sure you've done your score study!

Tips to Turn

  1. Simple turn: turn up or DOG-EAR the page at top or bottom or some people alternate top/bottom: this is universal and works most of the time. DON'T dog-ear every page bottom or top corner because they'll become nested together making it super difficult to turn only the current page. (Or alternate top and bottom.) DO dog-ear every other page as this allows the dog-ear to create space between page corners for easy grasping. This will work for most page turns.
  2. Obvious, but I'll say it anyway: READ AHEAD in the music and turn early or MEMORIZE and turn late! These are the most useful skills for page turns when a simple turn won't work.
  3. Look for REPETITION: sometimes the same note patterns can be found elsewhere on the current 2 pages or on the new pages and using them will buy you time to turn earlier or later.
  4. NEIGHBORS: give a bell to a neighbor temporarily to free up a hand for turning or ask a neighbor who has time, to turn your page: even the neighbor who isn't your stand partner. (Notate on BOTH copies of music.)
  5. MARGIN NOTES: notate your rhythms at the bottom of the page so you can play the new page first measure or two, then turn late. Sometimes it's a very simple rhythm or even a rest for your part so remind yourself you've got time with notation. (If you use Line note/space note patterns you only need one line.)
  6. CLIPS: using a small clip, mini-clothes pin or sticky tab can help in grabbing the page when time is short for turning. (Note: clips or clothes pins will mangle edges of music so remove at the end of rehearsal.) Also, using clips or tabs on every page creates a hard to use "sea of tabs" and diminishes the helpful effect of the clip or tab - save them for times they are really needed.
  7. NUMBERED TABS: turning to a coda or repeat: mark with a sticky tab because tabs may not be sequential. Which tab is the coda? Try tabs you can write on or number them in order.

Drastic Turns

Sometimes there is no solution to turning the page without doing something drastic:

  1. Copy part (or all) of the page and tape on the top or bottom of the page as needed. (Always honor the copyright law and get permission, if necessary.)
  2. If you know the music well, it may be possible to look at your neighbor's music for a few measures to get "just enough" information to continue ringing and turn the page early or late.
  3. (Ask your director first!) Try this: cut the page between staves so that you can turn part of the current page ahead of time to reveal the top of the new page. Then, turn the remaining part of the page when time allows. (Mark with different colored lines across the cuts so you can quickly see if you've got the haves that go together.) If you need this drastic turn, chances are anyone ringing your position in the future will, too!

If you've got more ideas for making page turns easier, please share them with us on our Facebook Page! Or, email the author at

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