Playing handbells is a captivating musical experience that blends the precision of a musical instrument with the joy of communal performance. Whether you prefer the solitude of practicing at home or the collaborative energy of a handbell choir, each setting offers its unique benefits. In this article, we will explore the art of practicing handbells both at home and in a group setting, highlighting the nuances and strategies that make each experience fulfilling.
Practicing Handbells at Home:
When you choose to practice handbells in the comfort of your own home, you have the opportunity to focus solely on your individual progress and explore your personal musical expression. Below we will explore some key areas to consider for effective home practice.
Establish a dedicated space for Handbell Ringing
Designate a specific area in your home where you can concentrate on your practice sessions. Keep your handbells organized and readily accessible to encourage regular practice.
Develop a structured practice routine
Set aside regular time for your practice sessions, ensuring consistency and progress. Breaking your practice into manageable segments, focusing on specific techniques or pieces, can help you track your growth and maintain motivation.
Embrace the power of technology
Utilize resources such as online tutorials, virtual lessons, and practice apps to enhance your learning experience for handbells. Digital platforms provide an array of tools, including metronomes, tuners, and play-along tracks, to refine your skills and monitor your progress.
Record and assess your performances
Capture your practice sessions using a smartphone or recording device. Listening back to your recordings enables you to identify areas that require improvement and to fine-tune your technique.
Explore solo repertoire:
Take advantage of the freedom that comes with practicing alone by expanding your repertoire. Experiment with diverse musical genres and compositions to broaden your musical horizons and challenge yourself artistically.
Choosing the Right Handbells
Whether you are practicing at home or in a choir setting, having the right handbells is essential. Selecting bells that fit your skill level and musical goals can make all the difference. Especially when you are practice at home, you may want to prioritize certain bells over others. For example, you may not need an entire set (unless you are practicing your solo ringing skills). Choosing only essential bells, such as the two bells that you are responsibile for during choir performances may be right for your purposes. This also includes accessories such as mallets, hand chimes, etc.
Your Practice Routine
The strategies that bell ringers utilize to practice handbells at home may differ from those employed when rehearsing with a choir. When practicing alone, you can focus on developing technical proficiency and experimenting with composition. In contrast, preparing for a group performance requires discipline in memorizing music and teamwork to create cohesive harmonies.
When practicing at home, you will want to make sure that you have your part of the composition down to a T- it is helpful to doing a run-through of the entire piece as you usually would during rehearsal, as well as focus on specific parts that you may be having difficulty with. Weaving in other general practice exercises such as sight reading music, etc. would also be beneficial for your overall musical proficiency!
The home practice setting provides a great opportunity to explore teaching. Handbells can be an enjoyable and accessible way for children or an adult music student to learn music, as handbells require minimal effort, produce pleasing sounds, and are easy to maintain. Additionally, you don’t need an entire set of bells for this purpose; the two or three that you will need during choir performances will suffice.
Consider organizing regular classes for children in your circle of family and friends or become a tutor in local music schools to expand your reach. As bells can be used with other instruments, you can also work with ensembles to introduce them to the art of handbell ringing. This can also be applied to virtual teaching, which we will cover more below.
Although handbells are traditionally played in a group, there are various ways to collaborate with others virtually. Sites like Zoom and Skype have made it easier for bell ringers to join forces remotely. This can be utilized for rehearsals as well as performances. Livestreams of church services have also made virtual handbell ringers more of a common aspect as compared to even just a few years ago. Now more than ever, it is possible to practice as well as perform handbells directly from the comfort of your own home setting!
Caring For Your Handbells At Home
Though not necessarily related to practice, caring for your handbells is an integral part of playing them. Make sure you are properly cleaning and storing your bells and mallets after every use- this will ensure their longevity and protect them from weathering. You may also want to invest in covers or bags for added protection- it can never hurt to be over-prepared!
In conclusion, handbells can provide a unique and enriching musical experience, both in team settings and when practiced alone. By following the tips outlined above, you will be well on your way to mastering your instrument at home and impressing your fellow handbell choir members at the next rehearsal. Good luck and happy ringing!