The e-bells have it

the NDA e-bells ( photo courtesy of Richard Carter)

I bought a pair of e-bells in December 2020, more or less as soon as they became available. I did not get on very well with them and therefore resisted their benefits for a long time.  Admittedly they are skippy and can produce a choppy rhythm if some in the virtual band do indulge and some don’t. Sometimes they react like frisky horses eager to jump the fences and canter off without human input. Sometimes they require re-setting because their bounce or whatever is too eager. Sometimes there is some issue which results in a certain person enquiring whether Handbell Manager has been left on in the ringing room.

But they do have certain advantages.

Basically, by forcing a ringer to replicate the up/down motion of a handstroke and a backstroke, they reinforce what is going on. In real life, should you lose the plot momentarily, the certain knowledge that this is a handstroke row might be enough to set you right. In the virtual world it is harder to spot, because although you may be aware of whether you are on a handstroke or a backstroke, other people’s machinations are less clear. Has the 3 bell gone, or is it waiting for someone? Could that someone be me? There are no other visual clues to supplement the indecision – no pointed looks nor feet threatening to kick one. All one has are the bells on the screen and when under pressure, the bells on the screen can have more than one message, of which only one is correct.  Whereas the e-bells are either resting on one’s knees ready to perform, or hovering around one’s ears prepared to complete the backstroke. You can learn more about handbell ringing when using the e-bells than when using the key board.

Using the keyboard is easier.  At the beginning it allows one to ring more speedily and make fewer errors, but eventually one needs to put away childish things and embrace the technology. As always, transitioning to a new way of doing things will often necessitate a step backwards and taking backward steps is always scary, but try to be brave and trust that you will be able to ring using the e-bells even if your first attempts feel clumsy and inaccurate.  Eventually you will be glad that you grasped the nettle and temporarily humiliated yourself by crashing about a bit as you learnt to co-ordinate hand/arms/brain. I recommend that you start by ringing something well within your capability, because the extra space required for your brain to instruct your arms to move up and down, could well be that extra space that allows you to know whether to dodge or make a place in a new method. It is unwise to tackle 2 new things simultaneously, because one novelty is likely to suffer.

Just do not attempt to press the little buttons on the e-bells to call bobs etc for Wheatley until you can handle them fluidly. In my experience, that always involves a little twist to check visually where the button is and that little twist can have unintended consequences.

I am pleased to report that our association has acquired a number of e-bells for the use of members, particularly juniors on our schools’ outreach programme. Now all we need to do is find some people enthusiastic to ring them because, since tower bells became available, the pool of erstwhile handbell ringers, with a few notable exceptions, has once again evaporated.

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