As one of the best groups in the nation, the members of the Raleigh Ringers spend many hours with their equipment. One side effect of spending so much time with bells is discovering all sorts of tricks to fix common problems we as bell ringers experience while ringing. Here are four things we picked up while rehearsing with the Raleigh Ringers that other groups may find helpful:
1) Keeping bass bells secure. While we were rehearsing in the Raleigh Ringers’ building we noticed ropes and carabiners hanging from underneath the bass bell tables, and we wondered why. It wasn’t until we got a chance to watch the Raleigh Ringers perform Wizards in Winter that we discovered their use. Occasionally the bass bell ringers have to mallet so hard and fast that it can create quite a bounce in the large aluminum bells that weigh very little. To keep the bells on the table, the bass ringers literally tie the bells to the tables using ropes and carabiners.
2) Fixing mallet clicks. Have you ever been playing though a lovely mallet section in a piece when someone in the group misses the bell and hits the shaft of their mallet on the bell, creating a jarring clinking sound? The Raleigh Ringers solved this problem by wrapping electrical tape around the shaft of their mallets, which mutes the clinking sound made by missed mallets.
3) Knowing when to stop talking. Even groups like the Raleigh Ringers have to pause their concert between every piece to reset the bells. Their director Dave Harris speaks between numbers, like most directors do, but he always seems to know exactly when to stop talking. His secret; a tiny cue light on the edge of the stage. The ringer at the E6/F6 position has a cue switch under the table that they activate when the group is done setting up, so that Harris can turn around and start conducting without wasting any extra time.
4) Securing table legs. The 3 foot tables many groups use are notorious for collapsing when their legs fold up during concerts. The Raleigh Ringers are no more immune to this issue any more than any other group. To fix the problem, the Raleigh Ringers use two wooden boards with notches cut at each end that fit between the legs in an “X” shape. Using rubber bands, they attach the boards to the legs creating a cross brace. (I wish I had taken a picture of this, so you will have to use your imagination). This solution is cheap and easy, which is important because members of the group informed us that they always end up leaving the pieces of wood at various performance venues.
These are some of the cool things we picked up when we were down with the Raleigh Ringers. I wish we would have had more time to learn from them, but maybe we will just have to take another trip across the country!
What cool things have you learned from watching other groups?
Editors Note: After posting this article, Laura Swafford sent along a couple more pictures of the cool tricks the Raleigh Ringers use. Laura was one of the other ringers invited to the Virtuoso event.