Technique Tip: Low Pressure – High Enthusiasm Ringing by Shawn Gingrich

Low Pressure – High Enthusiasm Ringing

One of my passions is to involve children in the work of music ministry. These days there are so many activities from which children can choose so we don't get the commitment we had even 15 years ago. It might sound impossible but start small and you'll be surprised at how much life you can breathe into a congregation with some small efforts. Many of these ideas will also translate to school or other settings.

Choirchime® Chords with Singing
My most recent experience involved children between ages 6 and 12 ringing handchime chords while singing the well-known canon, "Dona Nobis Pacem". The children memorized only the first eight bars and continued singing that while the adult choir layered in the other parts of the canon. Someone was always singing part one with the kids. Using the simple technique of putting colored stickers on the handchimes, the kids knew which chord to ring on which words and the kids who had C and F had two chords to ring!

  • Green was used for the F chord (F-A-C) 
  • Red was used for the C chord (C-E-G) 
  • Purple was used for the Bb chord (Bb-D-F)

This is easy to do but if you doubt yourself there is a great resource to help with this kind of sing and ring approach – Chimeworks® found online at You can try it for free with a two-week trial offer with three free lesson plans. It's only $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year for a subscription. There are many possibilities with this sing and ring approach using only the words and color coding. Consider using Malmark's Chime Bands to designate chords.

Easy Accessible Traditions to Start
A yearly tradition for our church is the entrance of children ringing bells (randomly) during the singing of a carol for the Hanging of the Greens Service. We usually have kids from infancy through teens who get a bell and enjoy this participation in worship. This one does not require rehearsal! It will require setting the right bells out ahead of time, usually the scale in the key of the carol, and some elbow grease afterwards to remove the finger prints.

We also make use of our Malmark CymBells® at Easter and Christmas with older teens playing peals and scales during the singing of "Joy to the World" and "Christ the Lord is Risen Today". If you don't have the luxury of the CymBells, you can interlock the handles and hang a tree of bells to peal.

  • I transpose "Joy to the World" down to C since that fits bell sets better. The pattern of DO-do-la-fa-re-ti-sol-mi (where DO is low C and do is high C) interspersed with descending diatonic scales (DO-do-ti-la-sol-fa-mi-re-DO) is very effective.
  • If you have time, and the personnel, try training four ringers to coordinate these patterns, each having two bells ringing in the traditional way.
  • Using bell trees or racked bells works at many times throughout the year including obbligatos and ostinatos to creatively utilize your bells in worship. This technique is assisted greatly by many publications available. The two volumes of Hal Hopson's The Creative Use of Handbells in Worship published by Hope are excellent. (Volume 1 available at

Multi-Generational and Low-Pressure Options
Many of us have had children's chime choirs, youth chime or handbell choirs, and adult handbell choirs, but one of my favorite things is having a multi-generational handbell or chime group – grandparents, parents, children, or just anyone wanting a lower pressure experience in ringing.

  1. We usually start with sing to ring charts of familiar hymns which are color coded for quick success as described above. 
  2. Later, I have transitioned them into charted music where we read just the beats of the measures, 1-2-3-4 | 2-2-3-4 | 3-2-3-4 etc. I don't use color for this, just a circle around the beats played with left hand and a square around the beats played with right hand. This example is a bit more advanced but shows the chart of a passage with beats as well as the music marked with the circles and squares for D5 and E5:    
  3. There are numerous pieces published with processional introductions. An exciting way to begin worship is to have ringers enter playing these patterns which layer to make an interesting and attention-grabbing call to worship. You could also play the whole piece but extracting the processional is a quick way to teach by rote and the kids in the church are not afraid to just play. Some that we have used with great success are: Procession and Bell Chime and Processional and Joyful Dance both by Margaret Tucker, both published by Choristers Guild.
  4. This is just a quick glance at some possibilities. The Hopson books mentioned earlier give loads of different ideas which can usually be accomplished with a few minutes of preparation before the service.

The more you offer, the more kids will be lining up to be of service and the rewards will be unmeasurable: for the congregation and for a lifetime for those children.

Dr. Shawn Gingrich is Director of Music Ministry at First United Methodist Church, Hershey, PA, is an adjunct music instructor at Messiah College, is the current national president of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and is dean of Harrisburg Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Shawn represents Malmark in Lancaster and West Counties of PA. Contact him at or (717) 877-8554.

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