Listening and striking are skills that you can learn. Some people learn quicker than others, but that's just like any other skill, such as bell handling, ropesight and learning a method. Even tone-deaf ringers can learn to hear their bell and put it in the right place - it relies on rhythm not pitch.
Remember, every time we ring we are giving a public performance and the public prefer nicely struck rounds to poorly struck methods.
You will be fully concentrating on ringing your bell safely and competently and will have very little, if any, space left in your brain for listening to your bell. As you approach the end of Level 1 you will start to ring rounds on 3 and 4 bells.
As you become more comfortable with ringing your bell, start listening for when your bell strikes or sounds. You could try saying "bong" when your bell sounds at handstroke and backstroke, but if this is too difficult, watch someone else ringing and to avoid curious looks, think rather than say "bong." You'll notice that the bell sounds roughly when your hands are level with your nose which is quite a long time after the stroke has started.
A good way of learning to strike is to start on just three bells, ringing either the 2 or 3. Then say the words: "Three – blind – mice!" as the bells ring. The familiarity of this nursery rhyme will help you hear their own bell sounding. Once you can do this, count the number of the bells as they sound: "one – two – three" putting emphasis on your own bell sounding. So if you are ringing the 2, you should say in your head: " one – two – three" or "one – me – three". This also introduces counting places – a very useful skill.
Two of the foundation skills that you will start to develop are listening and striking. One of the practical exercises that you will be asked to do is ringing with your back to the circle so that you have to rely on your rhythm and listening to place your bell accurately in the right place. This is a difficult exercise - one that many experienced ringers will shy away from. At the beginning your teacher or an experienced helper will stand with you, helping you if you get wildly out of place.
Your listening and striking skills can be limited by:
This isn't a daft question. You might be in the lucky position to ring with a band who's striking is excellent and a joy to listen to. More likely you will be ringing with either a band of other learners or a band that is better than you but still learning how to strike reliably themselves. If you go to YouTube there is some excellent ringing, maybe on 12 bells, which can be difficult for you to relate to. There is also some pretty dreadful ringing but we won't say anything about that. So here are some examples of real ringing - with a single learner at your stage of development doing some of the LtR Level 2 exercises with good helpers.
» Rounds on 6
» Call Changes
» Mexican Wave
Practise listening to imperfect ringing and make corrections. Start off by setting the method to Rounds on 4, 5 or 6 (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and navigate to the "Listening" tab. Adjust the bells that you think are striking in the wrong place and see if you can improve the ringing. Don't be hasty - the programme can take a round or two to take effect.
Once you can hear your bell, you need to be able to alter the speed of your ringing until the spaces between the bells all sound evenly. You'll know when you can do this successfully - it will feel like you're ringing the bell, rather than it ringing you!
Something about this.
Whilst learning to Cover and then Plain Hunt, you are concentrating on developing ropesight and the concept of place. It is natural at this stage to neglect your listening and striking skills, as your brain is full to bursting working out what to do. Just as your bell handling might deteriorate and one or two bad habits creep in. Whenever you're ringing something a bit simpler concentrate on your bell handling, listening and striking, so that they continue to develop and definitely don't go backwards.
» Covering to a 120 of Plain Hunt Doubles
Listen to these clips of ringing in which the last bell (the tenor) is covering. Can you hear whether the tenor is ringing too close or too wide?
Striking the dodge in your first method requires practice otherwise there is a temptation to "average the dodge" - you don't fully move up or down a full blow. There are lots of exercises that you can do to practise dodging on its own, such as "dodgy call changes" or "kaleidoscope dodging" but before you do that here's the theory.
Listen to these two striking competition pieces and mark each row using this marking sheet. When you've finished why not compare your marking to two experienced judges. Note that even they don't capture exactly the same faults!
Here's some notes about judging striking competitions.