If you're new to the world of begleri, welcome. AO2's got you covered. While there's no replacement for video tutorials, this little guide should help answer some questions you may have, and generally help get you started.
Picking the Right Begleri Set
At AO2, we pride ourselves on making high quality sets that are versatile enough for players at all levels. All of the sets can do all of the tricks, so to speak. We actually often recommend to people on a budget that before they drop any money, they try stringing up a couple of hex nuts at either end of an old shoelace. Beyond that, we usually recommend that players start with something that has materials and design that appeals to them. Ideally, you're going to be spending a lot of time with the set in your hand, so pick something that has a vibe you like. Here are a few considerations:
- Weight: Most of are sets are in the range of 9-14g per end, and that's a good target range for most people. Elite players tend to favour light sets (8-12g per end or so), but there are a lot of folks, especially those with bigger hands, that prefer the bigger and heavier setup in the range of 15-17g per end). A lot of people will recommend starting with a set that's a little on the heavy side, since they tend to play slower and give more feedback on the string, which is helpful for learning the basics.. but this is not essential. Another common piece of advice to beginners is to switch back and forth between a lighter set and a heavier one, since this trains you to pay attention to different aspects of the play (flow, momentum, speed, and so on).
- Hardcore or sport: Many of our bead designs feature what we call the "Hardcore" gut system. The system involves an outer shell with a standard sized recess (about 12x12mm), that allows any of our weighted "gut beads" to be inserted. This system allows for customization of weight, shape, and appearance, depending on which inserts are used, and is great for players that like to mix and match, try new things, and tweak their setups. For players that want a clean, minimalist setup, our "sport" variants of hardcore models feature the same design, but with a smaller recess, and usually just intended to recess the knot.
- Bead size: As you might expect, larger beads tend to be easier to grip and control, whereas smaller beads are nimbler but easier to drop. Bead size really comes down to preference, and a lot of that has to do with each player's hand size. Beginners tend to favour larger beads in the 15-20mm diameter range, while elite players tend to favour smaller beads, in the 12-16mm range. Most of our original releases were in the 16-18mm diameter range, while our "mini" versions are 14-16mm diameter, ad our "micros" are all just under 12mm diameter. Note that the micros were originally designed as weight inserts, not as stand alone sets, and while they're fun to play, they border on too small as a main set for most players.
- Bead design: Each of our begleri bead designs has its own virtues. Bead shape factors in in a variety of ways. Although all of our sets are comfy to play and have rounded edges, sets with more exaggerated rounding tend to feel more cushioned. On the other hand, sets with straight edges tend to offer more control and don't tend to slip out of the hand as easily as round shapes. Many players also like to have a bit of a "shelf" on the top of the bead, meaning a flat or nearly flat top that allows you to control the bead from the top. Bead shape also affects weight distribution, and longer sets, or those with heavier bottoms tend to have a bit more swing to them than short, compact sets.
- Single or multi-bead: In general, multi-bead sets play a little quieter than solid sets. This is because the movement of beads helps to absorb and dampen the impact when the beads smack together. This also helps lessen the impact on the knuckles, which beginning players may appreciate. Multi-bead sets can also be mixed and matched, to allow customization of weight, length, and appearance. However, most of our multi-bead sets do not include recessed beads that allow the player to recess the knots.
- Exposed or recessed knot: There's no agreement on aesthetics. Some players like the clean look of a set with a fully recessed knot, while others like the appearance of the knot at the end of the set. When looking at sets with exposed knots, the knots should be viewed as a feature, not a bug. They contribute to the overall feel of the set, and add an extra bit of soft control to the extremity of the set.
- Materials: Again, there's no agreement on aesthetics, but a few points to consider. Stainless steel and titanium are substantially harder than the other materials in our range, and will scratch the least. Brass, copper, bronze, and aluminum are all soft and will show more wear. Copper, brass, and bronze will patina more than other metals. Copper (and to a far lesser extent, brass and bronze), has a distinctive odour when it reacts with the skin. Delrin (polyoxymethylene) is very durable and warm to the touch, unlike plastics.. it will hold up to a lot of abuse, but can eventually crack with heavy use.
- Finish: All beads trend towards a tumbled appearance, and if you use them enough, they will ALL get scratched and banged and dinged up. PVD coating is the most durable of the coloured finishes we offer. Cerakote is also quite durable but can chip off over time. Anodizing is the least durable, partly due to the softness of the aluminum material underneath. We don't recommend babying sets, as they are all designed to be used. As your sets get worn, take pride in the marks as a record of their journey with you.
There is no "correct" string length for begleri play, but in recent years, two de facto standards have emerged. You can read more about "short game" and "long game" over here, but since long game is preferred by most players, we'll focus on that here. The two most common methods of measuring the cord for long game are either by (i) splaying your fingers apart, and measuring from the tip of your pinky to the tip of your index finger, ensuring the beads are just outside that range, or by (ii) draping the cord over your index finger, allowing the beads to hang down past your pinky. Every experienced player develops their own method for fine tuning their own string length, as preferences vary slightly depending on things like finger thickness and flexibility, not to mention style of play, but these guidelines should put you in the range. See photos for reference, and be sure to check out our video tutorial on string length as well.
We've got a pretty huge (and daunting) set of trick tutorials on our YouTube channel. We recommend starting with the first few "beginner" tricks there first. But we also recommend not getting too hung up on trick progression initially. There is a lot of value in just casually and idly bouncing the begleri back and forth, allowing the beads to wrap and unwrap around one or more fingers, and just seeing what grip changes come naturally to you. This kind of casual play builds up a foundation of "feel" and soon you'll find yourself playing without having to look at what you're doing. That feel is immensely helpful if and when you want to start learning more complex tricks. Or you may find you're perfectly happy with just a couple of moves to keep your hands busy, and you're in great company there.
Although Aroundsquare specializes in high end products, and our begleri are played and praised by the very best players in the world, we are also extremely proud to make this hobby accessible to everyone. We have introduced countless slingers to the game, and to have hooked them up with their very first set.. be it an entry level beater, or a high end begleri they still still prize after years of use. We have inexpensive sets, including free 3D printable files, and since 2018 we have been running our B-Bank program, that quietly ships out free sets to folks who might not otherwise have access. Thanks for popping by, and be sure to connect with us on social media, which is where this worldwide community thrives.