Practice · 2012Oct24We

Five ringers:  Anne, Jody, Judy, Marguerite, Thomas.  No Early Practice tonight;  no ringers for it.  We raised 12345. About every ten minutes we stood, rotated to the right one bell, and began again.  Several people acted as temporary ringing master, something we should encourage over the coming months.

We had some problems with our striking, even when ringing in rounds, and sometimes the ringers involved did not realize they were not striking accurately.  Here are some suggestions that have worked for other ringers.  These may seem impossible at first but become easier with practice.

  • Count the compass” (a.k.a. “count”) while you ring.  This means keeping a steady, rhythmically-even count going in your head, synchronized with the sounds of the bells not the motions of their ropes.  You count “1” when the bell in leads strikes, not when its ringer pulls.  Then if you think you are in nths listen to make sure your bell is striking when you say “n“, and if it isn’t then pull a little sooner/later/gentler/harder until it is striking accurately.

    Counting the compass will also help you internalize when to pull in order to make your bell strike at a particular moment in the future — an incredibly useful skill.

  • Hear your bell.  If you aren’t sure which note your bell is sounding, ask the conductor if you may pull a stroke or two while everyone else is standing, so you can hear it and remember it.  You might want to try to sing the note to yourself, if that’s something you can do, to help remember it.
  • Listen for whether two bells are striking too closely.  Rather than the bells sounding like the steps of someone striding along evenly, if two bells are too close together it will sound like someone stumbling or tripping.  Whenever a band is striking unevenly, there will be at least two bells striking too closely together (otherwise all the bells would be the same interval apart and the band would be striking evenly).  If you hear two bells stumbling together, try to figure out whether one of them is yours, and if so fix it by ringing a little closer (if you are the first of the two stumblers) or wider (if you are the second one).
  • Watch the ropes as they come down at each stroke, and try to place your pull in that sequence.  This is not as accurate as listening, and it does not account for odd-struck bells, but if you can’t reliably hear what’s going on then watching the ropes is better than just hoping and pulling.
  • Remember:  if you are feeling confused, pull right now.  More often than not it’s the right thing to do, particularly for new ringers.  A confused ringer usually wants to stand and think for a moment before ringing, and by the time [s]he has finished thinking everyone else has already pulled and the conductor is probably thinking about calling “Stand”.  So just pull;  figure it out later.

We had problems sticking together through the Call Changes.  We could never pinpoint precisely what made the band fall apart on each occasion, but all the following things were happening and any of them could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back:

  • Back-lead trouble.  Sometimes the bell in leads drifted so early that it was ringing before the bell at the back.  Other times the bell in leads waited so long that the other bells swung down before it.  In either case there’s the risk that the ringer in leads will correct in the wrong direction and get onto the wrong stroke.

    It’s only about 1½ seconds per stroke, so if the leader drifts early or late as much as ¾s — which isn’t very long — it can be almost impossible for him/her to tell which way to go to correct it.  Several times ringers in leads got confused and rang ¾s late or even later.

  • Handstroke-pause trouble.  When present, the handstroke pause (and backstroke without a pause) that the bell in leads leaves helps everyone else synchronize.  Whenever the handstroke pause is missing, and particularly when the leader leaves a backstroke pause in addition to or instead of a handstroke pause, there is the risk that someone or everyone will be thrown off.
  • One ringer getting lost after a call.  This happened most frequently when a ringer didn’t know who was two-ahead, and then was named second in a call and had to move in toward the front without knowing which bell to follow.  In that case, the band can end up with two bells trying to follow the same bell.  In a confident, solidly-striking band this can be dealt with, but we often aren’t solid enough.  Suggestion:  work on call changes at home using the practice program so less thinking is required when you have a rope in your hands.
  • Uneven striking.  Our striking in rounds is often pretty good, but sometimes is uneven in rounds and is usually uneven in other sequences.  When the band has been called into another sequence, uneven striking can be unnerving to the ringer(s) responsible and to everyone else too.  It’s easy to go from being unnerved to forgetting what you’re doing and then trying to make what you think is a correction but in fact is putting you into the wrong place;  then the band can fall apart.

I think it’s basically an issue of our striking not being good enough, plus occasionally a ringer getting lost.  These are fixable, and we’ve been working on them and will continue to work on them.