We’ve been planning for some time to set up the tower for simulated ringing. This involves:
- a computer running Abel to produce appropriate bell sounds;
- a configuration for Abel telling it how many bells we have and which pitch each one sounds;
- an optical sensor for each bell to detect its motion;
- wiring and electronics to connect the sensors to the computer; and
- a table of time delays for each bell to accommodate its natural period of swinging.
When everything is set up properly, each time a bell swings, its optical sensor detects the motion and sends a signal to the computer and Abel. Abel waits the appropriate time delay and then plays an appropriate recorded bell sound.
Why is this desirable? First, because the Miami tower tries to accommodate its neighbors and limit the amount of ringing they hear. The simulator setup lets the ringers silence or muffle the bells, so the neighbors don’t hear anything, yet hear the simulated sounds that their ringing would have produced. Thus the band can practice more often and longer.
Second, because the simulator can fill in bells that there are not ringers for. In the past the band has often suffered from low attendance, with not enough ringers present to do anything. The simulator can be set up to fill in bells for which there are no ringers, and sound each of those bells when a skilled ringer would have sounded it. Using it a few ringers can work on Rounds, or Plain Hunt on any number of bells, or Plain Bob or more complex methods. The band’s members vary in ambition and skill, like any band, and the simulator allows ambitious ringers to learn methods that the tower can’t provide a band for.
And finally, because the simulated bells strike exactly where they should be striking, enabling ringers who want to improve their striking above the band’s level to work as if surrounded by a band of skilled ringers. In that context, any bell that strikes out of place is much more obvious, and it’s always clear which ringer was in error since the simulated bells are never out of place.