Early Practice / Practice · 2013Feb27We

This was Lynn’s first practice ringing with the band.

Early Practice · Three ringers:  Lynn, Nancy, Thomas.

  • Lynn raised several bells and worked on setting and ringing motion.
  • Rounds on Three with Lynn in the middle.
  • Counting the compass.  Nancy worked on counting while ringing, with “1” synchronized with the treble’s sound.

We discussed when the bell sounds in relation to the ringer’s motion:

  1. Easiest to distinguish:  The backstroke sounds when the ringer catches the sally.  This occurs because the catch slows the bell but not the clapper, so the clapper catches up with the bell’s leading side and strikes it.
  2. The handstroke sounds when the ringer’s hands have taken up all the slack from the bight of the rope.  The ringer can feel this happen.  Visually, it occurs roughly when the ringer’s hands pass his/her chin, though it will vary a bit depending on the ringer’s motion.

A self-aware ringer can make fine adjustment of exactly when the bell sounds by catching a bit sooner or later (at the same height on the sally, but lower or higher from the floor), or to a lesser extent by raising his/her hands at the beginning of the backstroke less or further.  Only a small adjustment is possible, but it has the great advantage of taking effect immediately, in contrast to everything else a ringer does to affect the striking which is completed about a half-second before the striking occurs.  Thomas demonstrated.

Practice · Five ringers:  Judy, Lynn, Marguerite, Nancy, Thomas.  We raised the front six (123456) in expectation of up to seven ringers, but were disappointed.

  • Rounds on Four (3456), then on Five (23456, then 12345), standing and rotating from time to time but leaving Lynn on the 4.
  • Counting the compass.  Judy worked on counting aloud while leading.
  • Call changes on four bells.  Lynn observed.
  • Ringing down in peal (3456), then ringing down the 1 and 2 individually.

Early Practice / Practice · 2012Dec19We

Early Practice · Four ringers:  Carroll, Judy, Thomas, and visitor Stuart Hawksworth from Leicestershire.  We took Stuart in to see the sanctuary and up to see the bells, then raised 123456.

  • Rounds on Four, first on the light four 1234 and then the heavy four 3456.

Practice · Seven ringers:  Anne, Carroll, Jody, Judy, Marguerite, Thomas, and visitor Stuart.  We rang six at a time with one sitting out.

  • Rounds on Six, standing every so often and rotating the band one bell to the right.
  • Call Changes.  We focused on Anne and Judy, moving each one in to leads and out to fifths, back and forth between two places at various points.
  • Long Places, in 1-2, then 3-4, then 5-6, then 1-2 and 3-4 simultaneously, and finally 1-2 3-4 5-6 simultaneously.
  • Plain Hunt on Four with two covers.  We rang this quite well!  Not perfectly, but reliably and solidly.
  • Rang down in peal, fairly accurately and finishing up tidily at the same time.

This was one of our best ringing sessions of the time I’ve been in Miami.  Below is some discussion on what we did.

Rounds and Rotate.  We do this almost every session, because it produces such good results.  We ring rounds for several minutes straight, giving those who still have to think through what they are doing time to think and do, and everyone time to sink meditatively into the rhythm of their motion and the rhythm of the band’s rounds, without thought.  Then we stand.  Everyone moves one bell to the right (to the next lighter bell), except the treble ringer who moves to the tenor, and we do it again.  We continue until every ringer has rung every bell.

We don’t move the tenor ringer to the treble, because in our experience it’s almost impossible for him/her not to overpull the light treble after being used to the much heavier tenor, and we don’t want to break the treble’s stay.  It’s an adjustment to go from treble to tenor too, of course, but it’s a safe one.


the 4 on the spot
[ 0.] 12345
[ 1.] “3 to 4” 12435
[ 2.] “4 to 3” 12345
[ 3.] “3 to 4” 12435
[ 4.] “2 to 4” 14235
[ 5.] “4 to 2” 12435
[ 6.] “2 to 4” 14235
[ 7.] “1 to 4” 41235
[ 8.] “4 to 1” 14235
[ 9.] “1 to 4” 41235
[10.] “4 to 1” 14235
[11.] “4 to 2” 12435
[12.] “4 to 3” 12345
[13.] “4 to 5” 12354
[14.] “5 to 4” 12345
[15.] “4 to 5” 12354
[16.] “5 to 4” 12345

Call Changes with a ringer on the spot.  This gives a specific ringer a workout in following calls.  Everyone gets practice in moving one place up or down.  Plus it’s an easy sort of changes for a conductor to improvise, since all the bells stay in rounds sequence except the one getting the workout.  An example is shown at right.  We kept the tenor (the 6) behind throughout to help us ring steadily and strike evenly all the time.

The conductor chooses a ringer N to be on the spot (in the example, it’s the 4), then calls that bell all the way in to leads (these calls will have the form “X to N”, like “3 to 4″”), all the way out to the back (these will have the form “N to Y”, like “4 to 1”), and back and forth between two places (these will have the form “Z to N;  N to Z”) whenever and for as long as it seems desirable, even as many as 8 or 12 times in succession.  Each call is made as soon as the striking settles from the previous call, with the eventual goal being a call at every handstroke.  Everyone gets a workout, and the ringer on the spot gets a tremendous boost in confidence from the realization that he/she actually can follow Call Changes.

Long Places on 3 and 4
123456 H
123456 B
“3 and 4 Long Places” 123456 H
123456 B
124356 H
124356 B
124356 H
124356 B
123456 H
123456 B
123456 H
123456 B
124356 H
124356 B
124356 H
124356 B
123456 H
123456 B
“That’s all” 123456 H
123456 B

Kaleidoscope Exercises.  We use these as exercises in moving cleanly out one place and in one place. The band rings rounds for a good long while so that everyone settles into the rhythm of their pull and the rhythm of the band.  Then the conductor calls (for example) “3 and 4 Long Places” and at the next handstroke those two ringers trade places for four strokes, then back to rounds for four strokes, trade places again, back to rounds again, and so forth for what may seem like a Very Long Time until they’ve got the hang of moving exactly one place in a single stroke.  The example at right shows only two Long Places;  we typically do four, six, or even longer.  We keep going until the striking is even on every stroke, even the handstroke when the bells swap.

If single pairs in Long Places is going well, as it did tonight, we then move on to two pairs doing Long Places together (like “1 and 2, 3 and 4 Long Places” 123456, 214356).  Tonight we went even further, with all three pairs doing Long Places at once (123456, 214365).  That’s some very satisfying ringing for band at our level.

Our band is still working on Long Places, which give ringers several strokes to think about what’s going on if necessary.  When we improve enough at moving cleanly one place in or out, we’ll continue on to Places, two strokes in each sequence, for which the ringers get only a single stroke for thinking, then Dodges, one stroke in each sequence, for which there’s no time to think and the ringers have to just do it.

Plain Hunt.  We rang rounds for a good long while to get everyone settled and synchronized with each other.  Then we rang one lead only of Plain Hunt, ended with “That’s all” at the lead end and then more rounds, so everyone could mull over what just happened, believe that it actually worked, and sink back into a meditative state.  Next we rang two leads in succession (without calling “Keep going” at the end of the first lead, which is an unhelpful crutch for a band as strong as ours), followed by more rounds.  Finally, to cap off our achievement, we rang three leads in succession, a few rounds, and stood.

It’s good when we can finish off with something that gives everyone an appropriate sense of achievement:  an accurate feeling that the band has rung better than they have before and better than they thought they could.

Early Practice / Practice · 2012Nov14We

Three ringers for Early Practice:  Anne, Nancy, Thomas.  We raised 12345.

  • Ringing to a count.  With only three ringers, we rang at a five-bell pace leaving silence for two more bells.  I called out a steady repeated “1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5-6” (with “6” for the handstroke pause), and each ringer was charged with striking as close to the number of their place as possible.  It takes practice but is an extremely useful skill.
  • Rounds and Call Changes.  The call changes moved each ringer into leads and each ringer to the back over each course of ringing.  I kept the count going except when calling a change.  Whoever was in leads was on the spot to get their bell to strike at “1”, and any deviation was obvious.  The bells in 2nds and 3rds were not as obvious when they deviated, but the expectation of striking on the correct beat was still there.  We stood the bells every so often and rotated one to the right, circulating the rightmost ringer around to the back.

Five ringers for Practice:  Anne, Jody, Judy, Nancy, Thomas.  We arranged the ringers to separate the new ringers with senior ringers.

  • Rounds and Call Changes.  Our goal was to get from rounds (12345) to back rounds (54321), which we eventually did, and then back into rounds again, which we didn’t due to a combination of irregular striking, confusion about call changes, and confusion about the transition from following a bell, when both are on the same stroke, to leading off a bell, when the bell in leads is on the opposite stroke from the bell at the back.

    We followed the same sequence of calls, initially very slowly, then gradually more quickly until a call was made at every other pull (every four strokes):

    1. “4 to 5” (12354)
    2. “3 to 5” (12534)
    3. “2 to 5” (15234)
    4. “1 to 5” (51234)  bringing the 5 into leads
    5. “3 to 4” (51243)
    6. “2 to 4” (51423)
    7. “1 to 4” (54123)  bringing the 4 into 2nds
    8. “2 to 3” (54132)
    9. “1 to 3” (54312)  bringing the 3 into 2nds
    10. “1 to 2” (54321)  bringing the 2 into 4ths and the band into Back Rounds

    Throughout the first 10 calls, the only bells that led were the treble and the 5, and with steady ringers on both those bells the band was able to stay coherent.

    The intent was then to return to rounds, though by a different path.  This path would have brought every bell into leads briefly, and was more than we could manage.

    1. “5 to 4” (45321)
    2. “5 to 3” (43521)
    3. “5 to 2” (43251)
    4. “5 to 1” (43215)  bringing the 5 into 5ths
    5. “4 to 3” (34215)
    6. “4 to 2” (32415)
    7. “4 to 1” (32145) bringing the 4 into 4ths
    8. “3 to 2” (23145)
    9. “3 to 1” (21345) bringing the 3 into 3rds
    10. “2 to 1” (12345) bringing the 2 into 2nds and the band into Rounds
  • Rang down approximately in peal.

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.

Practice · 2012Apr24Tu

Four ringers:  Judy, Ken, Pamela, Thomas.  Rang on 1234 (F-E-D-C).

  • Plain Hunt on Four.  We permuted the ringers around the bells to push them to see the pattern generally, rather than just for their favorite bell, and we spent the entire practice working on it.  Points to note for future continued improvement:
    • You have to work to place your blows accurately, especially with only four bells.
    • When hunting in, you’ll probably need to move up the tail;  then back down the tail to the rounds position to ring the second blow at rounds speed;  then further down to hold up for hunting-out speed.
    • It works much better to think a stroke ahead (that doesn’t mean it comes naturally, just that it works much better):  before slowing down, it’s essential to pull the preceding stroke with extra oomph (because you can’t push a rope up), and before speeding up, pull the preceding stroke with less oomph so you don’t have to check heavily.
    • You can’t ring accurately by just counting your place in the compass (though you do need to count your place).  You have to combine counting with either looking at the ringer you are following, or expert listening.  Looking has the additional advantage that it helps the ringers around you.
    • Learn to look in the coursing order, which for Plain Hunt on Four is 2-4-3-1.  You don’t have to be thinking “thirds over the treble, seconds over the 2, …” but it is really helpful to look at the treble, look at the 2, … , and the visual pattern is quite simple.
  • Rang down in peal.

After practice the ringers adjourned to a pub.