Ringing in a band

First you have to learn to handle a bell.

XII. Ringing rounds

You will ring in rounds with four or more experienced ringers, who will ring as steadily as possible while leaving a space for your bell to ring in.  The instructor will “stand behind” and talk you through what you need to be doing.

  1. Bring your bell off the stay when the treble calls “Treble’s going” so that you can pull off quickly.
  2. Pull off when you see the ringer before you pull off;  it will take much longer than you think, so get a jump on it.  If you are ringing a heavy bell, you will have to pull off when you see the ringer two or more bells ahead of you pull off, because heavier bells are harder to get moving.
  3. Ring after the bell to your right (that will be the bell preceding yours in rounds).
  4. Try to pull to keep your sally falling at about half-a-sally’s height above the one to your right.
  5. If you have enough spare presence of mind, listen for your bell in the sequence of sounds and try to keep it in the right place.
  6. If you find yourself ringing in front of the bell to your right, slow down.
  7. If you find yourself ringing too far behind the bell to your right, speed up.
  8. If you find yourself way off, hold up at hand and wait until the ringer to your right is about to pull his/her handstroke, then follow.
  9. If you find yourself on the wrong stroke (pulling backstroke when the ringer to your right is pulling the handstroke, or vice versa), you are way off;  hold up at hand and wait.
  10. To speed up, make your bell ring lower:
    1. Less oomph in your pulls.
    2. If need be, check the bell’s rise (but still keep less oomph once you pull).
    3. Move up higher on the tail, and catch higher on the sally;  not a lot higher, but enough to keep the bell ringing lower.
    4. No matter what, keep the bell ringing high enough to maintain control.
  11. To slow down, make the bell ring higher:
    1. A little more oomph in your pull (push harder with your thumb at the end of your backstroke).
    2. But don’t give so much oomph that you bounce off the stay.
    3. Move down lower on the tail, and catch lower on the sally;  not a lot lower, but enough to let the bell rise to ring higher.
    4. Don’t give so much oomph that the bell even gets close to the balance, because then it will take way too long to come back down and you’ll get behind.
  12. To hold up and wait, bring the bell up just beyond the balance and hold it there.

You are trying to solve two problems at the same time:

  • You have to be ringing at the same speed as the other ringers;  and
  • You have to be ringing at the right time, after the bell to your right and before the bell to your left.

It’s quite possible to be ringing at the same speed, but with your bell ringing way ahead or way behind where it should (this is pretty common when starting out).  Likewise, it’s quite possible to get one blow in where it should, but be ringing at the wrong speed so that your next blow is too late or too early and after it just gets further off.  You have to strive for both the right speed and the right time.  It seems to be easiest to

  1. Speed up or slow down or hold up until you can strike a blow in the right place;
    then;
  2. Adjust your speed based on whether your next blow is early or late, or if you are really clever, based on whether you had to speed up or slow down to get to the right place in Step 1;
    then
  3. Start again at step 1, and repeat the process until you are ringing at the right speed and in the right place.

The first time will be awful, but you’ll get better.  The other ringers will be patient with you because they’ve all gone through this too, and helping you learn to ring rounds is repaying the people who helped them.

At some point, maybe after a few weeks, you’ll start to see where you should pull relative to the bell to your right, and then you’ll start to get the feel of controlling the speed of your bell, and maybe even hearing whether you are ahead, behind, or roughly in the right place, and before you know it you’ll be ringing in rounds effortlessly.

XIII. Listening and good striking

Your goal is to manage your bell so that it sounds evenly in the rhythm of the band.  Several things will allow this to happen:

  1. Keep a steady, even ringing motion so that once you get in the right place, you can strike your next blow roughly in the right place even without looking or listening.  This puts you close enough to the right timing to adjust it by watching.
  2. Watch the hands of the ringers preceding you, and pull so that your motion tracks theirs at an appropriate offset after them.  This puts you still closer to the right timing, close enough to adjust it by listening.
  3. Listen to your bell amid all the bells, and hear whether your last stroke placed the bell early, late, or just right;  then adjust your next stroke(s) accordingly.  This lets you place your strokes exactly at the right instants.

You will need to develop all three of these.  Every ringer is stronger in one of the three than the others, and has to practice on the other two to bring them up to the needed level of accuracy.  If your ringing motion isn’t reliable enough, your bell won’t be close enough to the right timing to let you pull your rope to visually align with the other ringers.  Once your ringing motion is reliable enough to put you in roughly the right place leading up to your pull, you can adjust it to be even closer to the right place by looking at the ringers in front of you.  Finally, no one can get their bell to strike exactly at the right instant without listening, because it’s the sound not the position of the rope that matters.

(Some experienced ringers bypass watching, and ring by listening with their eyes closed or looking at the floor, but you need a very reliable motion and a good ear to make this work.)

You will soon realize that you have to pull bigger bells sooner than smaller bells.  If you are ringing the 6, for example, and you are following the 2, when you first start out you will probably hear that your bell strikes late all the time.  You’ll need to pull sooner than you would if you were ringing the 3.  If there is a big difference between the weights, for example the 8 following the treble, you may feel like you are pulling at the same time, so that your hands are going down at the same time the treble’s hands are (or even before them).  Adjust your timing so that you hear your bell strike its blow at the right time, even if it looks like you are pulling too soon.  Light bells following heavy bells see the opposite, so that it may look like the heavy bell is being pulled way before the light bell is.

You will also soon realize that some bells are odd-struck, that is, they strike differently on the handstrokes than they do on the backstrokes.  You can only tell this by listening.  If you find that your bell is consistently late on the handstrokes and early on the backstrokes, for example, you will have to adjust your pulls so it feels like you are pulling handstrokes a bit early and backstrokes a bit late, with the amount of adjustment being whatever gets the bell sounding like it’s striking evenly.

XIV. The handstroke pause

When you were learning to ring, you rang with all your strokes rising about the same height, almost to the balance.

Now that you are ringing in a band, you need to control your handstrokes and backstrokes independently.  You will usually need to let your backstrokes rise a little higher, in order to allow for the handstroke pause.  Most bands ring so that their bells follow evenly after each other, except after the last backstroke and before the first handstroke of the next pull when they leave a brief moment in which no bell is ringing;  that’s the pause.  It is called the handstroke pause because it occurs right before the bell in leads strikes its handstroke.  The Miami band aims for a one-beat pause, where each beat corresponds to one bell sounding.  Everyone in the band has to let their backstrokes rise higher in order for the pause to work;  as one of our ringers says, “everyone leaves a handstroke pause,” though of course no one but the bell in leads waits long enough for a beat of silence before their bell strikes.

This page discusses the handstroke pause in some detail.

XV. “Ropesight”

XVI. Kaleidoscope exercises

XVII. Tenoring behind

XVIII. Leading

XIX. Ringing call changes

XX. Hunting in and out;  Plain Hunt

XXI. Plain hunt trebling while everyone else rings a method

XXII. First method:  Bastow “Little Bob”

XXIII. Dodging

XXIV. Plain Bob:  plain courses

XXV. Touches:  bobs and singles

XXVI. Method ringing


Contact us if you are interested in learning to ring!

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