CHANGE RINGING EXERCISES

by David W Struckett, Northern Branch Training Officer

There is that stage between learning to handle a bell and learning methods which many learners find full of embarrassing difficulties, and so various learning exercises can be introduced to prepare the beginner for these next skills.

Here are some thoughts on some of these, in a "sensible" order, with some reasons why they can help with specific skills. Let us assume that the beginner can ring rounds, and is able to lead (and achieve an "open handstroke" correctly). Remember, Listening skills start here!

CALL CHANGES

In any type of band, beginners may encounter call changes - here the conductor should be conscious that the initial challenge to the beginner is to actually strike the bell in it's place after moving either up or down when affected by a call. "Working out" who to follow according to which type of call changes is being rung IS A SEPARATE PROBLEM, which can be helped along by explanation after ringing and coaching during ringing - but ONLY AFTER the basic skill of handling the bell in rounds and changing places on a handstroke has been mastered. There is little point in expecting a newcomer to master the art when the SKILL is undeveloped, therefore the beginner should always be told who to follow at this stage, by adding that instruction after the initial call if required - perhaps ONLY moving the beginners bell around, if this helps.

So what is achieved? After learning to maintain the pace and rhythm of rounds, the beginner can now move one place on command, at a handstroke, following an instruction to follow another bell on the previous handstroke. Another feature that the beginner will encounter at this stage is following the different bells with an appropriate gap - some will be different, particularly the progressive difference between treble and tenor. See separate page for "Call Changes".

PLACE MAKING, or PLAIN HUNT ON TWO BELLS

The difference between change ringing proper from call changes is that movement becomes continuous, or rhythmic in nature. So far the beginner has learned to change places only on a handstroke - so let us use only this skill in introducing the next stage - changing EVERY handstroke after someone says "go", in a repetitive way so that they can get used to it. Plain hunt on two simply has two blows in the other place followed by two blows in rounds again, continuously until the conductor says "that's all". Of course all the bells will be rung - on six bells just 1 and 2 will change places - or maybe 2 and 3, or 3 and 4. When this is mastered and if the band is capable, the beginner can ring the treble to a course of Bastow, which will be exercise in following different numbers using the handling skills that have been learned so far. It is also an introduction to "natural coursing order", as the same order of bells is encountered in plain hunt.

PLAIN HUNT ON FOUR

One could argue that the same skills are used when hunting any even number of bells - however, the continuous movement at a slower rate of ringing (going "up") and faster (going "down") are not present in plain hunt on two bells, so we must introduce this as a new stage. With hunting on four bells, one or two cover bells should be used so that the pace is normal for the tower, which limits the change in speed required (except at a four bell tower of course!). The first blows in plain hunt on any number of bells should be with advance knowledge of the numbers i.e. who to follow, for two reasons:
a: the beginner will have written out plain hunt by now, or should have done, and will have been coached on the significance of "odd bells up and even bells down" etc., and
b: remember that the principal objective of this exercise is to achieve the physical skill of placing the bell correctly when ringing at faster and slower rates to normal rounds.

PLAIN HUNT ON ODD NUMBERS

As mentioned earlier, the beginner should be encouraged to write out plain hunt on various numbers of bells to fully appreciate "the theory". Describing it as "plaiting in sound" may be helpful to those without any feeling for numbers or technical explanation, but some theory IS necessary. Next we explain why we sometimes ring with a "cover bell" i.e. the tenor (or sometimes more than one cover, for example Doubles on eight bells with 678, 768 or even 468 "behind"). Whist the purists will include 3 bells, obviously the objective is to introduce plain hunt on five bells, because much learning of methods can be done on this number, and nearly all bands use a "tenor behind" at least sometimes.

What's new? Well the commencement of hunting DOWN is on a BACKSTROKE. Everything has been done on a handstroke so far, and it is important to emphasize that the two blows "at the back" in changes on five (and all odd numbers) are done "the wrong way round" (to be technical, it is a place made "wrong" or a "wrong place" as opposed to a "right place"). So "hunting down" commences on a backstroke on odd numbers.

DODGING PRACTICE

Whether or not plain hunting to METHODS has been mastered, so long as the general BELL CONTROL is progressing as indicated so far, the next step is to learn to "dodge". This can be tried simply with the neighbouring bell, either "dodging up" or "dodging down", in turn. The beginner should ring the third bell or higher, which avoids complications with leading. The same bell should be used for dodging "up" and dodging "down", which will emphasize the difference. So in other words, when the conductor says "2 and 3 dodge", the 3 will dodge down, continuously, until the conductor says "that's all". Later the conductor says "3 and 4 dodge"; the beginner thus experiencing the two types of dodge in the same session. This exercise will also benefit the skill of dealing with handstrokes and backstrokes separately - eventually enabling the skill of coping with any "odd-struckness" encountered.

ROPESIGHT

At this stage, or rather when the instructor feels that stages up to now have been mastered, some hunting to methods - and therefore "finding the way" can be attempted. Grandsire Doubles is an obvious first choice because there are more options open (e.g. treble or the two plain hunt). HOWEVER, it is important for instructors to give the opportunity to repeat previous exercises which were successful, to maintain confidence - beginners often make many attempts before getting it right, and a little psychology will indicate that restoring confidence is the best way to ensure progress in the future. Many "would be" instructors (or maybe "have been" instructors) have found to their dismay that learners do not necessarily progress according to their instructions!

True "ropesight" can only be acquired after frequent practice and familiarity with "hunting" - and several different applications of this will help improve confidence.

TREBLE BOB HUNTING

Many beginners experience their first dodge in a course of Bob Doubles, or similar method, where at best they will get only one go in each direction, per course. This is not enough, or frequent enough exercise to gain any skill very rapidly. By introducing treble bob hunting (even if only on four bells for example) one gets a dodge every other whole pull! By sticking religiously to T.B. HUNTING (i.e. NOT A METHOD), the beginner will know that it is the same order of bells TO FOLLOW as in plain hunt. As hunting, dodging up, dodging down and making places at lead and lie have all been mastered, this is simply introduced as HANDLING practice - another skill, but in fact the culmination of all skills learnt up to now (with the exception of hunting on odd numbers - we don"t normally T.B. hunt on odd numbers). Even if only tried once or twice (yes, on four bells with 5 or 5-6 behind, or on 6 bells so long as plain hunt on six has been mastered), it can be a useful practice of dodging before being expected to dodge in a method.

HUNTING BACKWARDS

After some conventional methods are learned (e.g. Plain Bob or Grandsire, maybe Little Bob Minor), thoughts about learning Stedman arise. It helps to have some experience of hunting backwards (and hence leading "wrong") before actually ringing the method, on three bells with cover or covers, which can also be quite fun for the band of course. Reverse hunting on any other number can likewise be useful practice in bell control and leading for all of the band. The more musical members of the band will notice that the "tune" is reversed as well as the leading - the rows of plain hunt are rung in the reverse order to plain hunt, but "back-rounds" occurs half-way as before.

BASTOW and KENT LITTLE COURT

These two methods can be very easily used as "practice methods" as they are short, and can usefully introduce treble bob hunting in a method without having to learn the long blue line for Kent or Oxford Treble Bob - at the same time being practice for a "place-making" treble ringer. The Kent version will, in addition, introduce Kent Places, with frequent practice of that feature instead of only twice each per course in the Treble Bob version. The same observations also apply to learning change ringing on handbells, and the work and coursing positions work apply to all even numbers of bells.

Here are some figures:

REVERSE HUNTING                           123456                   BASTOW  L.C.              KENT L.C. 
 (hunting backwards)                      132546
                              12345       315264                      123456                  123456
                              13254       351624                      214365                  213465
                   1234       31524       536142                      213456                  214356
                   1324       35142       563412                      124365                  124365
         123       3142       53412       654321                      142635                  142635
         132       3412       54321       645231                      416253                  412653
12       312       4321       45231       462513                      412635                  416235
12       321       4231       42513       426153                      146253                  146253
21       231       2413       24153       241635                      164523                  164523
21       213       2143       21435       214365                      615432                  614532
12       123       1234       12345       123456                      614523                  615423
                                                                      165432                  165432
                                                                      156342                  156342
                                                                      513624                  516324
                                                                      516342                  513642
                                                                      153624                  153624
                                                                      135264                  135264
                                                                      312546                  315246
                                                                      315264                  312564
                                                                      132546                  132546
                                                                      123456                  123456

PLAIN COURSES

When any method is being introduced to those new to "ringing inside", the importance of the plain course cannot be over-emphasized. The learner will be pre-occupied with remembering the "order of work", and ALSO be fully occupied with "finding the way" - i.e. practicing ropesight. Of course the numbers may have been learnt - even when you advised against this! But the objective is to perform - i.e. to achieve a course having navigated with reasonable accuracy. There is no point in trying to learn how to cope with calls, or to learn a variety of methods, if a course has not been mastered - to the extent that the bell is placed in the right position each blow, especially when reaching the back and leading. Therefore, the simple methods like Plain Bob OR Grandsire, are the best. It's also best not to learn both of these - the dodges are different, they feel different, and the next stages - of calls - are very different! After Plain Bob should come Reverse Canterbury, to introduce "Kent"-like places, and after Grandsire it's quite a big step to Stedman - though often introduced early where there is a solid Band to help a learner through their first course, after learning all the terminology of course.

LITTLE BOB MINOR

Not pealable without special calls and changing the hunt bell, but a jolly nice method all the same. Advantages - short course, easy to ring by "rules", bobs and singles like Plain Bob, simple to call, no more skills to learn after Plain Bob Minor and T.B. hunting.

METHOD OF THE MOMENT

Most active bands will not be short of a few ideas to enliven the weekly practice and to cope with all abilities - many variations can be invented on the spot to give some mental exercise to those interested. These can range from looking for methods with "Kent" type places instead of dodges, using a different "hunt bell" (instead of the treble), mixing doubles and minor, starting a method after a few call changes to change some "starts", etc. . .

Other ideas could be submitted to this page in due course - but only after "vetting" by the web-site authors!

Document last modified 17-APR-2014