by David W Struckett, Northern Branch Training Officer

The Rounds, and Starting to Lower

Usually a few steady rounds are rung before lowering, in order to ensure a settled rhythm. The ringer of the treble is in charge, as the leading bell controls the rate of progress, and will therefore call "lower", "downwards" or "look to the fall" (another term for lowering) or something similar.

In normal 'open hand-stroke' ringing, the treble ringer should tend to close the hand-stroke pause soon after starting, so that both strokes are the same, or nearly so, as it is difficult to maintain a consistent pause as the bells lower. (This will vary from tower to tower however). The rest of the bells should gradually close up, each getting closer to the bell in front, resulting in a progressive increase in the speed of ringing.

The Lower

For a little while from the start of lowering, there is little change in style of ringing except that the pace of ringing increases. Catching the sally a little higher, shortening the backstroke, taking care to keep the rope moving in a vertical line, and keeping up the pace set by the other bells. It is important that the treble does not overlap the previous row by striking before the tenor, at EITHER stroke, as this will tend to split the rounds into groups.

By the time that the hand-stroke has a reduced "bounce", only one hand will be used to catch the sally, and it is time to take the first tail-end coil. One hand is now enough to touch the sally, as your tail end hand is going to collect the coil of rope provided for it by the other hand. Skilled ringers actually form this coil in a variety of ways, or rather times: some making the coil on the way down from a backstroke, and others at the end of the backstroke pull, perhaps delaying catching the sally to give more time. (Try not to cheat by omitting to catch the sally entirely for one stroke which gives plenty of time to make a coil: the dangers here are that the bouncing sally is out of control and might be caught by someone else, or may cause the rope to snatch or slip wheel - in any case the rhythm will be affected!)

The finer points of handling are important here even if one can ring a bell down singly quite satisfactorily, because of the smooth transition from one stage to the next that is required - any unevenness in handling will result in unevenness in the rhythm. On medium to larger bells, two or three coils may be required, and it is important to control the size of the coils as well as how many - small adjustments can usually be made towards the end of the backstroke. It is also important not to take too many coils - they can get rather tangled, and difficult to adjust their size. With smaller bells (e.g. 1 - 3 cwt) one coil may be enough.

The pace will continue to increase until the bells are about half way down, or at 'frame height'. By this time it is noticeable that the heavier bells are being brought further down compared to the treble, in order to ring at the same pace (in the same way, when ringing up, the small bells are always higher until full height is reached).

The Changeover

Some time after the maximum pace of ringing is reached, and the tenor is three-quarters down, the changeover from two stroke ringing to single stroke chiming begins - with the tenor. Ideally the 'dropping' of the second stroke should be progressive from tenor to treble, with some rows between each, but this will vary according to the hanging of the bells and by the amount of "checking" by each ringer. The gap produced by the missing beats (note - the gap is not because anyone is late) is gradually closed up by the treble as it becomes possible to, and as a consequence the other bells begin spreading out, until all are swing chiming in rounds at normal pace.

During this stage on larger rings of bells (usually well over 1 ton), the tenor may "misbehave" by striking differently for a while. This is a mechanical feature of the timing of the clapper, and cannot be changed by the ringer. This has to be ignored because, if the swinging of the tenor remains in time, single stroke chiming may then be achieved correctly. Otherwise (i.e. ropesight), the treble remains after the tenor all the way down. Many bands do not ring the back bells down in peal because of this phase - but if chiming is possible, it can be regained after this period if all are patient.

The Finish

When this final chiming is comfortable (note that the trebles will be swinging a lot higher than the tenor, which will be almost stationary), with no bell still striking both strokes, the treble ringer will either call "miss and catch - after two (or three) pulls", or order to "stop" (West Country style), according to local custom. The alternative "Catching in Queens" (on even numbers, after three pulls and a "miss"), once mastered, is easier than catching in rounds because it will be at about half the pace of the chiming in rounds, giving more time to prepare for the catch. The odd numbers strike first; followed by the even numbers, which have to swing again.

It is often remarked that the "catch", either in rounds or queens, is intended to mean "catch to stop swinging" - and therefore any movement after the catch is a "fault". This is a nice aim, as it is educational - you must hold the rope when it is below the "down" position, in order to "ease it up" to the stationary position. However, some movement is often evident. The important thing is that the "catch" produces the last sound from the tower - and no-one should allow their bell to speak after this.

A good "fall" is a satisfying experience. Together with raising, it is often the only piece of ringing that is understood by non-ringers, and when it occurs at the commencement of a service it is a memorable sound to the congregation. It is a progressive performance - from ringing rounds, accelerating to about twice normal speed accompanied by a change in the sound of the bells to an un-damped harmonic resonance, phasing to slower, quieter chiming, and finishing with a pause (a well known musical effect) and a final flourish row of slightly louder rounds or louder and slower queens ("musical thirds"). Because the clappers are now hanging free, the full harmonics of the bells die away more slowly, particularly those of the larger bells, hum notes most especially. It is these sounds by which we are judged by the public at large, and by our friends in the congregation below - and needs to be done well.

Document last modified 17-APR-2014