Place bell order (2)

Now for another meaning of "place bell order", which came up when we were practising Cambridge Maximus in November. Nick said that when thinking about a pair of place bells, he always uses a consistent order, which is right hand and then left hand. This helps to keep track of which way around his pair is. So, for example, when ringing the symmetrical lead of Yorkshire Major on the tenors, he thinks of his place bells as "8 and 6".

This sounds like a good system, although it's not what I do all the time. If I'm ringing the tenors, I think of the place bells with the one nearest the front first. So when I ring the symmetrical lead of Yorkshire, I think "6 and 8" (which is left hand first), but in the next lead I think "5 and 7" (which is right hand first). If I'm ringing a different pair, then I try to follow Nick's system.

If I'm telling another member of the band which place bells to be, I try to say them with the one nearest the front first. This is so that the ringer rings in the order that he or she hears the place bells. I don't worry about whether not they get the pair the right way around, because that's easy to correct a little later. However, sometime I might say the place bells in an order corresponding to the coursing order I am working from. For example, if the coursing order is 65324 and we're coming to the Home position, I might say "Jonathan 5 and 3" (if he is ringing 5-6, as usual), because the first two positions in the coursing order correspond to 5th and 3rd place bells at the Home lead. 

Place bell order (1)

We know that it's useful, even essential, to keep track of which place bells we are while ringing. During normal ringing, meaning ringing without mistakes, we work our way along the lines (or however we think about the method), and our awareness of the place bells might fade into the background. The place bell order just appears from the fact that we progress smoothly to the next lead end and become the next place bells according to the line.

If we make a mistake, however, assuming that we don't recover (with or without help) very quickly, the best chance of getting right is to know which place bells we should become at the next lead end, and rely on the conductor or the ringer of the trebles to announce when the lead end comes up.

If we stick to 8-bell methods for the moment, and assuming we are ringing methods with Plain Bob lead ends, there are 6 possible place bell orders. If we write the place bell order starting from 2, then the possible orders are 2468753, 2673485, 2836547, 2745638, 2584376, 2357864. For a further level of classification we can consider whether the method has a 2nd place lead end or an 8th place lead end - this gives 12 possible lead end types, as they are known.

Each lead end type has a conventional letter, which is used when quoting the lead end type of a method. For example, Cambridge is a B type method, which means the place bell order 2673485 with a 2nd place lead end. An alternative way of thinking about the place bell order is as a number, corresponding to how far one lead of the method takes us round the circle of numbers shown on the right. Plain Bob is +1, where + means moving anticlockwise. So that's the place bell order 2468753, stepping one place round the circle each time. Cambridge is +2. London is -1, or equivalently +6, but it's easier to keep the number as small as possible.

The table shows the lead end type, the place bell order, the number, and a (more or less) common method of that lead end type.

Lead end type Lead end place Place bell order Number Method
A 2nd 2468753 +1 Cooktown Orchid
B 2nd 2673485 +2 Cambridge
C 2nd 2836547 +3 Cassiobury
D 2nd 2745638 -3 Ipswich
E 2nd 2584376 -2 Chesterfield
F 2nd 2357864 -1 London
G 8th 2468753 +1 Glasgow
H 8th 2673485 +2 Essex
J 8th 2836547 +3 Deva
K 8th 2745683 -3 Buckfastleigh
L 8th 2584376 -2 Cornwall
M 8th 2357864 -1 Bristol

I find some place bell orders easier to work with than others. The most difficult ones are +3 and -3, because of lack of familiarity. It's also much easier to work out my next place bells if I'm coursing, because that feels the same as just working out the next place bell of the tenor - and then the 7th must be in the coursing relationship with the tenor.

An idea for working out the next place bells in +3 and -3 methods is to break the progression down into two steps. For example, +3 consists of +1 (Plain Bob - easy) followed by +2 (Cambridge - easy). I often use this technique for difficult place bell orders on tower bells. The main example is Zanussi, which is +5. I think of it as two leads of Cambridge followed by a lead of Plain Bob.

Another idea is to be aware of which relative position the bells are in: coursing, 3-4 or 5-6. Then, if we can track the place bell of one of them, and if we know the combinations of place bells that occur in each relative position, the task becomes easier. I have already mentioned this idea when ringing a coursing pair, especially the tenors. The place bell of the 7th is always the place bell of the tenor, +1 (where +1 means counting round the place bell diagram, as before). In the 3-4 position the relationship is +2, and in the 5-6 position the relationship is +3. If we know that the pairs of place bells in the 3-4 position are 2&6, 4&8, 6&7, 8&5, 7&3, 5&2, 3&4, then it's possible to know that if the first bell is, say, 6th place bell, then the other one must be 7th place bell. Of course the information in these pairs of place bells is the same as the information in the place bell order 2673485, but it's a different way of looking at it, which might be helpful.

This is all very well in theory, but like everything, it takes practice. Also, like conducting, the time when we really need to apply it is when everything is going wrong, which makes it so much more difficult to concentrate.

Working on Cambridge Maximus

Yesterday we had a Cambridge Maximus practice session, with our usual band plus Nick and Jenny. This was not too long after our previous session, in October, so we were optimistic that we might be able to make some good progress. In the past we have found the second half of the course more difficult than the first half, so this time we decided to start by practising the second half a couple of times. We did this by starting with a lead of Bastow, then changing to Cambridge, which was at the beginning of the symmetrical lead.

After succeeding with the second half, we tried a whole course. It took several attempts, but we managed it in the end. In comparison with some of our previous experiences with 12-bell ringing, we are making progress in several ways:

  • We are ringing fairly slowly, but in general we are managing to keep a consistent rhythm without grinding to a halt.
  • We now have very few instances of bells lagging at the back of the change, or bells leading too quickly and crashing onto the previous change.
  • We are all ringing the same pairs each time, to develop familiarity with the patterns.
  • I hope Angela won't mind me saying that she seems to have made a big advance, and is now becoming the kind of reliable trebles ringer that we always depend on when ringing on 8 - this is a huge help.
  • I'm ringing the tenors, because that way I make very few mistakes and this helps with the rhythm.

In my usual optimistic way, I had thought that we might try a quarter yesterday, but we're not quite there yet. I had assumed that I would call three homes for a quarter, which makes 3-4 ring two courses of coursing as well as the plain course in the 3-4 position. However, I am now thinking that it might be better to call two singles middle and then two singles wrong. That keeps 3-4 fixed, and gives 5-6 two courses of the 3-4 position as well as the plain course in the 5-6 position. The advantage of that would be that we think the 3-4 position is one of the easiest, perhaps even easier than coursing, and certainly easier than 5-6.

It would be possible to ring a quarter with everyone in their home positions, by using singles at home to swap 3-4 and half-lead singles to swap 9-10 or 7-8, or perhaps using a 1256 single to swap 5-6. But I think that would feel a little bit like cheating.

If we can get together again not too far into the new year, then I hope we can make another step forward.

Two quarter peal compositions of cyclic spliced

We've been doing some practice towards a Spliced Surprise Major project, and at the moment this involves trying to ring a quarter of Preston, Ipswich and Dunster. I agree that this is a strange combination of methods, but all will be revealed eventually. Preston is familiar as one of the difficult methods from Norman Smith's 23-spliced - familiar, that is, in the sense of knowing about it, rather than being experts at ringing it. Ipswich is also a Norman Smith's method. Dunster is better known in its variation with plain hunting at the lead end, which is Deva; this has become fairly popular and is associated with Simon Linford's Project Pickled Egg. It's Bristol above the treble, and Superlative below with plain hunting at the half lead.

We decided to ring a cyclic 7-part, and my computer came up with a number of compositions, including the following two which are intriguingly similar.

1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)              1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)
S.J.Gay                                       S.J.Gay
         2345678                                       2345678
----------------                              ----------------
Dunster  8674523                              Preston  5738264
Dunster- 2357486                              Preston- 7864523
Ipswich  6485723                              Ipswich  3526478
Ipswich- 2378564                              Ipswich- 7842635
Preston  8634257                              Dunster  5634278
Preston  4567823                              Dunster- 7823456
----------------                              ----------------
7 part                                        7 part

We've tried both compositions a couple of times, but we've settled on the second one, because having a bob attached to every change of method seems to reduce the risk of miscalls (!).

I've been ringing the tenors, and I've found myself doing a lot of coursing - more than I expected, considering that my general expectation is that a cyclic composition would have wild and difficult coursing orders with the tenors all over the place. One thing about cyclic compositions is that all the handbell pairs ring the same work as each other - for example, a part-end of 17823456 means that in the second part, 5-6 ring what 7-8 rang in the first part, and 3-4 ring what 5-6 rang in the first part. So if it's true that there is a significant amount of coursing for 7-8, then the other pairs get it as well, and this is a helpful feature for everyone.

Here's a table of the lead ends, methods, and which pairs are coursing, throughout the composition. Actually it's not all of the lead ends - we can consider the leads in pairs between bobs.

Part Lead end Methods 3-4 coursing 5-6 coursing 7-8 coursing
1 12345678 P P -     Y
  17864523 I I -   Y Y
  17842635 D D -   Y Y
2 17823456 P P -   Y Y
  15642378 I I - Y Y Y
  15627483 D D - Y Y Y
3 15678234 P P - Y Y  
  13427856 I I - Y Y  
  13475268 D D - Y Y  
4 13456782 P P - Y    
  18275634 I I - Y   Y
  18253746 D D - Y    
5 18234567 P P -      
  16753482 I I -   Y  
  16738524 D D -     Y
6 16782345 P P -      
  14538267 I I - Y    
  14586372 D D -   Y  
7 14567823 P P -      
  12386745 I I -     Y
  12364857 D D - Y   Y

This table immediately explains why we break down in the 5th part! It's the first time that no-one is coursing.

In total each pair rings 20 leads of coursing, which is almost half of the quarter. For 3-4 and 5-6, 16 of these leads are in a continuous block. (The 16 continuous leads of coursing for 7-8 wrap around the beginning and end of the quarter, so they are not experienced in the same way). And for the last 4 leads of the 2nd part, all the pairs are coursing.

Preston is the most difficult method, and it's the only one with leads in which none of the pairs are coursing: at the beginning of the 5th, 6th and 7th parts. This suggests that we should focus our learning on the leads of Preston that we ring in these parts.

These observations raise the question of how much coursing it's possible to get in a cyclic composition. I might return to it in a future article.

Update: we managed to ring the quarter the next time we tried it.

The first lost peal this year

It sounds almost unbelievable, but on Thursday we had the first lost handbell peal of the year. And it's not as if we've just been ringing easy things: my total of nine peals includes four of Bristol, one of London, and one of the Nottingham Eight.

We had arranged for Julia to come for a peal this week, but we only decided at the last minute what to ring: spliced London, Bristol, Cambridge and Yorkshire. I found this composition by Don Morrison:

5,184 Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods)
Donald F Morrison (no. 7435)

23456  M  B  W  H
56234  2     -     L.B.C.L
63542     -        CY.CY
46532  3     -     L.CYYLC.LLC.Y.B
52364  -     -  2  L.C.BB.B.
43265  -       [-] L.CL.
Six part, omitting [-] from alternate parts.

Contains 1,728 London, 1,536 Cambridge and 960 each Bristol and Yorkshire, 
with 132 changes of method.

It's not particularly designed as a handbell composition, but 5-6 do the same work in each part, which helps (and I was calling it from 5-6). In this style of composition, I like to call the bobs Home in parts 2, 4 and 6, so they come when 5-6 are the right way around, which feels familiar.

So what went wrong? The ringing was generally good, but I found myself repeatedly making mistakes in the Cambridge and Yorkshire in the third course, which should have been a nice easy section. In the fifth part I got very lost, and then the composition went completely out of my head and I miscalled it. Never mind, we'll go for it again when we can.



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