Reward system for helping children to learn Plain Bob

Yesterday we had a Thomas-only session where we thoroughly rehearsed Plain Bob Minor lead by lead, one lead at a time.  It might be a bit of a cheat, but I rather think the key to learning ringing is to grab hold of any crutch to help you get a bit further, and that buys you time to learn to do without the crutch.


We haven’t often taken the time to explain about how Plain Bob works to our son Thomas, mostly because he really just wants to ring it.  However, his patience for the endless repitition to get this just by ringing it is a bit limited, and we also tend to do this pretty late in the day when everyone is a bit tired.

What he really needs to do is thoroughly memorise the pairs, and I decided to adapt the star system used in his school for memorising times tables.  There a bronze star is being able to recite the table, a silver star is when you can answer three random problems, and the gold star is when you can give the products of a given number in that table.    It is all verbal and hesitations mean you are sent gently back for more studying.  It is a good system because it forces one to thoroughly learn a times table from several different angles.

So in a cafe a couple of days ago, Thomas and I devised the following star system for learning the pairs in Plain Bob minor:

  • Bronze:  reciting the positions in the pair (ie:  lead-fourths, lead-fifths, etc.)
  • Silver: on being given a position and a direction, being able to say what the next position will be.  For example: 2nds and 4ths heading up; the answer is 3rds and 5ths (this needs some work on vocabulary when it comes to the opposites pair but you get the general idea).
  • Gold: ringing it without prompting.

We will let you know how it works out.

The Most Popular Handbell Methods on 12

Here is the Top 20 list on 12 bells, again from 1954 to 2010 with data from The usual comments apply to Spliced and Spliced Plain.

Rank Method Peals %
1 Stedman Cinques 421 22.1
2 Cambridge Surprise Maximus 255 13.4
3 Kent Treble Bob Maximus 226 11.9
4 Bristol Surprise Maximus 139 7.3
5 Plain Bob Maximus 134 7.0
6 Spliced Surprise Maximus 111 5.8
7 Yorkshire Surprise Maximus 77 4.0
8 Oxford Treble Bob Maximus 50 2.6
9 Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus 48 2.5
10 Spliced Maximus 41 2.2
11 Grandsire Cinques 34 1.8
12 Newgate Surprise Maximus 28 1.5
13 Little Bob Maximus 20 1.1
14 Superlative Surprise Maximus 16 0.8
15 Barford Surprise Maximus 14 0.7
16 Spliced Plain Maximus 13 0.7
17 Cantuar Alliance Maximus 12 0.6
18 Rigel Surprise Maximus 11 0.6
19 Pudsey Surprise Maximus 11 0.6
20 Avon Delight Maximus 10 0.5

How interesting that Stedman Cinques is the most popular method! I think the point about the preferences of individual bands is relevant here. The “Cornhill Vestry Band” is well known for ringing many peals of Stedman Cinques. It’s not exactly correct to describe this as one band, but my impression is that peals at Cornhill Vestry over the years have drawn on a pool of ringers, with a fairly regular core band, and only gradual changes of personnel. Anyway, the College Youths’ peal records show 224 handbell peals at Cornhill Vestry between 1953 and 2009 (not quite the same period as my data) and 210 peals of Stedman Cinques on handbells. I think a closer analysis (which I am not in a position to do at the moment) would show a very large overlap between these figures.


So, roughly speaking, it seems that the “Cornhill Vestry Band” has been responsible for around half of the peals of Stedman Cinques. If that band had preferred ringing Grandsire, or Kent, or Cambridge, or a range of methods, then the table would look rather different.

The Most Popular Handbell Methods on 10

Here is the Top 20 list for 10-bell handbell peals from 1954 to 2010, based on data from The comments about Spliced vs. Spliced Plain, from the 8-bell post, also apply here.

Rank Method Peals %
1 Plain Bob Royal 722 15.6
2 Kent Treble Bob Royal 608 13.2
3 Cambridge Surprise Royal 507 11.0
4 Stedman Caters 437 9.5
5 Spliced Surprise Royal 332 7.2
6 Yorkshire Surprise Royal 265 5.7
7 Grandsire Caters 263 5.7
8 London No.3 Surprise Royal 248 5.4
9 Oxford Treble Bob Royal 210 4.5
10 Bristol Surprise Royal 188 4.1
11 Lincolnshire Surprise Royal 148 3.2
12 Little Bob Royal 51 1.1
13 Pudsey Surprise Royal 42 0.9
14 Rutland Surprise Royal 41 0.9
15 Spliced Plain Royal 37 0.8
16 Littleport Little Surprise Royal 33 0.7
17 Spliced Royal 30 0.6
18 Superlative No.2 Surprise Royal 27 0.6
19 Spliced Treble Bob Royal 26 0.6
20 Swindon Surprise Royal 18 0.4

In comparison with the 8-bell list, Plain Bob is still top but with a lower proportion. Stedman is much further up – of course Stedman Caters is much easier than Stedman Triples. It’s interesting that the relative positions of Cambridge and Yorkshire are reversed with respect to the Major methods.

Warm up for a quarter peal

So, we had a late and a bit of a rushed handbell ringing session with Josy on Wednesday.  After the great practice we had last week, we had determined that it was time to put Josy on our usual practice structure of a quarter peal attempt followed by some plain courses of something harder.

It was a lesson in remembering to be flexible for the different needs of different learning situations!  With Jonathan and Angela, we are accustomed to a ‘cold start’; that is, arriving, sitting down, up and down in rounds and off into the quarter.  It works well for that band: we are ready and concentrated.  False starts always put us off a bit to be honest.

It didn’t work so well for Josy.  The start was hesitant, and not smooth enough for keeping a good rhythm.  And Simon and I were making stupid errors (it was late for us to be doing that kind of thing).  So we stopped, rang some touches instead, and had another go at Kent, all keeping Josy off the trebles.  It was a useful session, and everything was much more fluent than the first touch.

I recall a conversation with Nick Jones a couple of weeks back, about the progress of his handbell band in Fort William.  They have one ringer who is both enthusiastic and time-poor.  So they need to do a lot of review each time they meet with her.  By the end of the session, she is ready to ring a quarter peal, but never at the beginning.

So, for future attempts with Josy, and possibly others, we need to do a warm-up before embarking on a quarter attempt.  Which is, on reflection, just a way of accomodating her experience level.  Our regular band is used to ringing quarters, and have the habit of quick starts in the tower well-ingrained.

The warm-up, or even a pre-quarter practice is a good habit to get into.  A practice session certainly helped the success of the quarters of Yorkshire rung on the last Scottish Handbell Day, and we did something similar when we were attempted a quarter of maximus last summer.

The Most Popular Handbell Methods on 8

Originally Posted on October 12, 2011 by Simon

Here are the Top 20 methods for peals on 8 bells. This time I have not combined the spliced peals quite as much as I did for the 6 bell table. The categories of spliced are a little unclear, because they come directly from PealBase’s summary table and I haven’t looked at the peal reports themselves. I think Spliced Major probably includes a lot of peals of Spliced Plain and Little Bob, but it also includes, for example, peals of Spliced Bristol and Double Norwich. Very likely there are also peals of Plain and Little in the Spliced Plain category. Spliced Treble Bob, on closer inspection, is almost entirely in 2 methods, and I’m betting that almost all of these are Kent and Oxford.

Rank Method Peals %
1 Plain Bob Major 3350 30.6
2 Kent Treble Bob Major 1248 11.4
3 Spliced Surprise Major 1099 10.1
4 Yorkshire Surprise Major 824 7.5
5 Cambridge Surprise Major 530 4.8
6 Oxford Treble Bob Major 458 4.2
7 Bristol Surprise Major 411 3.8
8 London Surprise Major 327 3.0
9 Lincolnshire Surprise Major 263 2.4
10 Spliced Treble Bob Major 243 2.2
11 Grandsire Triples 221 2.0
12 Stedman Triples 216 2.0
13 Superlative Surprise Major 185 1.7
14 Spliced Plain Major 182 1.7
15 Rutland Surprise Major 165 1.5
16 Double Norwich Court Bob Major 153 1.4
17 Pudsey Surprise Major 127 1.2
18 Spliced Major 110 1.0
19 Little Bob Major 75 0.7
20 St Clement’s College Bob Major 73 0.7

I stopped at 20 for consistency with the 6 bell table, but I can also reveal that Glasgow comes in at number 21 and Belfast at number 24.


I don’t think there are any big surprises in this table. Even if all kinds of spliced are combined, they are still a long way behind Plain Bob Major (but ahead of Kent). It’s interesting that in the annual breakdown, the preference for Yorkshire over Cambridge only became clearly established in the 1970s.


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