Methods of the month for 2019

Readers of The Ringing World (which should be all of you) know that Simon Linford has proposed a series of "methods of the month" for 2019, which are printed in the Ringing World Diary. There will be compositions for quarters and peals in The Ringing World each month. This is connected to Simon's Project Pickled Egg, encouraging the development of a more interesting Surprise Major repertoire than the Standard Eight.

I don't have my Ringing World Diary yet - it's a traditional Christmas present from my father, Phil Gay, so I won't get it until next weekend. However, the article in The Ringing World gives compositions for Cooktown Orchid Delight Major as January's method, and reveals that Double Dublin will be February's method.

I hope we will be able to ring some or all of the monthly methods on handbells. Cooktown Orchid is an exciting prospect as I've never rung it in the tower either, so it will be fun to have something completely new.

One of the quarter peal compositions given for Cooktown Orchid is the following cyclic 7-part.

1344 Cooktown Orchid Delight Major

- 2357486
- 2378564
7 part

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds me of a composition that we rang in the tower a few years ago while exploring cyclic compositions. It's published for Bristol, but we rang it for Norwich.

1344 Bristol Surprise Major
Roy K Williams

- 4263578
- 6452378
6th place bobs
7 part

Viewed in a certain way, both compositions are the same: two bobs then four plain leads. The differences are that the methods have opposite place bell orders (Cooktown Orchid has Plain Bob place bell order); they have opposite lead end places (Cooktown Orchid is 12); and different bobs are used (the traditional "natural" bob to match the lead end place, i.e. Bristol is rung with a 6th place bob).

In the composition of Cooktown Orchid, the two bobs are used to move 2 and 3 through the coursing order until they are between 8 and 7:

8753246 -> 8732546 -> 8327546

to give the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 14567823.

In the composition of Bristol, the two bobs are used to move 7 and 8 through the coursing order, in the opposite direction, until they are between 3 and 2:

8753246 -> 5873246 -> 5387246

to give the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 17823456.

The common idea is to take the two bells from one end of rounds and move them through the coursing order until they are between the two bells that are at the other end of rounds.

The next interesting point is that the same idea, applied to Surprise Maximus, gives a peal length.

5280 Adventurers' Fen Surprise Maximus
Simon J Gay

1 2 3 4    234567890ET
- - - -    4567890ET23
11 part

There are four consecutive bobs at the beginning of the part, followed by six plain leads, giving ten leads per part. A description of the calling, that works for both the quarter of Major and the peal of Maximus, is "call 4th place bobs until bell n-1 makes the bob, then ring plain leads until the part end". 

In case anyone thinks I am deviating from the handbell theme of the blog, remember that Adventurers' Fen is part of the alphabet of "Fen" methods rung on handbells by a Cambridge-based band in the 1990s.

To adapt the Bristol composition into a peal, we need an M-type method.

5280 Avon Delight Maximus
Simon J Gay

1 2 3 4    234567890ET
- - - -    ET234567890
10th place bobs
11 part

Again, after the four consecutive bobs, there are six plain leads. And again, there is a description of the calling that works for both the quarter of Major and the peal of Maximus: "call far bobs (i.e. 6th place for Major, 10th place for Maximus) until the 3rd makes the bob, then ring plain leads until the part end". 

For easier handbell methods, these compositions are also true to Westminster instead of Adventurers' Fen, and to Norwich or Kent instead of Avon.

The idea of these compositions is to use 4th place bobs to move 2 and 3 through the coursing order, or to use far bobs to move the tenors through the coursing order. The technique can be reversed. If we use 6th place bobs (in Major) to move 2 and 3, the sequence of coursing orders is

3246875 -> 4326875 -> 4632875 -> 4683275

which produces the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 14567823. This gives a quarter of Bristol:

1344 Bristol Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

- 7856423
- 5748623
- 4567823
6th place bobs
7 part

and a peal of Avon:

5280 Avon Delight Maximus
Simon J Gay

6 7 8 9 10   234567890ET
- - - - -    4567890ET23
10th place bobs
11 part

Both compositions are described by "call far bobs with 2 and 3 at the back, until the part end".

Similarly, we can use 4th place bobs to move the tenors through the coursing order. For Major, the sequence of coursing orders is

5324687 -> 5324876 -> 5328746 -> 5387246

which produces the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 17823456. This gives a quarter of Cooktown Orchid:

1344 Cooktown Orchid Delight Major
Simon J Gay

- 7864523
- 7842635
- 7823456
7 part

and a peal of Adventurers' Fen:

5280 Adventurers' Fen Surprise Maximus
Simon J Gay

6 7 8 9 10   234567890ET
- - - - -    ET234567890
11 part

Both compositions are described by "call befores until the part end".

The Ringing World also gives a nice cyclic composition for a quarter of spliced Cooktown Orchid, Superlative and Bristol, which I would like to ring.

1344 Spliced Treble Dodging Major
Leigh D G Simpson

CO     3527486
S      7856342
CO -4  7864523
B  -6  6758423
S  -6  7862345
B  -4  6782345
7 part

This composition uses 4th and 6th place bobs. The notation -4 means a 4th place bob, and -6 means a 6th place bob. After the 6th place bob in Bristol, producing the lead end 16758423, the coursing order is 8765432, the so-called "mega-tittums" coursing order. This is a good coursing order to ring for Superlative, because it generates 4-bell runs at the back and front. Producing the mega-tittums coursing order in a cyclic composition means that all 7 leads of Superlative in that position in the calling, i.e. the leads between the 6th place bobs, come from the mega-tittums course.

The composition is also true if Bristol is replaced by Double Dublin throughout, so it gives a nice link to February's method.

The structure with a sequence of bobs in increasing positions, leading to the mega-tittums coursing order, then reversing the sequence of bobs to get to a cyclic part end, has been used in peals of Maximus. I think there are some by David Pipe, for example. To see how this works, we can modify the quarter peal. Instead of Bristol we can use Norwich, and we need bobs in 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th places. This adds two leads, and another two leads while the sequence of bobs is reversed. The part needs to be ten leads long, so again we need three leads before the first 4th place bob. Ringing three leads of Superlative gets to the desired lead end, where the tenor runs out at the bob. 

5280 Spliced Surprise Maximus (2m)
Simon J Gay

S      157392E4T608
S      19E7T5038264
S  –4  1ET089674523
N  -6  10E9T8674523
N  -8  1908E7T64523
N  -0  189706E5T423
S  -0  1908E7T62345
N  -8  189706ET2345
N  -6  178690ET2345
N  –4  167890ET2345
11 part
3168 Norwich; 2112 Superlative; 43 com; atw.
9 56s (0f,9b), 1 65s (1f,0b), 605 4-bell runs (136f,469b), 14 TEs at back.

I'm not claiming that this is a great composition - it's just another illustration of the correspondence between some quarters of Major and peals of Maximus. It's also true with Cambridge instead of Superlative, which would be more handbell-friendly.

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.


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