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Once the new ringer is confidently in control of the bell, the next step is to ring Rounds with other bells. Rounds is the name we give to the bells ringing in order down the scale on any number of bells from the treble (smallest bell and highest note) to the tenor (largest bell and deepest note). Ringing Rounds for the first time can be quite a challenge because, as a new ringer, you will only have rung on your own before and at the speed you wanted to go. In Rounds you will need to ring at the same speed as the other bells.
In Ripon we are fortunate to have the use of a dumb-bell and simulator so you will probably ring Rounds on this before joining in with other ringers on proper bells.
In Rounds we try to ring with all the bells sounding evenly spaced, with just a slight gap before the treble’s handstroke lead. This handstroke gap marks the beginning of each whole pull and gives the ringing some shape and rhythm. The treble’s backstroke lead should run straight on from the tenor’s handstroke. Rounds can be rung on any number of bells.
When ringing Rounds, each bell will be just slightly out of phase with the bell in front of it so that you will be able to see the ropes rising in order round the circle. This visual information is important but in order to be accurate in our ringing we need to rely on listening in order to refine our striking.
The most difficult part of ringing Rounds is leading. This is because there is no previous bell in the Rounds for you to follow. The treble ringer can watch the tenor and, with practice, can follow it but at the opposite stroke, although this is likely to be only approximate. Listening thus becomes even more important when leading.
The rhythm which we normally use for ringing usually results in the handstrokes being pushed along but with the bells being held up and under control at backstroke. This feature becomes more pronounced the more bells there are ringing so that by the time we are ringing on 12 bells, it feels quite exaggerated.
The simplest form of change ringing is call changes. Each change is individually called by the conductor. The call is made at handstroke and the change is made at the following handstroke.
There are two main ways of calling call changes; calling the bell up and calling the bell down. In Ripon we normally call the bell up, but you will need to be aware of both as calling the bell down is the norm in some towers and in some parts of the country. If we are starting from Rounds on 6 and we want to go from 123456 to 132456 and we are calling bell up, the conductor would call “2 to 3”. This would mean that the 2 would start to follow the 3 and the 3 would start to follow the treble. If we wanted to make the same change by calling the bell down, the conductor would call “3 to treble” or “3 to 1”. The result of either type of call is the same.
In order to execute this change smoothly and accurately, the 2 would hold up a bit to ring one slow handstroke and the 3 would ring one quick handstroke so that they change place in the order of the bells. Both bells would then continue at the original Rounds speed.
When ringing Rounds, therefore, there are certain pieces of information you need to be aware of in order not to get caught out when the change is called. If you are the bell called to move, it is easy as you are told who to follow, but there are two other ringers who will end up following different bells. Looking back to our example of going from 123456 to 132456, the three bells who start following someone else are 2,3 and 4. The 2 has been told to follow 3 so that’s easy. The 3 needs to know that s/he is now required to follow the treble and the 4 needs to know that s/he is going to follow 2. It is quite easy for the 4 who doesn’t have to move, just follow somebody else who, when we are calling the bell up, is the person called to follow the bell that the 4 had been following. The 4 had been following 3 and when the call “2 to 3” is made knows that the two bells below it in the order are going to swap over so s/he must now follow 2. The trickiest place is being the bell moving down in the order, 3 in our example. The ringer of 3 needs to know who to follow and that is the bell that was previously being followed by the bell called up, the treble in our example.
At any time, therefore, you should aim to know who you are following and who is following you, but also the bell being followed by the bell you are following, i.e. two bells below you and one above.
If you can see the whole change, i.e. the whole order of the bells, that is the ideal, but if you can’t see that to start off with, you should try to see the two bells below you and the one above. It also helps if you know and can see what position you are in in the change; 2nd’s place, 3rd’s place etc..
Once you move away from Rounds, you will need to get used to ringing accurately over bells other than the one you follow in Rounds. The bigger a bell is, the longer it takes to turn. The result of this is that when you are following bigger bells, you need to leave a bigger gap in order for it to sound correctly. Similarly, if you are following a smaller bell, you will need to ring closer to it. This becomes more pronounced the bigger the difference in bell size. If you watch when the treble is following one of the back bells, you will see it leaves a huge gap. Conversely, when the tenor is following the treble, it will actually pull off before the treble but ring after it!