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Page history last edited by R H Johnston 6 years, 9 months ago

RHJ Rough notes - preparation for Have your say day at Exeter 19 Jul 2014

Two objectives - what do we want to preserve? - very different implications and overlap is small:

a) keep bells ringing for services at lots of towers
b) the art of method ringing.  

a) is achievable with rounds and call changes, and a new band can be generated quickly from scratch.  If numbers fall not too difficult to get a newbie to acceptable standard in a few weeks or months.

b) relies on having enough people at the requisite standard - one short and can't be done, however good the people there.  The tipping point is severe, as not ringing at the standard regularly means people's competence falls - and surprisingly quickly - especially in older and/or less committed ringers.


Activity Comparisons


Ringing vs cycling - not a good analogue, except, possibly, for rounds and call changes.  Rounds and call changes level of ringing equivalent to singing or chord strumming on guitar.

Better one for method ringing is learning an orchestral instrument - start early, strong family tradition element, hard to start late in life, learning at school was alternative to family tradition, but now in trouble as result of school music changes.

Orchestras, even small ensembles, are not commonplace

Traditional ringing recruitment post-belfry reform: was of church people, young, already committed to church activity - typically from church choir.  This route has dried up - few church choirs, falling church attendance.

Church changes often unhelpful.  Clergy change times of services, don't consider ringers, fewer services to ring for.  One place I rang it got squeezed to 20mins - not worth the bother.  In 1960s typically 2 services 11 and 6.30, and rang for 45 mins for each.  Many churches only used on occasional Sundays.  Traditional approach does not give enough practice and performance to support more than rounds and call changes.

Changes in ringers - many now older and late starters - many do not want to commit to being at every ringing occasioon.  Older ones typically won't commit enough, or enough time to get beyond plain hunt or PB doubles.  The way we teach PBD (eg Copson leaflet) makes it look more complex than it is because we don't get basics right.  PBD not a good place to start as work is spaced out and easy to misplace.

Method ringing - vital to hasve *enough* at right standard vs call changes - can quickly recruit new people to carry on.  Therefore method ringing demands centralisation and "leagues".  Traditional local band focus fatal for method ringing, especially insistance that people should support the nearest ringing band irrespective of its quality or their own competance.

a) call change - almost anyone - can be "part time" in attendance and attitude.
b) method - young, intelligent, high focus, high committment needs discipline and some obsessiveness. - need to focus on these - via schools and classical musicians. - minimum is those in a disciplined choir.  Traditionally got from church choir - no longer exists.

It is a struggle to maintain a self-sufficient tower above easy doubles methods.

When a tower drops below viability, under present arrangements, those method ringers are either lost (give up) or sink back to a lower competence level (compare village cricket)

In effect we have to revert to pre belfry reform - most ringing at a very low technical level and most method ringing in specialist - mainly urban - centres.  

Ringing training - has to be intensive, fast and be professionalised like classical music and dance training,.

Need higher ringer mobilty, and less "tower loyalty".


Teaching ringing and handling

Have to make learning much more of a DIY business - current methods are too trainer intensive.  Especially much more time "playing" with bell to find its "performance envelope" and what can and cannot be done with it.  The primary thing with ringing is learning how the bell feels in different conditions and how to use the rope to achieve a desired strike point and condition to make the next blow(s).  What is the effect of over and under pulling/  Ringing efficiency - maintaining a rhythm.  Too often ringers have a yank and stop approach to bell control.  Much to learn here from Devon call change ringers.  Need to develop feel, hear, see order paradigm.

Too many ringers get stuck because of inedquate bell control and lack of bell practie - cannot put bell where it has to go.  Traditional "top" start and focus largely responsible.  ITTS codifies this traditional approach - see the tick box lists if you really think it encourages proper over all bell control at all stages of height.  This is a failed method - on account of its *typical* outcome.  Don't consider the best teachers - they do better because they include other things and work much harder on getting the early stages right.  A *good* teaching *method* gets results without the need for a good teacher.

You do not put a small child on a swing and take it to max height and push it off. - it would never go on a swing again.

Need to strengthen and train muscles for an unusual task - using the large muscles of the body in a finely controlled manner.  Many people have never done this, and for older people, especially, their muscle strength and control is not all that good.

Main barriers to learner progress

1) Poor bell control, as a result of having very limited bell control experience

2) inability to understand how to achieve bell going more quickly and more slowly - not as a matter of theory, but how the bell is moved to achieve that.

3) Because the feel and rhythm side has never been developed, the focus is follow x follow y, making ringing a visually dominated activity.  Humanly that always seems easiest, but for muscial performance, learning the feel of what you are doing (how it feels to do something) is the primary skill to learn.

4) use of apparently simple, but actually difficult methods for initial training, and focus on do x and next time you will do y, rather than you do x because y happened, which can make it simpler.  Stedman is a better learning method than Grandsire doubles - get to do right and wrong work, and something is happening all the time.  Also helps, initially, that the work is not moving the bell through the full range of front to back, so if mistakes are made it is easier and quicker to get back into place.

5) Learn ways of ringing that are not the way that the best ringers ring.



Devon call change teaching methods.

Start with bell down and learn to ring up and down steadily.  Follow someone else consistently as bell is varied up and down.  Full control of bell at all heights


Comparison - how do the best ringers ring vs how do learners ring.

Best ringers
- use rhythm - this is not simply intellectually, but also use the physicality of the bell.  Learn how to make particular units as a physical pull procedure.  (Can be obvious if something is included that is unfamiliar as it is not rung so well.)
- (usually) ring efficiently - use no more effort than necessary
- the very best ringers have a style where the bell is always in motion.
- they ring smoothly - each blow flows to the next with the timing just right - apparently effortlessly, because the lightest correct and smoothest pull has been made to acheive it

- typically use a jerk and stop style, which is inimical to ringing rhythmically
- concentration on following other people results in complete dependance on what *other* people do to decide when to pull
- don't have complete control of the bell at all bell heights and circumstances
- usually can only ring a small bell with any adequacy
- cannot "move the bell around" in a predictable fashion
- cannot compensate for odd-struckness because their approach to ringing is visual.

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