• Nigel Goodship
    13
    Over the Covid lockdown, my experience with teaching Plain Hunt on Ringing Room has lead me to the conclusion that teaching new ringers to ring Call Changes before Plain Hunt is probably a big mistake. It occurs to me that the only reason for doing this is that it's always been done this way, but I now think learning Call Changes first leads to the focus on bell numbers which causes much difficulty in mastering good plain hunting. Could teaching Plain Hunt first be a better way? Plain Hunt could and should be taught in a way that makes it easier to learn than Call Changes.

    It's well known that one of the difficulties in mastering Plain Hunt is the transition from ringing by following bell numbers to ringing by "counting places" – knowing which place to be in at each stroke, and actually being in that place. Ringing Call Changes is all about being told (or working out) which bell to follow and very rarely is there any concept of places. Learners generally find the concept of Call Changes fairly difficult to grasp and confusing to ring. Even experienced ringers go wrong in Call Changes from time to time, so they really aren't all that easy. After a period of time when the focus has been entirely on bell numbers, we suddenly ask learners to stop that and ring by places instead, often chucking them straight into the deep end of hunting on five or six bells. It can be a long, slow, difficult and demoralising process for the learners to master plain hunt like this, and many just learn the numbers and fail to even understand the concept of places (as I discovered in Ringing Room).

    On the other hand, if taught progressively and thoroughly, Plain Hunt is easy to learn, with the focus being on ringing by places right from the start. By "progressively and thoroughly", I mean something like this:

    • Start with Plain Hunt on two bells with the learner on the 1 and the 3 onwards all covering. The "helpers" doing the covering can practice ringing by listening and rhythm, and maybe focus on improving their rope handling skills at the same time, so no need to get bored.

    • At this stage the learner will know which bell to follow, it's the 2 of course, but it's easily explained that they alternate ringing in second's place for a whole pull followed by leading for a whole pull. This simple start covers a lot of the concepts and skills of Plain Hunt with very little complexity or stress.

    • Then have the learner ring the 2 and repeat the exercise. Then put the learner on the 1 again and move a different bell into second's place before the plain hunting starts. Refer to the other bells by the name of the ringer rather than the bell number, so the learner can focus on the place number without being confused by another number at the same time.

    • Do this with several different bells starting in second's place.

    • Then ring Bistow Little Bob Doubles so the learner can ring Plain Hunt on two with different bells under them each time when in second’s place. (Doubles so that the learner still has the tenor to lead off.) Keep the emphasis on places and get the learner to try and see which bell is following them while they are leading at backstroke – that's the bell they follow while they're in second's place. This is a first step in ropesight.

    • Next try Bastow Little Bob Minor to get the learner used to leading by rhythm and listening rather than looking at the tenor, and there's one more bell to find to ring after.

    • Start Bastow Little Bob Minor from a row order other than rounds in order to vary the sequence of the bells that the learner follows (and will probably challenge the rest of the band).

    At this stage the learner has learnt and practised quite a few of the foundation skills of change ringing, while hopefully thinking to themselves most of the time "This is easy and fun".

    When the learner has completely mastered the above steps to the point where they're beginning to get just a little bored, move on to Plain Hunt on three bells, with the learner mastering this on the 1, then the 2 and the 3. Go through (most of) the above steps with Plain Hunt on 3, replacing Bistow Little Bob Doubles with Bastow Little Bob Doubles (sometime called Cloisters with a Plain Bob start), in which the treble plain hunts on three.

    Then move up to Plain Hunt on four, with Little Bob Minor as the practice method, Plain Hunt on 5 with Grandsire or Plain Bob Doubles, Plain Hunt on six with Bob Minor and, for a little twist, St Clements.

    Throughout this process the same exercises can be practiced on Ringing Room with one or more sessions between the tower practice nights. This allows the learner to get extra practice in, and a better understand of, ringing by places. It also removes the potential distraction of having to control a real bell while practising these new concepts. Maybe try a Ringing Room practice or two before the first real one.

    Although a learner should really have adequate bell control before moving on from rounds, Plain Hunt introduces the need for some new bell control skills, so initially the bell control might not be quite "all there” but should rapidly improve. Ideally, all the necessary bell control skills could be learned at separate tied bell practices where the learner can practice going through the motions of Plain Hunt focussing on how to achieve the required changes of ringing speed without having to worry about which place they're in or who they should be following.

    And then, when Plain Hunt has been thoroughly mastered, the learners can be introduced to Call Changes, probably getting the hang of them much quicker and ringing them better with the help of the now pre-existing skill of moving up a place or down a place and achieving the move with good precision. They can also be encouraged to keep track of which place they're in while ringing Call Changes.

    So, the next learner I teach who has got as far as steady rounds and leading will be learning Plain Hunt before Call Changes. Will your learners? Am I behind the times and others already teach Plain Hunt before Call Changes? If so, could you say whether this has been successful or not?

    (There's a good resource on "Plain Hunt Training Methods" here: http://www.donaldsonfamily.org.uk/coursenotes/PlainHunting/Handouts/PlainHuntTrainingMethods.pdf)
  • A J Barnfield
    213
    With call changes it might assist if the positions of the bells to swap are called rather than bell-numbers used. Also the learner could be continually questioned as to what position they are in before and after each change and how many bells are above and below them.
    I think that the main weakness of call changes is that they do little to develop the ability to continually change the speed of the bell and the considerable amount of physical effort required to chuck lumpy old bells about, especially on lower numbers. I think that the above approach is to be recommended.
  • Simon Meyer
    5
    I couldn't agree more. I rarely use call changes as part of the training process and, if I do, I do it by places. Some of my band can't ring call changes but have rung many quarters.
  • Nigel Goodship
    13


    I do think all ringers should learn call changes, called both up and down with bell numbers, so they can join in with this ringing when visiting other towers, just not learn call changes before plain hunt. Very occasionally I call changes by places as an exercise and just as a bit of a change to normal, but even experienced method ringers can find this quite a challenge.

    So, I certainly wouldn't want to dismiss call changes at all, they definitely have their place in ringing generally and can sound excellent if well struck and called rapidly to a system. My own favourite is "Sixty on Thirds" called every other handstroke or every handstroke. This can certainly keep some very experienced ringers on their toes. http://www.ringing.info/plp/heatonweb_ccpeals.htm
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    42
    I agree that this is desirable, Nigel.
    I have tried to teach plain hunt before call changes, by the route that you suggest, but have always ended up focussing on call changes, because the student needed to know them in order to ring with others.
    I would say that the best order depends on the student's aptitudes. Yes, some students find call changes difficult and plain hunt easy and in that case by all means teach them plain hunt first. But some students struggle to think quickly enough to count and remember places in plain hunt, so for them I think it is kinder to let them first take as much time as they need to get good at call changes.
  • John de Overa
    238
    I've just stumbled across this thread - our current learner has only had a couple of attempts during practices at CCs but I've already started them on PH - but not in the way suggested above. After 2 sessions they are making a reasonable job of ringing PH on 5 & 6 bells. I've done that by removing everything except the bell handling component, because that's what learners struggle with the most initially. I am running individual simulator sessions for them and a helper has kindly offered to ring PH against the simulator while the learner "shadows" them on a completely silent bell, so they can concentrate solely on bell control. I also count places out loud as they ring, we've already looked at blue lines so they understand the concepts. Once they can control the bell well enough to PH reliably via shadowing we'll move on to ropesight. As a wise ringers said to me when I was struggling:

    Ropesight is always easier if your rhythm is right, and gets harder the further out you get. No; it's not fair. If you ring at the right speed, you get to the right place at the right time, and, hey presto, the rope you should be following will be the rope you are following, and will be easy to spot, even though you don't need to, because you've got the bell in the right place anyway.

    I'm not really convinced by the suggested 2/3/4/5/6 bell progression, because you need a very willing band to do it - otherwise the learner will only get a short go each week. And in any case, we don't have a band who can ring the suggested methods, so it's a non starter for us anyway.
  • A J Barnfield
    213
    That seems to me to be an excellent approach. Ringing is very much about how things feel and sound as well as look. Of course your quote is only good advice if you are ringing with a good band ringing well. Only ring with good ringers.
  • John de Overa
    238
    So far so good, I've explained to the learner why I want to try this way and they are happy to give it a go. It helps that they are a recently retired music teacher so used to small steps and individual skills.

    She rang briefly 40 years ago as a teenager, one interesting comment she's made is how organised and well structured ringing training is now compared to then. I can't take any credit for that as I'm religiously following the ART scheme, which I've been through myself. But it's good to know that the changes are appreciated by learners who have experienced "The old ways".

    As for your comment about ringing with good ringers, I couldn't agree more. I've been lucky to find a Surprise-level band who took me under their wing pre-COVID, even though it's a bit of a trek there. With their help I've progressed from "Struggled with PBD" to "Starting Surprise", the main surprise being that I got there at all! Without their help I'd probably have given up ringing entirely.
  • Nigel Goodship
    13
    I agree that learning the rhythm of plain hunt on a tied bell is very useful, as I said:

    Ideally, all the necessary bell control skills could be learned at separate tied bell practices where the learner can practice going through the motions of Plain Hunt focussing on how to achieve the required changes of ringing speed...

    I like your idea of shadowing another ringer. I've used this on occasions but not with a simulator because I didn't have one at the time. The other ringer just rang the rhythm of plain hunt from experience with the learner shadowing, with both bells silenced.

    The ropesight I mentioned is not so much about seeing who you are currently following as seeing who you are going to follow at the next pull. Being able to discover this "just in time" while ringing stops beginners trying to learn all the numbers in advance. Correct rhythm will get you into the right place, of course, but knowing the bell you're going to be following at the next pull is great for a beginner's confidence and, if the rest of the band is good, will also help them to actually ring in the right place with good rhythm. Ropesight and rhythm reinforce each other.

    Regarding the other problem you mention – the rest of the band not being willing or capable of helping... When I had this idea, I had in mind separate training sessions to go through the steps, not so much doing this at a normal practice night. Maybe organise a mini training day for the learner (or at most two learners) with a willing and capable band of helpers from the local area. A two hour morning session followed by a relaxed and friendly lunch and then a two hour afternoon session should be enough time to go through all the steps and start trebling to touches of Grandsire and Plain Bob. Plain hunting mastered in just one day! :-)
  • John de Overa
    238
    The advantage of using the sim to "pace" a helper for the learner to follow is you know that the striking will be right, particularly coming off the front/back. The first time I did this with someone who was already PH-ing with the band, they were all over the place and they were astonished at how big the speed changes were supposed to be. That's because the rest of the band weren't doing it correctly either, and they had just learned what they saw...

    I agree, ropesight and rhythm are two sides of the same coin, once I could strike in more or less the right place by "feel" then I had enough spare brain cells to look for the next bell, which helped me strike better - a virtuous circle.

    I know a few experienced ringers who claim they can't hear their bell and ring solely by ropesight, but as soon as you put them on a sim they certainly can, because any mistakes are theirs. I think perhaps with real ringers it can be difficult to decide if it's you or the other guy who is out, on the sim it's only ever you.

    With the sim, my learner gets an hour of dedicated practice every week, with a perfect band. It's not a substitute for ringing with a real (imperfect!) band but it's much easier to schedule, and I think regular shorter sessions are probably best for learning ringing motor skills. My view is that the using the sim means that when they do get to ring with a band they can make maximum use of the opportunity, which is more satisfying both for them and the other ringers. Using the sim is in effect physical homework :grin:
  • Simon Linford
    220
    I also missed this thread first time round so thank you for re-igniting it. In our area we teach call changes initially as part of a suite of kaleidoscope exercises that are about bell control, and we like learners to have good bell control before ringing plain hunt on any number. So it is calling bells to change places, either by calling numbers or doing it by place, as an exercise in speeding up and slowing down.

    Teaching call changes as a performance is a slightly different reason for doing it I think.
  • John Harrison
    184
    The first time I did this with someone who was already PH-ing with the band, they were all over the place and they were astonished at how big the speed changes were supposed to beJohn de Overa
    Some ringers aren't even told they are supposed to change speed, just told to think in terms of places and/or bells to follow. That puts them at a huge disadvantage.
    I have always introduced learners to different speeds before they hunt but I now do that in a way that gives them more practice and feedback. I get them to ring rounds at 2 1/2 him and 3 1/2 hour peal speeds as well as 3 hours, which correspond to hunting down hunting up and rounds.
    I ask them to ring 'fast' or 'slow', and if necessary adjust the speed towards the target value. Then let them ring for several minutes at that speed, with prompts or comments as required, and then discuss what hey did, what it felt like, and how to overcome any problems.
  • John de Overa
    238
    thanks, those suggested speeds are helpful. I have briefly tried getting them to ring at speeds corresponding to hunting in/out, but I wasn't really sure of what speeds to use - I believe on 6 bells there's around a +/-16% difference between rounds and in/out, does that sound about right?
  • John Harrison
    184
    yes , in round figures for six bells the ratios are 5/6, 6/6 and 7/6. Pedantically you would start with your 'normal' speed (in our case around 2h50m, but 3h is near enough to demonstrate the difference.
  • John de Overa
    238
    Ah, but if you are being really pedantic, what about the effect of the handstroke gap? :razz:

    Thanks for the helpful info.
  • Nigel Goodship
    13
    I'm so glad you asked that. We're going way off topic now, but take a look at the attached PDF. It doesn't address the speed of ringing issue, but it does show the true rhythm of plain hunting with an open hand stoke lead, which I thought you might find interesting. Count the small grey squares between one row and the next, constrained by the vertical black lines.
    Attachment
    Plain hunt showing true rhythm (65K)
  • John de Overa
    238
    Thanks, I'm going to steal that, print it out and put it on the tower noticeboard if I may - I've tried to explain the difference the HSG makes but struggled to get it across - that makes it visually obvious.

    It's the same information as https://www.whitingsociety.org.uk/articles/basic-tuition/the-handstroke-gap.html but stripped right back and more visually punchy. I particularly like the with/without HSG side by side comparison in yours.
  • Nigel Goodship
    13
    Please do. I produced this years ago to try to explain to people why plain hunt should be rung as a zig-zag line with pointy ends. This was to persuade them to keep the backstroke lead quick and "on time" rather than late. It's following the conventional plain hunt line that causes people to hold up a bit on the backstroke lead and ring it late.

    You may be interested to see Stedman Triples written out with a handshake gap. On the attached PDF the blue line is open handstroke leading and the superimposed red line is closed handshake leading.
    Attachment
    Stedman Triples true rhythm (63K)
  • John de Overa
    238
    Yes, the Stedman equivalent is interesting, particularly when it swaps between H&B and B&H dodges at the back, thank you. And next time my striking looks like the blue line in Abel I'll claim I am right :grin:

    On that point, Abel, at least, shows the target striking the same as the red "squared off" version, perhaps it would be good to have an option to display it as the blue one? Mind you, Abel has other things that are probably more important to address, such as not modelling wheel sizes for the moving ringers. An experienced ringer actually picked up on that when I gave him his first go on the simulator, although I believe one of the simulator packages (Virtual Belfry?) does account for wheel size.
  • John Harrison
    184
    he true rhythm of plain hunting with an open hand stoke lead,Nigel Goodship

    This is described on p89 of The New Ringer's Book with diagrams showing the true path when hunting uo and down.
  • John Harrison
    184
    not modelling wheel sizes for the moving ringers. An experienced ringer actually picked up on that when I gave him his first go on the simulatorJohn de Overa

    Anyone I teach first rings with the simulator long before trying to cope with lots of moving ropes, real let alone simulated.
  • John de Overa
    238
    as I said, "experienced ringer". I know the difference is there but I still have to mentally adapt when I ring on "real" bells, it would be better if I didn't have to. And I know of one case where someone who learned solely on the sim simply could not ring with real ringers, so realism is important. And I don't have beginners ringing with the moving ropes either, because that would be silly.
  • John Harrison
    184
    I didn't say anything about learning only with a simulator. That's not sensible unless you don't have any real ringers to ring with. But I don't think it sensible to inflict the complexity if real ringers on someone, with the confusion of ropesight and the need to ride through other people's inaccuracies, until they have developed the ability to ring rhythmically, fitting in with an external beat. That's why they learn to control a bell with a simulator between learning to handle a bell safely and coping with live ringers. It has other benefits. They know they can hear their bell rather than it being an aspiration for later. The know they can place the next blow by rhythm, so no need to panic if they can't see who's in front of them. And above all they can get nearly an hour of quality rope time for an hour of their time and one other, rather than getting a much shorter amount of less quality time with a much bigger need for supporting effort.
    But of course they need a lot of ringing with (and standing behind) other ringers as well as time with a simulator.
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