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Method Ringing


Change ringing differs from call changes through two key principles. The first is the order of the bells change on both the handstroke and backstroke. There are rules which are followed to allow a band to “ring the changes” which are discussed below. The second is that unlike call-changes the whole band has learnt a pattern or method and ring in synchronization with each other.


To understand how methods work first consider full circle ringing of massive lumps of metal. In rounds bells are rung at the same speed with minimum effort. In order to ring faster one must pull less, causing the bell to not swing so high, but it will then continue to ring down unless countered. Alternatively, the bell can be ‘checked’ or stopping it as it rises to the balance. To make a bell ring slower it needs to be allowed to rise up to the balance point. In both cases additional effort is required, with bigger speed changes requiring more effort.


To keep the effort of ringing to a minimum the first fundamental rule of methods is that a bell can only move one position at a time. From rounds (123456) the third can only move one position down (132456), one position up (124356) or stay in the same position. Note. “up” mean higher up the row and “down” mean lower in the row. This can cause confusion, particularly with musicians, where up the row is actually towards the lower notes of the scale. This ‘only moving one position’ rule should be familiar with call change ringers.


A second rule is that methods must not repeat rows. There are 120 rows of 5 (which take about 4 minutes to ring), 720 of 6 (25 minutes) and 5040 of 7 (3 hours) so there are plenty of combinations to play with. Taking our 132456 row the next change would not be 123456 as we’ve already used that row. We could go to 312456 or could swap other bells: For example 134256, 132546 or 132465. Or we could swap two pairs such as 314256, 132546 or 132465. Finally, we could swap all three pairs 314265.


As you can see just from these two principles a vast number of combination of rows can be had quicky. 12 different rows can be derived from 123456 just using the one position swap rule. The clever bit is joining those rows together coherently.


Pieces of bell music are constructed with repeating sections. An example is shown below (Little Bob Minor- don’t worry, names come later). Here we see the treble (red line) swapping positions until it gets to 4th place. It then swaps positions back to the lead. That is 8 changes and during that the other bells swap around in other ways. When it returns to the lead the other five bells are in a different order, not rounds but 164523 and each is in a position of a different bell. This is 8-change block known as a lead. After the second lead the bells fall in the order 135264 and it take 5 leads to get the bells back to the order 123456. 8 changes multiplied by 5 leads is 40.  About two minutes of ringing. This round block, returning all the bells to their starting position is known as a method.


As you can imagine there are thousands and thousands of methods which can be categorized in a various ways and names as elaborate as Double Norwich Court Bob Major or Orion Surprise Maximus.

Our Little Bob Minor is just 40 changes so we would like to extend this, and we can do lots of things to do so. The treble is only going to 4ths place. We can make it swap to get it to 6ths place. This means the lead is 12 changes long and the method 60 changes… 3 minutes. Another was to make the treble swap twice in each place. From 1 to 2 and back to 1, a hiccup- known as a dodge. This is ok assuming we swap the other bells around to avoid it repeating:

If we do this in 3-4 position and 5-6 positions we have 24 changes in the lead, 120 rows in the method. 5 minutes of ringing. Finally we can mess with the order of the bells. There are 5 leads in a method, but if, on every 5th lead we swap two over we can extend our 120 rows to 240. Swapping 3 at the end of every fifth lead we can get 360 rows.

There is no real maths involved in generating methods or compositions, it is much more about juggling numbers/patterns and by doing so keeping to the constraints of single position swapping all the rows on a particular number of bells can be rung without repetition. This is called the extent and can be calculated for a particular number of bells as the factorial. If you can’t remember your O-level maths that is 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 for 6 bells.

There are lots of websites and articles available talking about change ringing and they are all found linked to:



Ringing Nomenclature

Row  The order of bells in one occurrence.

Change  A row of that has been effected to a different row.

Blow  The strike of a single bell within the row.

Bob A call that affects three bells within the coursing order.

Single  A call that affects two bells within the coursing order.

Extreme  A call that affects four bells within the coursing order, specifically used in doubles.

Touch  A piece of ringing using calls to generate a predetermined length without repetition.

Lead  A division of a method defined by the movement of the hunt bell from leaving its starting position and returning to it.

Dodge  The movement of a bell’s position from one position to another and immediately back to first position in consecutive changes.

Hunting  The progression of a bell moving in a continual direction, either up or down the change.

Treble Dodging/Bobbing  Plain hunting with additional dodges at the even bell positions (1-2, 3-4, 5-6 etc) hunting up and down.

Places  Staying in the same position for one or more blows within the method structure.

Lie  A bell remaining in the same position in nths place.

Course  A piece of ringing of the complete method.

Bob Course  A piece of ringing with a bob at every lead of the method.

Extent  A touch using all the available changes.

4 bells   24

5 bells   120

6 bells   720

7 bells   5040

8 bells   40320

9 bells   etc….


Coursing  Bells following each other in the same direction within a method.

Coursing Order The flow of bells within the method.

Peal  5000 or more unrepeated changes (Triples and above) or 5000 changes were no change has been repeated more than the number of extents available (for Minor 7, Doubles 42,  Minimus 210)

Peal (CC)  A round block or predetermined of call changes where no row is repeated.

Quarter Peal  1250-2499 unrepeated changes (Triples and above) or 1250-2499 changes where no change has been repeated more than the number of extents available. For examples for 1440 one repetition for Minor, 12 repetitions for doubles and 60 for minimus.

Roll Up  A change where all the back bells run together, for example xxxxxx7890  

Combination Roll Up   A now out of fashion musical scheme were 4-5-6 in combination with 7-8 giving ‘musical’ rows: xxxx4578, 5478, 6478, 4678, 5678, 6578. It used to be a measure of a composition’s quality.

Little bell run  Typically 2345xxxx, 6543xxxx or xxxx4321. A run of consecutive little bells, similar to a roll up for the larger ones.


Method nomenclature

Methods on: 3 Singles, 4 Minimus, 5 Doubles, 6 Minor, 7 Triples, 8 Major, 9 Caters, 10 Royal, 11 Cinques, 12 Maximus, 13 Sextuples, 15 Septuples.


Hunt Bell  The bell (usually the treble) that rings a different line to the rest. It’s line creates the smallest repeatable division that defines the method.

Plain Method  A method where the treble hunts from front to back to front with no interruptions.

Bob  Traditionally used for methods where the treble plain hunts. Not related to the call ‘Bob’.

Double  Methods that are the same when flipped. Not all double methods are named as such.

Single  Methods that have been derived from double methods. Not all single methods are named as such.

Reverse  A reverse of a previously named method. Not all reverse methods are named as such.

Court Places  A plain method that has a working bell coursing the treble which then stops, makes a place and hunts the other way while the treble passes it at the place.

Principle  Methods which have no hunt bell, and all bells follow the same line.

Surprise Method  A treble dodging method (where the treble treble bobs) and places are made next to it as it moves between dodging sections. For Minor places are made in 1-4 as it moves from the 1-2 dodging position to the 3-4 dodging position and in 3-6 as the treble moves to from 3-4 to 5-6.

Delight Method  A treble dodging method (where the treble treble bobs) and places are made next to it as it moves between one set of dodging sections. For Minor places are made in 1-4 as it moves from the 1-2 dodging position to the 3-4 dodging position OR in 3-6 as the treble moves to from 3-4 to 5-6.

Treble Bob Method  A treble dodging method (where the treble treble bobs) and places are NOT made next to it as it moves between sets of dodging sections.

Treble Place Method  A method where the treble makes additional places during the lead.

Little  Methods where the treble does not reach the nth position, can be used in combination depending on the treble’s path, for example ‘Little Treble Place’.

Alliance Method  Traditionally methods that were rung spliced with Little Methods to create extents. Simplest example is a minor method that plain hunts but dodges in 5-6 to create the extra blows in 5-6 missing from Little Bob. Now regarded as any method that has a hunt bell that, during a lead, does not occupy each position for the same number of times.

Differential  Methods where two (or more) lines are rung by different bells.

Differential Hunters  Methods where two (or more) lines are rung by different bells and there is a hunt bell that creates the smallest repeatable division of the method.

Block  Fudge term used for unclassifiable methods.

Variation  Unique to doubles where a different method’s callings can be interchanged, for example Plain Bob with a Grandsire Single

Hybrid Method  A method who first half of the lead is not the same type as the second. The hunt bell may plain hunt to the back and treble bob the second half of the lead

Jump Method  A method that disobeys all logic and allows bells to jump position.


Ref. https://framework.cccbr.org.uk/version2/classification.html