Ringing the bells in Rounds is a challenge for all ringers at first but, eventually, the challenge begins to wear a bit thin. This is especially true once the stage is reached where the bells do not rearrange themselves spontaneously like they used to do. When this stage is reached we must rearrange the bells deliberately and in a structured manner. For this we need call changes.


    When ringing call changes there is a conductor who does the conducting. The conductor calls out changes to be made to the order of the bells and the other ringers must then make the correct change. For practical reasons, bells that are striking next to each other (e.g. the 3rd and 4th in Rounds) may swap places so that each bell has moved by one position. It is not normal to make a bell change by two or more places because it is difficult to speed up a bell enough. Also, by convention, calls made by the conductor take effect one whole pull after the call is called. A whole pull is two pulls of the rope, a handstroke plus backstroke or a backstroke plus handstroke. In call changes, the calls are called at handstroke and take effect at the next handstroke.

    The result of a call is that one bell has moved up one position (is ringing one position later) and another bell has moved down one position (is ringing one position earlier). If a bell continues to move up it will eventually reach the back and be said to be on/at the back or lying (behind). Similarly, a bell that has moved down and is ringing first is said to be on/at the front or leading. It is important to fix in your mind that down means earlier and up means later. It is also important to realise that when moving down you must ring more quickly (pull sooner, possibly after pulling the previous stroke less hard) and when moving up you must ring more slowly (pull later, possibly after pulling the previous stroke a bit harder). Therefore some anticipation is required.


    There are many ways of calling call changes but the effect of each is to specify which two bells are to swap places. The most common method is for the conductor to call out the bells to change places in the form: x to y. This means that bell x is to follow bell y, the implication being that bell y was previously following bell x. For bell x to start to follow bell y the ringer of bell x must, at the handstroke following the call, ring slightly more slowly in order to move up one position whilst the ringer of bell y must at the same time ring slightly more quickly. Once the change has taken place both ringers must resume the speed that they were ringing before the change was made otherwise they will continue to change position.

    Some examples will make this clearer. Suppose Rounds is being rung:


and the conductor wishes to swap bells 2 and 3. He (since most conductors are) would call, at handstroke, '2 to 3'. At the next handstroke, the order of the bells must become:


The 2nd has moved up one position (by ringing more slowly) and the 3rd has moved down one position (by ringing more quickly). Next, the conductor might call '4 to 5'. This would give:


This time, the 4th has moved up and the 5th has moved down.


    Eventually, you develop a sixth sense about how to make the changes but at first you will need some simple rules to help you to find which bell to follow after a call which affects you. The call itself tells one of the bells which to follow next. Thus the call 2 to 3 tells the 2nd to follow the 3rd. It also tells the 2nd to slow down a bit since it is moving up one place. If the 2nd has to slow down to move up a place then the 3rd must speed up to take the old place of the 2nd. A third bell is slightly affected by this call. This is the bell that was originally following the 3rd. Although this bell was not actually called it is now following another bell, in fact the bell that has moved up one place, the 2nd.

    There are three rules for interpreting call changes:

* If you are ringing the first bell in the call then ring more slowly to move up one place. You will end up following the second bell in the call.

* If you are ringing the second bell in the call then ring more quickly to move down one place. You will end up following the bell that was originally two in front of you.

* If your bell is not called but you were following one of the called bells then follow the other called bell without changing your speed.

From these rules it follows that you should try to learn how to spot which bell is two positions in front of you in case your are ever called to move down one place. This is the bell being followed by the bell you are following. If all is well it is the bell that the ringer you are looking at is looking at. You need not know where any of the other bells are because any subsequent calls will tell you who to follow. Eventually you will be able to see more and more of the total order of the bells and this is a desirable thing. Also, it is worth trying to remember which position you are are in as well as which bell you are following and to learn to see what it looks like and sounds like to be in that position. This last skill is called ropesight. It cannot be taught, only acquired by practice and bludgeoning.


    By how much must the speed of a bell be changed to move it by one place? Look at this:


The dot represents the handstroke gap. Here, the 2nd has moved up one place. In doing so 6 bells and one handstroke gap have struck (3, 4, 5, 6, ., 1, 3) between its last blow in 2nds place and its first blow in 3rds place. When ringing Rounds there are normally 5 bells plus one handstroke gap that strike between each blow of your own bell. Thus, when moving up at handstroke, you must delay your bell by 1/6th of the duration of a single Round. Similarly, the 3rd has moved down one place. In doing so 5 bells and one handstroke gap have struck (4, 5, 6, ., 1) between its last blow in 3rds place and its first blow in 2nds place. In this case the 3rd has had to ring earlier by 1/6th of the duration of a single Round.

    The change occurs at handstroke. If it has gone correctly and your bell is now in the correct position the next backstroke should follow the handstroke at the same speed as backstroke follows handstroke in Rounds. If this does not happen then you will continue to change places.


    After making any change you should try to find which bell is now two in front of you. It might be that you have reached 2nds place in which case there is only one bell before yours. Should you now be called down another place you will end up in 1st''s place, or leading. When leading you must not follow someone in the normal way but instead you must find the last bell. You then follow this bell's handstroke with your backstroke and its backstroke with your handstroke. Another way to do this is to pull your rope each time the last bell's tail end loop reaches the bottom of its downward travel. It is best to learn this art in the tower rather than attempt to read about it.


    Having called some call changes the bells will be ringing in a different order from Rounds. It is interesting to note how many possible orders the bells can be rung in. For the mathematically minded this is expressed as n! (factorial n). For the rest of us we can use the following simple tail recursive algorithm:

                factorial(n) :=
                    IF n = 1 THEN
                        RETURN 1
                        RETURN n * factorial(n-1)

    Put even more simply, for 4 bells this is 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24 permutations. For 5 bells this is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120 permutations. For 12 bells this is 12 x 11 x 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 479,001,600 permutations. You get the idea.

    The reason for wanting to ring call changes is that there are many very musical changes available in addition to Rounds, so why not ring them? A small number of these have acquired names, although some of these names are not standard. The only really standard ones are:


* Queens (also            on 6:           135246
  called 'Thirds')        on 8:           13572468
* Tittums                 on 6:           142536
                          on 8:           15263748
                          on 10:          1627384950 (very nice)
* Whittington's           on 6:           531246
  (said to have           on 8:           12753468
   been heard by          on 10:          3124975680
   Dick Whittington)      on 12:          531246E9780T (very nice, 0 = 10, E = 11, T = 12)

There are many other changes with names but you will get into street fights if you use them in the wrong tower. Unfortunately, ringers in Derbyshire seem to think that Whittington's is 125346 but everybody else agrees on the version above.

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