PLAIN BOB DOUBLES
In this session we will be looking at applying the "Magic Row" idea to the simplest, but nevertheless real, method Plain Bob Doubles. From the Magic Row of Plain Hunt we will develop a simplified and more general row, the "coursing order". This coursing order and its manipulation is the basis of conducting from Plain Bob right through to the most fiendish of spliced surprise maximus compositions.
Before going any further we will look at the structure of all methods, taking Plain Bob Doubles as an example before comparing it with some other methods, and we will define some terminology.
All methods are constructed in sections so that at the end of each section some or all of the bells have arrived at the starting place of another bell. The section is then repeated from the new starting row and this process is repeated until Rounds reappears. In most methods the Treble returns to its own starting place each time and rings either Plain Hunt or Treble Bob throughout. Such a bell is called the "hunt bell". In some methods more than one bell, usually Treble and 2nd, do this and in other methods none of the bells do this. Methods without hunt bells, for example Stedman, are also known as "principles". Those bells which are not hunt bells are "working bells".
Plain Bob Doubles is a typical "single hunt" method and Grandsire Doubles is a typical "double hunt" method. None of this makes much difference to the principles of the conducting techniques. The vast majority of methods are single hunt methods and so what we say about conducting applies directly to them. For the other methods the basic principles apply but some consideration of the different number of hunt bells is made. We won't say any more about this until we look at Grandsire.
The plain course of Plain Bob Doubles is:
12345 13524 15432 14253
21435 31254 51342 41523
24153 32145 53124 45132
42513 23415 35214 54312
45231 24351 32541 53421
54321 42531 23451 35241
53412 45213 24315 32514
35142 54123 42135 23154
31524 51432 41253 21345
13254 15342 14523 12435
13524 15432 14253 12345
Fig. 1 - Plain Bob Doubles.
Points Arising From The Diagram
There are 4 columns, each headed by a row starting with bell 1. In general for methods on different numbers of bells there are as many columns as working bells.
In each column the Treble completes a complete Plain Hunt.
At the end of each column the remaining bells are all in places different from those they started in, in such a way that each bell eventually passes through each other bell's starting place.
Although the numbers in each column are different the structure of each is the same.
A line is drawn between the handstroke and backstroke of the Treble's lead. This line separates the row that is the true end of the column from that which is really the start of the next column (very important point and one that is missed by those who draw lines under the Treble's backstroke lead).
Division - any one of the sections into which a method is divided.
Lead - any division of a method with at least one hunt bell.
Lead End - the final row of a lead, usually the Treble's handstroke lead.
Lead Head - the first row of a lead, usually the Treble's backstroke lead. Also known as the "lead end".
Half Lead - the point half way through a lead where the Treble starts to reverse its work.
Place Bell - the position where any bell starts a particular lead and hence does the work of the bell that started
there from Rounds.
A look at the selection of methods on the supplementary sheets will reveal that all the methods on those sheets are divided up into exactly the same sort of sections as Plain Bob Doubles. In some of them the Treble Plain Hunts and in others it Treble Bob Hunts but that doesn't matter.
There are other features common to all these methods but we will deal with these in a later session. Suffice it to say for now that the principles on which the conducting of Plain Bob are based are the same for all of these other methods.
Magic Rows And Plain Bob Doubles
From the diagram in Fig. 1 we can see that for each lead the bells come to lead as follows:
Lead 1 1 2 4 5 3 1
Lead 2 1 3 2 4 5 1
Lead 3 1 5 3 2 4 1
Lead 4 1 4 5 3 2 1
Fig. 2 - bells leading in each lead of Plain Bob Doubles.
It seems that each lead has its own Magic Row. However, if we realise that the Treble is doing its own thing in each lead and that all the other bells are doing the same as each other we can treat the Treble differently. Since the place where you meet the Treble depends on which bit of the course you are in it is easiest to omit it from the Magic Row altogether. If we look at Fig. 2 again but with the Treble omitted we get:
Lead 1 2 4 5 3
Lead 2 3 2 4 5
Lead 3 5 3 2 4
Lead 4 4 5 3 2
Fig. 3 - bells, omitting the Treble, leading in each
lead of Plain Bob Doubles.
From this it seems that the order in which the bells, other than the Treble, lead is cyclic and is the same as the Magic Row for Plain Hunt Doubles but omitting the Treble. In other words:
Fig. 4 - Leading order for Plain Bob Doubles.
This new order is what conductors use and it has a special name, the "coursing order". The coursing order, then, is the order in which the working bells, at least in some sense, follow each other round. In truth, the order in which the bells lead or are passed are just manifestations of the coursing order. The real derivation, which is related to lead heads and lead orders and the need for a consistent system, will be dealt with in a later session.
The coursing order is usually started from the Tenor and so for Plain Bob Doubles this is 5 3 2 4. As with the Magic Rows discussed previously it doesn't have to be this way but convention has it that this is how it is. There are several advantages to keeping to the convention but as most of these won't become apparent until later we will just accept for now that this is the case.
On higher numbers of bells the coursing order extends to include the extra bells thus:
Minor 6 5 3 2 4
Triples 7 5 3 2 4 6
Major 8 7 5 3 2 4 6
Caters 9 7 5 3 2 4 6 8
Fig. 4 - Full coursing order for different numbers of bells.
Trying to keep this lot in your head whilst ringing is hard and so it is usual to simplify things as much as possible. For this reason it is conventional not only to omit the Treble but also to omit the Tenor, or Tenors. Should you prefer to use a non-standard coursing order starting from your own bell then just omit it. So, for Doubles the coursing order can be reduced from 5 3 2 4 to just 3 2 4, remembering that the 5 is still there but is always at the start. For Minor the coursing order can be reduced from 6 5 3 2 4 to just 5 3 2 4.
On higher numbers it is usual for all but the most complex compositions to use calls that only affect the smallest bells. In practice, even on 12 bells, this means that only bells 2 to 6 need be affected by calls and therefore these are the only bells whose coursing order need be remembered. That means that for most compositions on 7 or more bells the coursing order is 5 3 2 4 6. In each case however the conductor needs to be aware of the full coursing order in case of tragedies involving the big bells.
Doubles 3 2 4
Minor 5 3 2 4
Triples 5 3 2 4 6
Major 5 3 2 4 6
Maximus 5 3 2 4 6
Fig. 5 - Coursing orders for different numbers of bells.
Conducting Plain Bob Doubles - The Plain Course
For Plain Bob Doubles, when ringing the 5th, the coursing order is 3 2 4. The Treble is omitted as explained earlier and the 5th is omitted but understood to be at the start. The reduces the coursing order to a manageable 3 figures. Should you wish to ring another bell then you can do one of three things according to your own tastes:
Stick with this standard coursing order and keep track of the 5th,
Stick to this standard coursing order but just start from your own position within it,
Rotate the basic coursing order to get your bell to the front and then omit it.
An example of the third option if you wanted to ring the 2nd would be rotate the basic coursing order, 5 3 2 4, to get your bell, the 2nd, to the start, 2 4 5 3, then drop the 2nd to give 4 5 3. It is up to each conductor to find out what suites them and it would be wrong at this stage to settle on any one approach. In the long run it's probably easier to stick with the standard coursing order at all times because this reduces the work load and increases the familiarity with different coursing order after call have been made.
The coursing order is used in exactly the same way as the Magic Row and so can be used to watch the bells leading, lying and passing you. The only difficulty is allowing for the varying position of the Treble. You need to make sure that you pass the Treble where you would expect to do for your next dodge. This means two things: you must be sure of what your next dodge is without relying on seeing the Treble and you must know where to expect the Treble for each dodge. While checking the coursing order just pass the Treble in the place where you would expect to pass it.
At this stage it is necessary to be able to see that the bells are being passed in the correct order so that you at least know that the ringing is still correct. Being able to see whose leading or lying (allowing for the Treble) is very desirable in the long run but don't worry if that doesn't come easily just yet. It is best to practice with good ringers before trying with not so good ringers.
What To Say When Things Go Wrong
Should the ringing have gone wrong then it is necessary to put it right. If you can see who's meant to be leading or who you're supposed to be passing then it's a matter of telling each bell in turn when to lead or to pass you in place x (their place) on their way up or down by reading off the coursing order (accepting that some people will argue or will react by muttering "yes, I know - idiot") and hoping that after they've done it they will carry on hunting from there. The next thing to say is "Dodge now" or "Everyone dodge" or something similar when you do your next dodge, because everybody dodges (or makes places) at the same time. Usually people will do the dodge that feels right and all will be well.
A Slightly More Advanced Bit
For those of you who wish to try this (otherwise skip to Place Bells below) there is also a much more interesting use for the coursing order. We will develop this fully in later sessions but for now we can look at the diagram of Plain Bob Doubles and see something that can also be seen directly from the coursing order. Look at this table, which shows which bells are doing which work at each lead end:
First LE Second LE Third LE Fourth LE
Long 5ths 4 2 3 5
Dodge 3-4 up 5 4 2 3
Make 2nds 3 5 4 2
Dodge 3-4 down 2 3 5 4
Fig. 6 - Work done by each bell at each lead end.
We will sometimes talk about dodges being in "Plain Bob Dodging order" or "Plain Bob order", or some such variation. What this means is simply the order in which any bell does the dodges: 2nds, 3-4down, long 5ths, 3-4up etc.. The same will apply on higher numbers of bells. We may also refer to the "Plain Bob lead order", which is 2 4 5 3 for example.
In each column it can be seen that whatever work any particular bell is doing then the next bell in the coursing order is the bell that is doing the next piece of work in Plain Bob order.
This requires some practice to be able to do in the head but it is so useful in the more complex methods that you should be aware of it from now.
The dodges in Plain Bob all occur at the points where bells become new place bells. Therefore in seeing what work each bell is doing you are also seeing which place bell they are becoming:
Work New Place Bell
Make 2nds 2nds
Dodge 3-4 down 4ths
Make Long 5ths 5ths
Dodge 3-4 up 3rds
Fig. 7 - Place bells corresponding to each bit of work.
We have modified the Magic Row and come up with the coursing order. You need to get used to the coursing order for different numbers of bells and to starting with the Tenor each time (even if you then omit it).
You need to practice watching Plain Bob Doubles with the coursing order and allowing for the missing Treble.
If you can get used to working out and maybe watching which pieces of work other bells are doing that will be very useful. Start by watching the bell after yours in the coursing order doing the work after yours. Try with the bell before yours and the work before yours.