Planning ringing

Planning ringing #

Ringers at Southrepps, Norfolk

These are only suggestions of ways of arranging ringing.

Timing #


  • Not all ringers will arrive on time.
  • Allow for greeting, hanging up coats, etc.
  • Bells may have to be raised and lowered which may take up to 15 minutes and reduce the time to achieve aims.
  • Aim to give everyone at least one piece of useful and satisfying ringing.
  • Approximate timings of touches (used here to mean any piece of ringing):
    • 120 changes of Doubles or Minor takes 4-5 minutes.
    • 4-5 minutes is a suitable time for rounds and call changes.
    • On 8, or more, pieces will generally be longer.
    • Allow 2-3 minutes to change over between pieces.

Plan Ahead #

To get the most out of the time available plan at least one touch ahead. This should reduce gaps between touches and allow more ringing time.

  • Know what is going to be rung next and for whose primary benefit. Ringers benefit from knowing what is coming next, they can mentally rehearse or even look up things while sitting out. If sessions are regularly run to a pattern, ringers start to follow the pattern and know when they are likely to get a chance to ring what they need to practice.
  • Try to avoid the trap where the ‘good’ ringer(s) only come at the end of the practice for the ‘good/advanced ringing’.
  • Assess what the least and most advanced levels of ringing that there is value in performing. If a practice session, there is little point practicing what all the ringers present have already mastered.
  • There is no point in trying to ring something for which there are not got enough competent ringers to support those who are learning.
  • Triage the ringers by ability. Ringers’ abilities and experience vary. Roughly assign the ringers to at least, a learner, middling and higher ability group. Be prepared to adjust this as the session proceeds, we all have good days and bad days.
  • Try to arrange the ringing so that everyone gets something out of the session.
  • Sequence the touches to provide opportunities for the ringers, from the three groups, in turn. Aim to start with the simplest ringing needed for the least able group and end with the most advanced that the higher ability group should be able to ring well. The aim is to end on a high point, one that hopefully allows the less able to hear what better ringing sounds like.

For a ninety-minute practice session, you should now have a basic template of 11 touches.

  • Ring up, in peal if you can (and the bells are down).
  • Simple touch for some members of least able group.
  • Relatively simple touch for middle ability group.
  • Relatively simple touch for higher ability group.
  • Least able group touch.
  • Middle ability group touch.
  • Challenging higher ability group touch (remember you are aiming for a well struck higher ability group piece to end with).
  • Least able group touch.
  • Middle ability group touch.
  • Low risk higher ability group touch.
  • Ring down, in peal if you can (and the bells are to be lowered).

Note: This is a suggested template not a rigid plan.

Be aware of:

  • The need to adjust your template as the session proceeds.
  • There may be insufficient ringers to divide into three or even two ability groups.
  • There may not be a low-risk option for that final well struck touch.
  • It might be an opportunity to practice ringing up and down in peal more than once!

What matters is to know what is going to be rung next and, to some extent, who is going to ring it. This may cut out dithering between touches and gives the ringers confidence that the session is running proactively.

Place the band #

At first this can seem overly officious and may need an explaination.

The primary purpose of placing a band during a session, as opposed to a quarter peal or peal, is to make sure that ringers practice something with the best possible chance of success.

If there is more than one less able ringer in the band try to avoid placing them on adjacent (coursing) bells. Hopefully it also means that the rest of the band is sufficiently competent to give the improvers the support they need. For the best chance of success and better striking, the generally accepted method is to place the band from the extremes inwards starting with the tenor and then for odd-bell methods on even numbers of bells the heaviest working bell i.e., for Doubles in a six-bell tower the 5th. Next comes the treble as the treble provides the framework around which the method is constructed (obviously not true for a principal e.g. Stedman). If an inside bell goes wrong the rest of the ringers can normally cope and there is a fair chance of putting things right. If the treble goes wrong, it affects all the other ringers. Also note that because the difference in swing speeds is most pronounced between tenor and treble, striking these bells well requires more reliance of listening and rhythm than the middle bells do. Good ringers will not object to ringing the treble, indeed they will often rightly regard being asked to as a complement.

During a session, a ringer may need to practice plain hunting to a method. That places that ringer on the treble. Ideally the rest of the band needs to be able to ring with an unreliable treble. Combining an inexperienced treble ringer with an inexperienced inside ringer rarely ends well.

It is a good idea to give a ringer experience on different bells which may not be ideal for success and striking. Placing a band during a session often is a compromise between the best ringing and advancement of individuals.

Placing bands may:

  • Cut out delays caused by ringers hanging back when ringers are asked to ‘catch-hold for …’.
  • Pre-empt the need to remove a ringer who thinks they can ring it.
  • Overcome the hesitancy of better ringers to not ring too often and appear greedy. This may allow an extra touch or two.

Announcing the next two touches, together with the bells the ‘target’ ringers are to ring, may speed things up. (Note, for some bands speeding things up may be a bad idea, they may be there as much for social as ringing reasons. Assuming the aim is to improve the ringing, use a gentle nudge in that direction rather than go full throttle into fast paced sessions.)

Nominate a conductor #

Nominate a competent conductor if a touch is for the benefit of less able ringers. If the purpose is to give a ringer conducting practice, then give them a competent band. Less able ringers’ confidence will be damaged if something is miscalled and they may blame themselves. The learner conductor’s confidence will be damaged if they cannot know where to put calls because bells, particularly the treble, are in the wrong place.

Summary #

Some, maybe all, of the tips above may seem totally unrealistic in your tower.

  • Use your skills to assess both the attitude and ability of your ringers. This will determine how the session can be structured and how hard the push can be.
  • Remember, unless there is very good sound control or simulators on all bells, any session is a very public affair. The quality of the ringing says something about the church you ring at.
  • Try to encourage the pursuit of good ringing in all ringers remembering that good ringing does not need to be advanced ringing.

Applying aspects of the advice above should help.

Image Credits #

TitleRingers at Southrepps, NorfolkPicture: James Kirkcaldy

Disclaimer #

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, neither contributors nor the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any activities undertaken based on the information provided.

Version 1.1, March 2023

© 2023 Central Council of Church Bell Ringers