The Tower Handbook
Ringing with a muffle on one side of the clapper to soften the sound when that side strikes the bell. The overall effect when all the bells are ringing is of an echo. All the bells sound loud for one row and then soft for the next. This is much commoner than fully muffled ringing, see section 9.6h.
A muffle is a round or oblong piece of leather that can be attached to one side of the clapper.
With a traditional muffle, the strap and buckle fits round the flight below the clapper ball and the thongs are used to tie round the clapper shaft above the ball. Some types have two lots of thongs and no straps.
Traditional muffles have buckled straps and/or leather thongs to fix them to the clapper. They work well, but can be fiddly to fit and some people have trouble fixing them securely . Eventually the buckles and straps wear and the thongs break. You can use thick 'hairy string' to replace them, but it frays more than replacement thongs. Technology moves on, and in recent years, 'easy fit' and 'non slip' muffles have been designed to overcome these problems. They use Velcro, rubber straps with metal catches or plastic clips instead of buckles and thongs.
Normally the backstroke is muffled, which means the muffle is on the opposite side to the rope when the bell is down. Make sure they are all correct since it sounds very odd if one is the wrong way round. The same effect is produced if one of the bells goes 'up wrong', since then the clapper is striking the wrong side of the bell at every stroke.
Less commonly, the handstroke is muffled so the echo precedes the normal sound. This is said to symbolise the tomb followed by the resurrection.
You can get muffles from bell hangers or founders, or a good saddler may make them. See The Ringing World Diary or advertisements in The Ringing World.
There are four main times for muffled ringing, some much less common.
All the so-called musical rows in most touches occur at backstroke. As the bells are normally muffled at backstroke, the musical rows are muffled. To get the music at handstroke you can either use special touches which produce music at handstroke (which is easier if you ring an odd bell method) or you can ring changes in 'whole pulls' (also called 'double struck ringing'). You repeat each handstroke blow at backstroke. In plain hunt you ring two blows in seconds, two in thirds etc, with four blows at the back and front. Everything takes twice as long, and can be tricky because everything 'feels different'.
Muffles are fitted to both sides of the clapper so both strokes are softer than normal. This is now rare, and most towers do not possess two sets of muffles to make it possible. Fully muffled ringing except for the Tenor's backstroke gives a more distinctive sound. In the past, fully muffled ringing has been used to mark the passing of royalty, major churchmen or statesmen.
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