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Roll up, Roll up 

At a recent Branch practice, we were struggling with a touch that eventually fell apart. After we had stopped, I said it was a pity because we could probably have used the roll ups to sort ourselves out – we had just passed one, and we were coming up to another. “That’s all right for you, but we don’t ring by roll ups” said one of the band. Since it was obvious that I knew something useful that others didn’t know, I decided to write this article.

That was two years ago, and the article then got shelved until I discovered it, incomplete, this morning. Since this morning, I have been to another Branch practice where almost the same thing had happened. A course of Kent was falling apart, when along came the trusty 165432 roll up. 1654 rang out loud and clear, but it didn’t help the ringers who were doing the falling apart in 5-6, because they were oblivious to the existence of the roll up. Had they recognised it, they would almost certainly have been able to get themselves back onto an even keel and keep going.

So let’s start at the beginning – what is a roll up? The Tower Handbook defines it as:

‘A row with most of the bells, (or at least the back bells) in a familiar or musical order’

The commonest roll ups, and the ones that occur most frequently in plain courses of methods, are based on rounds, eg xxxx5678 (where xxxx are the remaining bells in any order). There are several other musical combinations, for example xxxxx468, xxxx5768. Roll ups can also occur ‘off the front’, ie 8765xxxx and so on. Plain Bob has roll ups off the back in most leads, and a conspicuous roll up when the tenor makes seconds in the plain course with 18765432. Either side of the roll ups, the bells can sometimes be heard ‘getting near’, though the effect is more marked on higher numbers, and in some methods they seem just seem to pop out.

Now we know what they are, how about ‘ringing by roll-ups’? You can’t ring purely by roll ups, because they only appear periodically, so knowing about roll ups complements other ways to know what to do. It’s a bit like navigating by pubs. People might say that is all they do, but it only works if there are pubs near every junction where you need to turn, so you need other ways to cope with parts of the route where there aren’t any pubs. It’s the same when ringing a method, especially anything more complex than Plain Bob. There are lots of places where you need to ‘turn’, far more places than where there are roll ups, so most of the time you need other ways to know comes next.

But if you are navigating by some other means and you know which pubs you expect to pass on your route, it can be a real boost to your confidence when you pass them, and it could help you to keep right if you are not quite sure where you are or what to do next. The same is true of roll ups in ringing. If you recognise them when you meet them, and especially if you have an idea where to expect them, then it can be really useful, and it might help you to save a touch.

Have a look at a course of Plain Bob Major (or Minor if you prefer) and see how many simple roll ups you can find, ie runs with three or more bells in ascending or descending sequence. Then try to hear them when you are ringing in the tower, and see if you can learn when to expect them. You won’t spot them all, but once you start to hear some roll ups, you should find you are more aware of them, and start to spot others.

Other things to look out for are things like Queens and Tittums. If you are ringing Doubles on six, they both occur in every 120 (because every row does). Ringing Triples on eight, you could look out for xxxxx468. It is a very musical ending (Soh, Me, Doh, the bottom three notes of a major chord). Any touch of Stedman that ends with a string of bobs will give lots of them just before the end.

There is a fuller description of roll ups in the article I wrote for The Learning Curve, published in The Ringing World  in July 2005, see accompanying article.

 John Harrison, January 2009

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