The Tower Handbook

12.1 Filling in

a: Should less experienced ringers fill in to get more practice?

It is tempting to have too many inexperienced ringers in at once to give them more practice. While it will increase the quantity, it often decreases the quality of the experience. If the quality of the ringing is very bad it won't do anyone any good, and certainly not an inexperienced learner. If you are an experienced ringer, and you are asked to fill in for some basic ringing, you are there to provide the extra stability needed to stop the ringing falling apart, even when other people make mistakes or are unsure.

b: Does it matter how I strike if the ringing is rough anyway?

It depends what you mean by 'does it matter?' A tower captain of average experience may not spot (or will not comment on) your slips and inaccuracies. But that is nothing to be proud of. When filling in with inexperienced ringers you should help provide a firm framework to the ringing, the best possible environment to bolster their confidence, to ensure their mistakes do not trigger mistakes by the rest of the band, and if possible to help them be corrected. This demands your best performance and not a barely acceptable performance.

c: Does it matter if I go wrong in a beginners' touch?

Yes. You may be capable of putting yourself right, but the disturbance may disrupt the ringer(s) for whose benefit you are ringing the touch. If one mistake led to another and the touch had to be called round because the learner got hopelessly lost, would you take satisfaction from knowing where you were at the end, or be ashamed that it was your carelessness that triggered it all off?

d: Should I adapt to other people's striking?

To ring together you must each adapt the rhythm of your bell to fit in with the rest of the band. But what if one or more does not adapt? What if the bell in front of you rings wide? Should you hold up and do likewise or should you stay in the correct place (ie fitting in with the overall rhythm of all the other bells [148])? This question can provoke strong arguments.

While there will be some exceptions, the basic answer is 'no'. If the bell in front of you rings wide, and you do the same, then two bells are in the wrong place, rather than one. You may avoid a clip with the bell in front, but you will create one with the bell following you. Also, by moving the audible clip away from the bell that is causing it, you make it harder for the ringer responsible to realise he or she is wrong and correct the error. Of course, it depends whether the error is consistent, so we have split this into two in the questions below.

e: Should I hold up over a learner who rings consistently wide?

The most sensible thing to do with a repeated error is to tell the other person so he or she can make correction. Ideally the conductor would give this advice, but it may be less fuss for you to say something quietly if the culprit is next to you.

If the offending ringer is determined to ring permanently wide (probably believing that he or she is not) and if you are ringing for service, then you could smooth out the worst of the audible damage by adjusting slightly, providing the couple of bells following you know what you are doing. It will not sound quite right, but it will be less jarring. If you are the tower captain in this situation, you have a dilemma whether to tolerate someone deliberately ringing in the wrong place. How you handle it will depend on the circumstances and the personalities involved.

f: Should I hold up over a learner who rings erratically wide?

If you do you will continually be correcting as the errors come and go. This will affect the overall rhythm. Suppose you rang wide, and to avoid the clip behind you the following ringer also rang wide, and so on. Some of them will over correct and that will lead to the others making yet more adjustments. Good striking depends on a steady rhythm. If all the ringers are changing their rhythm blow by blow to fit in with perceived errors of the bell in front, the rhythm will be anything but stable, and there will be a continual string of errors propagating round the circle.

g: Does it matter where I look when filling in?

Some people think you should look at the bell you are following, even if you don't need to, since it will help the learner to see who you are following, and therefore help him or her to know who to follow next. This is not really true, other than perhaps in call changes, and even then it is doubtful whether just looking at the bell you are following is the most helpful thing to do.

Looking at the floor is the other extreme. Some people find it disturbing but there is not a lot of justification for this. If other things have given the impression that you are aloof and do not care about the fate of the learner, then staring at the floor could reinforce that impression, but that is another matter.

h: Where should I look when filling in?

You can do two very useful things with your eyes while filling in for a learners touch (apart from seeing enough to keep yourself right). Both are easier if you don't need to look directly at the bell you are following. You can keep an eye on the learner(s), noting where they are and what they are doing. This will help you anticipate any problems they may cause. You may also spot the signs of a mistake about to happen (eg if they look in completely the wrong direction) and you may be able to give facial cues (see next answer). You have the advantage of seeing the learner's face, so you may see things that the person standing behind the learner does not.

i: Can I give non-verbal advice when filling in?

If you spot a mistake or hesitation, and you are in the learner's field of view, it may be quicker and simpler for you to signal some advice visually, rather than wait for the person standing behind (or the conductor) to detect the problem and give advice verbally.

By looking at the learner, you can draw his attention with facial gestures if he should follow you. Some people also pointedly raise their heads, arms and shoulders to indicate that the learner should ring under them. By looking pointedly from him to another bell, you can lead his attention to the other bell. Some people also signal to get the bell up or down by an upwards or a downwards nod of the head.

This nod and wink method can be very effective. It is direct and it avoids lots of people talking at the learner. It will also dispel any notion that you do not care about his or her fate!
The ringer in the picture may be giving helpful advice, but he is not following our advice about ties, see section 3.1i.

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