The Tower Handbook

3.4: Good striking

a: What is good striking?

When the ringing is rhythmic and flows evenly with no clips or gaps and with perfect leading. When each ringer in the team rings to the same speed and with the same rhythm as all his or her team mates. Good striking is a joy to the ear and a pleasure to take part in.

b: How do we know whether our striking is good enough?

Perfection is very hard to achieve but you should still try. You should each develop a feeling about the quality of the ringing you produce. If it is 'quite good for a band like ours', you can feel satisfied (but not complacent). If you feel 'we really could do better', then think about how. And you need to agree this within the band. You will not have a harmonious band if half of you are ashamed of the quality of the ringing they take part in while the other half think it is good enough and don't bother to try to improve it. Your more experienced members should be prepared to take a lead and share their insights with the rest of you, but all of you should listen and form your own views. Does it sound like the description in (a) above or have you heard better? Listen critically.

c: How can we improve our striking?

Ringing is a group activity. Each of you must strike well to achieve really good striking. The whole is much more than the sum of the parts. To strike well you must settle to a common speed and develop a common rhythm, as well as no one making mistakes. You will only improve your striking as a band if you agree you want to and you do it together. It won't work if one of you feels like trying harder tonight and another one has a go next week. Why not aim for one touch every practice to be better struck than all the rest? If it is, you can discuss what made it so. If not, you can compare notes on why it did not seem to go well. Entering a band into a local striking competition could give you a specific target to aim for.

d: How can I improve my striking?

It depends on what your current strengths and weaknesses are.

Perhaps you can't identify a single cause, but you just want to try a bit harder with your striking. Whenever you are ringing (and also when you are not) listen intently to the sound of the bells. Try to hear your own bell (or a bell you are watching) within that sound. At each blow decide whether the bell is wide or close, but don't do anything hasty for small errors. In particular beware of correcting handstroke errors at the following backstroke. Such rapid correction enhances any tendency to be odd struck (in you or the bell) and in any case reduces stability. In other words 'listen to it' at all times, but make sure any corrections do not disrupt your feel for the rhythm.

e: Should I ring wider when following bigger bells?

This is one of those topics people can get emotional about, because it all depends what you mean by 'ring wider'. You should not strike wider. You should strike your bell at exactly the same interval after each of the bells [9]. To do that, your bell will swing slightly later relative to big bells than small ones, wherever it is, not just when it is following one. This is because bigger bells tend to strike slightly later in the swing than smaller bells. The visible result of this is that when the bells are being correctly struck, the movement of the ropes will be slightly earlier for big bells and slightly later for little bells than it would be if they were all the same.

So do you need to hold up a little bell over a big one? No you don't. The delay between the movement and the strike of your bell does not change because of which bell happens to be in front of you, so neither should your rhythm. If you ring with an even rhythm, striking in the right place as you go, you will notice that the ropes of the heavy bells move earlier relative to yours as you pass them, but the only conscious action you need to take is to resist the temptation to adjust your rhythm to 'follow the ropes'.

f: Is it worth trying to strike well if other people don't?

Yes. The more people there are who can strike well and take pride in their ringing the better. It should lead to better striking over all. Do your best at all times and encourage others to do likewise.

g: Should I compensate if someone else is too slow or quick?

Certainly not in change ringing. Two of you ringing in the wrong place will break the rhythm. In call changes it is more debatable. The same rule applies to the odd errors. For consistent errors, it should apply too. If anyone is going to compensate, it is better for the bell in the wrong place to move to the right place. But if the other ringer is incapable of ringing reliably in the correct place, by virtue of inexperience or long habit, there is a case for adjusting slightly to soften what would otherwise be a continued nasty clash.

h: What does 'Strike the roll-ups' mean?

A roll-up is a row with many of the bells (often the back bells) in a familiar or musical order. The commonest are based on rounds, for example on eight xxxx5678. There are several other musical combinations, for example xxxxx468, xxxx5768. Roll-ups can also occur 'off the front', eg 8765xxxx. Plain Bob [10] has roll-ups off the back in most leads, and a conspicuous roll up when the tenor makes seconds (165432 on six, 18765432 on eight, etc). Either side of the roll-ups, the bells can usually be heard 'getting near', though in some methods roll-ups seems to come more suddenly. The roll-ups are musical landmarks and because they are conspicuous, it is particularly important to strike them well. Keep your ears open for roll-ups, learn where to expect them and try that little bit extra to ensure they are highlights of the ringing.

i: Why does calling round take so long to get decent rounds?

It shouldn't! When a touch is called round, it may be planned or unplanned. If there is not enough time to finish a touch, say before a service, then the conductor often calls 'go round' with the tenors somewhere near the back (so they do not need to move very far). The lighter bells may have bigger changes to make, eg the treble may be in 5ths, or the 4th leading. It is hard to make such a jump in one go, but most bells will not be in this extreme position and should be able to get to about the right place in one blow. With most bells in the right order, you should be able to get reasonable rounds in a couple more rows.

Any moderately competent band should aim to achieve this. If you take a lot longer then either some of you aren't trying, or some are misguidedly waiting for all the bells that will be in front of them in rounds to get into the right place before trying to move their own bells.

Unplanned endings are usually triggered by a big mix-up, so the bells may be in any order, but getting back to rounds should not take a lot longer, provided everyone moves as quickly as possible to their correct places when rounds is called. If the tenor is somewhere near the front at the time, it is not helpful for the treble to hold up trying to get on the opposite stroke to it! This can leave everyone waiting for everyone else. If there has been a mix-up, then you have a duty to those listening to sort things out as quickly as possible.

j: Should the first row after pulling off be slower than the rest?

No, but it often is. Ideally you would all pull off at the right speed for the bells, with the right intervals between each bell. You should be able to do this on your own bells, and an experienced band should be able to do it with most bells.

The problem when starting from cold is that there is no established rhythm to guide you. You have to guess a sensible speed, pull off mainly by eye and adapt to the swing of the bell after you pull off. Because it is more difficult, some people play safe (perhaps subconsciously) and wait a little too long. If everyone does this, the cumulative effect is a long drawn out first row. If this happens regularly, the treble ringer will anticipate it and hold up more than usual at the first backstroke. After a few rounds, the artificially slow rhythm fades and people settle into the speed at which they are comfortable with the bells.

But is need not happen like this. You can all do two things to help.

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