Method Ringing

Learning Your First Method

When you can ring plain hunt reliably you’ll be ready to start ringing methods, usually starting with Plain Bob Doubles, Grandsire Doubles or occasionally Bastow Little Court Bob Minimus.

Expect this to be difficult!  You’ll still be learning rope sight and your bell handling might go to pot as well.  Persevere as this is a massive step – once you can ring your first method reliably, all the others will be easier to learn.  This is a massive step and often it is better to tackle ringing your first method in a graduated manner so that you can master bite-sized chunks which are much easier to learn.  A graduated step by step guide to learning Plain Bob is available for learners and their teachers.

After plain courses come touches, involving bobs and singles, in which you will sometimes do different things at lead ends. When you can ring touches reliably, you can go on to quarter peals and peals.

How to Learn Methods

Initially you learn to ring methods by following spoken rules followed up (sometimes) with a diagram.  As you progress you will have to learn using a method diagram.  These often contain a lot of information over and above the “blue-line” which can be very useful.

Everyone has a particular learning style – through seeing, hearing or doing, on their own or in groups.  Try and work out which is yours and then develop strategies to help you learn bell ringing methods.  If your learning style is different to that of your Tower Captain then look for other sources of information to complement their advice.

Cribsheets giving hints and tips about a range of standard methods are available on-line.  Don’t neglect your learning prior to going into the ringing chamber.  If you can’t recall the method quickly and perfectly before you ring, what chance will you have when having to concentrate on ringing your bell.

For those who like learning through doing software is readily available to help you practice your method ringing at home:

  • Able, Mabel and Mobel – allows ringers to practice call changes, plain hunt, methods and touches on one or two bells.
  • Beltower – allows ringers to practice ringing and calling. Striking is monitored and random striking and method errors can be added to test listening and conducting skills.

When you first start ringing different methods it will take you time and much practice to ring a new method competently and confidently.  However as you learn more and more methods it does become easier and you should aim to ring a new method perfectly the first time you ring it and strike your bell well at the same time. Difficult; but if you approach your ringing with this aspiration you will learn quicker, find the band around you much more supportive and get a lot more out of ringing!

Ringing on Five Bells

The standard methods you will come across are Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles.  Stedman Doubles (see below) has a more complicated structure but most ringers will know it whether or not they regularly ring at a 5 bell tower, just because it is rung so often on higher numbers.  If you ring regularly ring on 5 bells there are various families of doubles methods which people delight in ringing – St Simons, St Nicholas, College Bob, Reverse Canterbury etc.  These methods are often described verbally using rules (work above the treble, what happens at the lead end etc.) as well as by their blue lines.

Ringing on Six Bells

Ringing on 6 bells starts with Plain Bob Minor plus the above doubles methods with the tenor covering.  However new methods can now be rung with the treble treble-bobbing (dodging in every place) rather than plain hunting.  The simplest of these are Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Minor which are often taught using verbal rules.  However beyond this you will probably have to start learning the blue lines of Surprise methods, starting with Norwich, Cambridge, Surfleet, Beverley and London.  There are in fact 41 regular surprise methods that can be rung and even spliced (when the method being rung is changed at the lead end.)

Ringing on Eight Bells

Most of the above methods extend onto 8 bells using easily understood rules – so you get Grandsire and Stedman Triples and Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Major.  An additional plain method that you might well encounter is Double Norwich Court Bob Major, which is much more popular than its 6-bell reduction, Double Court.  And there is Erin Triples a slightly easier version of Stedman.

Finally you have the Surprise Major methods.  Historically a group of methods that were being rung at the beginning of the twentieth century became known as the Standard 8.  They have become the normal surprise major methods rung throughout the country and are often spliced together.  These methods are Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Pudsey, Superlative, Rutland, Bristol and London.  There are many other surprise major methods, however you wouldn’t be expected to know them unless they were a “method of the month” or you were ringing them in a quarter peal or peal.

A Note on Stedman

Stedman is part of the standard repertoire for a ringer.  It is, however, very different from Plain Bob, or Grandsire, or from the Treble Bob methods, which one can learn in a progression.  Stedman stands on its own, with essentially no easier methods to build up to it, and no more complicated methods built upon it.  Stedman (and Erin) are principles – the treble does exactly the same work as all the other bells.

Striking on Higher Numbers

Most people in the branch learn on 6 bells.  Ringing on higher numbers can be intimidating to start with, however with a greater number of methods available it can also be a lot more interesting.  At the beginning hearing and striking your bell will be the greatest challenge.  Even if you don’t want to ring regularly on 8 or more bells, an occasional go at plain hunting will push you to listen much more closely than you normally do and will really benefit your 6 bell striking.

If you are interested in progressing onto regularly ringing on higher numbers of bells, then practice is key.  Practicing at home on one of the computer-based simulators will get you used to listening and putting yourself in the right place, particularly at the more difficult to hear places away from the front of the change.

Simon Read has written an interesting article in the branch newsletter In Touch (page 12) about ringing on 16 bells!


I hope that the links on these pages are acknowledgments in their own right.  However, whilst writing these pages I found myself coming back to the same websites and acknowledge them separately:

These sites are packed full of useful information, much more than I’ve been able to link to on this site.  Enjoy!

Lesley Belcher