Finding Your Voice #
Welcome to Calling It Round! In this chapter on Calling, we’ll be covering the basics required to call one’s first touch, and to learn simple compositions independently. Calling It Round assumes you have a certain amount of knowledge about change ringing terminology already. “Look to” makes your ears perk up, you might have a favorite “method,” and you might already have rung a “quarter peal” (and if you haven’t already—you know what it is!).
We’ll start off by making sure we’re all on the same page in terms of some common terminology, then we’ll move through some simple starter touches all the way to quarter peals. Most sections have an interactive component or a set of exercises at the bottom, where you can practice new skills or reflect on new knowledge.
First, let’s learn a bit about where and how to put the bobs in. By the end of this section, you should be able to:
- Explain where, in a lead, the calls should go in;
- Listen to and “troubleshoot” a video of a caller who might have put some calls in the wrong places
In addition, you will be given some exercises to try out in your tower or with your handbell band. These exercises are designed to help you “find your voice,” so that when it comes time to call a touch you have already gotten some practice talking while ringing.
Where to put the calls in #
There are a couple of different things that a caller needs to know how to say (and when to say!). It’s not all just bobs and singles! The caller is responsible for letting the band know when to stop ringing rounds and start ringing the method, and when to stop ringing the method and start ringing rounds. The caller is also responsible for telling the band when to stand after ringing is finished. In this section, I’ll break down the different types of calls and where in the lead the calls are typically made.
The diagram on the right shows, visually, where the calls might go in a short touch of Plain Bob Doubles. As with many aspects of ringing, there is no strictly correct place to make the calls, but we’ll cover some of the more common conventions.
Go, next time! This call tells your band to stop ringing rounds and start ringing the method. Some people will exclusively say “Go, next time!” but others include the method name and would say something like “Go, Plain Bob Doubles!”. Either is fine. Using the latter convention is particularly helpful if there was any confusion about which method or stage was going to be rung before ringing started (e.g., if there was a kerfuffle over whether to ring minor or doubles). Others will choose to include different information such as “Go, next handstroke!” or “Go, Double Norwich at next backstroke!”, especially if there is an unusual start for a date touch or something. You can use your judgement and when in doubt, “Go, [method here]” is a safe bet.
The Go call is often made right before (or right as) the treble is leading at handstroke. Then the band has a handstroke and a backstroke to prepare to start moving around. However, on higher stages (or on heavier peals of bells), the call is often made a little later so as not to confuse the back bells, who are often finishing a backstroke as the treble starts the handstroke of the next row.1 I suggest watching what the other callers in your tower do, and see how it affects the start of the method. After a while watching, you’ll be able to get a sense for where to put this call to make it effective. When you go visiting, if you’re asked to call it’s wise to take a moment to think through how the differences in the bells may affect how you call. Louder bells or quieter voices, for example, may persuade you to make calls in the gaps between rows so that you can be heard sufficiently well.
Bob! or Single! This call tells your band that it’s time to change the pattern a little bit. In most methods, this call is made right before the row where the treble’s backstroke will be in 2; that is, a whole pull before the call will take effect. Sometimes the call can be made a little later. For example, a handbell caller may make the call in the middle of the row where the treble’s backstroke is in 2, since there is no need to give the heavy bells quite as much time to maneuver. A bob often means that the first and fourth bells stay where they are (“14 places”) but can also mean other things, depending on the method or principle. Similarly, a single often means that 1234 places are made; but sometimes it doesn’t. Always make sure you know what type of bob or single is being used in a composition before you start and you’ll be alright.2
This will be all! or That’s all! This call (and variants thereof) tells your band to stop ringing the method and start ringing rounds again. This call has perhaps the most wiggle-room in terms of where to put it! If the touch is about to come round at a backstroke, some callers will say “That’s all!” right before the treble’s handstroke in 1 in the previous row, though I personally typically make the call later than that. Other callers will announce the coming rounds at the middle or end of the row where the treble’s handstroke was in 1. In other situations, especially if the touch is about to come round at handstroke, callers will announce “That’s all!” in the gap right before the bells come into rounds. In handbells, this call is not infrequently made as late as in the middle of the rounds themselves! When you are first learning to call, you are likely going to be calling a touch that comes round at backstroke. If you resolve to say “This will be all!” right before the treble’s handstroke in 1, even if you are a little late it will likely be fine.
Stand next! or Stand! This call lets the ringers know it’s time to set their bells. “Stand!” is often said at a similar point in the rounds to when “Go, next time!” is said, and for similar reasons; you need to give the back bells enough warning to prepare to set their bells, but not confuse anyone by calling it too early.
In the image to the right, you may have noticed that the text goes in between the rows of ringing, not directly on any given row. That’s because I personally think it’s easiest and clearest when the call is made between the rows, perhaps slightly overlapping the sound of the first bell. In practical terms, if you are ringing in 7ths place and hunting up while the treble is about to hunt down into 2 and you need to call a bob – you might need to think fast! The place for the call should come when the treble is doing the relevant action, not necessarily when you are (not least because often, that changes from lead to lead!). Having extremely consistent timing for your calling will make your ringing much more stable and your band will thank you for it.
Tips for speaking clearly #
Speaking clearly and loudly enough is a must. If you’re uncertain about how loud to be, it’s better to err on the side of being too loud than too quiet to hear! Emphasizing the different numbers of syllables in “bob” and “single” can help ringers distinguish between the two even if they cannot hear you that well.
Callers who are young or have higher-pitched voices may particularly struggle with being loud enough to be heard in the ringing chamber. In addition to the fact that many ringers are used to hearing low-pitched, adult voices give the calls, ringers that suffer from partial hearing loss will much more commonly have high-frequency hearing loss that affects their ability to hear higher-pitched voices. The solutions are to be as loud as you healthily can, to make calls during the handstroke gap wherever possible to reduce the noise of the bells during your calls, and to emphasize the consonants. If possible, you can also try to make eye contact with ringers who are Deaf or hard of hearing to make sure they can see your mouth move as you give the call.
Calls often go in a whole pull in advance, but there can be considerable variation depending on preference (and even region). The advice above holds for many common methods, like Plain Bob and various Surprise methods. Methods like Grandsire and principles like Stedman can operate somewhat differently, so if you’re called upon to call a touch of Grandsire or Stedman, make sure you are confident in knowing where the calls go in.
If you want to know more about these definitions, or other ringing terms, you can try the following excellent resources:
This section also comes with a variety of exercises that can be tried at home or with other ringers.
Review this #
If you’re feeling a bit dodgy about bobs and singles, try these review questions. For the three questions below, assume we’re discussing Plain Bob Minor.
The caller calls 'Bob!'. The row where the treble is leading at backstroke is 132456. Which bell made the bob?
The caller calls 'Single!'. The row where the treble is leading at handstroke is 124365. Who will make 3rds?
The caller calls 'Single!'. The row where the treble is leading at handstroke is 124365. What is the resulting (backstroke) row, after the single is executed?
Watch this #
Watch this touch of Plain Bob Doubles and then answer the questions. The quiz will test your listening and ropesight skills as you watch the conductor put the calls in the correct place. This video was used with permission of the owner.
What calls were used in this touch?
When (in the row) was 'Go, Bob Doubles' said?
When (in the row) was 'Bob' said?
Troubleshoot this #
A caller has called a touch of Little Bob Minor (ok — it was me). Because of the coronavirus lockdown, I had to call it in Ringing Room, but the touch came round and I’m happy to share the video with you to get some feedback. However, I didn’t do a perfect job! What feedback do you have about the timing of my calls?
Go, next time!
Try this #
- If appropriate, ask your Tower Captain or Ringing Master for ‘speaking practice’
- Volunteer to say “go” and “stop” for a plain course
- Suggest the following exercises. They’re just for fun, and can get good laughs from the whole tower!
- While ringing rounds, the ringer of the treble says what they had for breakfast. Then, in ‘rounds order,’ everyone else says what they had for breakfast.
- While ringing rounds, the ringer of the treble says what they had for breakfast – and then calls on another ringer at random! The game goes until everyone has been called. It requires concentration to remember who hasn’t been asked to speak yet!
- If it’s not possible to ask your Tower Captain/Ringing Master for speaking practice, there are some other things you can try:
- Practice speaking while ringing handbells (alone or with a band)
- Practice making calls to a band over Zoom. These calls can be made while you are ringing with the virtual ringing software of your choice.
- Practice speaking while ringing on a simulator or a dumbbell.
- This isn’t the ideal set-up: the simulated ringers either won’t listen or they’ll put in the calls themselves!
- Some software allows you to mute the call sounds, but almost all have a visual cue in addition to the sound cue.
You may not be familiar with what a “row” is. A row is something like 14235 or 81234567; it is an order in which the bells ring. It is colloquially called a change. By the Framework, a change is the transition of one row to the next row. The grid or place notation of a method describes its changes (abstract, about the transitions) rather than its rows (concrete, about the positions of the bells). ↩︎
There are also non-standard calls like big bob, hic, extreme, and others. You may hear these, but more rarely, and usually the person calling will be very careful to tell the band beforehand if these are included!
“Big bob” is often used to disambiguate between types of bobs if there are, for example, both 14 and 16-type bobs in a composition. I remember first learning of “big bobs” in relation to Surprise Major one summer, and shortly thereafter being encouraged to take hold to try London Surprise Major for the first time at a tower whose practice night I was visiting. At this time, I was mainly used to ringing plain courses or half courses of surprise methods in tower. The London went surprisingly well (to my mind), but when the conductor called “Little Bob!” after a few leads I panicked – if bob is 14 and big bob is 16 then surely little bob must be 12?! – this, as it turned out, was the correct answer for the lead end change, but it did not help with the resulting lead of what was supposed to be Little Bob Major! ↩︎