Lead or Lead?

One topic that was covered in Saturday's Q&A Drop-in session on jargon was the different uses of the word "Lead".

The primary meaning is that of being the first bell in the row.

In a method, you often lead for two rows, as in Plain Hunt. This is known as a Full Lead.

If a full lead is, like in Plain Hunt, a handstroke followed by a backstroke, this is known as Leading Right. If it is a backstroke then a handstroke, that is Leading Wrong. Due to the inherent asymmetry of the handstroke gap, it feels quite different to lead wrong, as opposed to leading right.

A single blow in lead is called a Point Lead. Another term for a point (in any place) is a Snap. Note that these terms are not used when the single blow in lead is part of a dodge, except in the phrase "coming round at the snap"; this refers to a touch which finishes with rounds when the treble is dodging, as opposed to coming round, as it more usual, at the full lead.

In the above example, you can see that the 4th does a Point Lead, but the 6th Leads Full. Note also that the 6th leads Wrong. Which other bell does a point lead in this extract? The 2nd leads twice, first Right, then Wrong, with a Point is 2nds place in between.

Another piece of terminology mentioned was when one bell "takes another bell off the lead". For instance, in the example above, the 6th takes the 2nd off the lead. This is exactly the same as saying "the 6th leads after the 2nd" or "the 6th is the 2nd's after bell." It also means that the 2nd will follow the 6th in 2nds place. That's why it can be useful advice. For instance if you are told "the 4th takes you off the lead", you know to hold up into 2nds place over the 4th, almost certainly at a handstroke.

The other meaning of Lead is as a section of a method.

The origin of this phrase is clearest to see in a method where the treble plain hunts, while the other ("working") bells have a longer plain course, in which time the treble plain hunts several times. Each time the treble goes up and comes down to lead again is called a Lead. Each lead of the method contains the same pattern of changes and this is repeated until rounds is reached.

For instance, here is Little Bob Minor:

You can see the treble does five sections of Plain Hunt (up to 4ths place). Each of these, separated by the horizontal lines, is a Lead. The place notation is the same in each lead. Methods are often written out with the leads side-by-side across the page, as shown below. The row at the top of each column is the one shown at the foot of the previous column.

The first example on the page showed just one lead of a Triples method. At the end, the treble has got back down to the lead, but the bells haven't got back to rounds, so this lead would have to be repeated a number of times to get the whole plain course of the method.

But the concept of a Lead can also be applied to other methods. For instance, here is Oxford Treble Bob Minimus, where the treble has a dodging path. The section that the treble repeats each time is called a Lead. The method has three leads.

Even in principles, where the treble is included among the working bells, the section which is repeated is called a Lead (or sometimes a Division). So Erin Doubles, below, consists of five leads, each containing the same pattern of changes.

The term Half Lead was also mentioned. Again, this is most easily understood by looking at a method where the treble plain hunts. The Half Lead is the point, half-way through the lead, when the treble is at the back (or in its highest place, if not at the back). The Half Lead of a treble-dodging method is, similarly, when the treble is lying behind, between its two dodges at the back. The term is usually only used when there is a particular feature of the method that happens at the half-lead, rather than in a method with plain hunting below the treble. For instance, in Cambridge, everyone dodges at the half lead, apart from the two bells at the back, so that can be a useful pointer, if you're not sure where on the blue line you are.

In most methods, the half lead is also a point of symmetry. As Stephen Burr explained in his webinar on Blue Lines, most methods have Palindromic Symmetry, so you only need to give the place notation for the first half of the lead, then you apply this sequence in reverse order for the other half of the lead. For instance, here is the Triples method given above again:

Note how the first half of the place notation - 7.167.7.3.147.5 - is then repeated in reverse after the half lead - 5.147.3.7.167.7. You can see how the half lead is a point of symmetry for the work of the 3rd (in black). And the 2nd and 5th do the same work, but in the opposite order to each other. Can you see which other bell has symmetric work in this lead?

For more on Lead End Variants, see here.