Reading Touches - Higher Numbers

In the first part, I looked at touches of Doubles, while the second part looked at Plain Bob Minor. Now I shall look at touches on higher numbers.

I shall again take examples from Don Morrison's website at as well as Complib.

Let's have a gentle start, as revision - after the last two parts, there shouldn't be anything really new here, even though we're now on Major:

Wrong (W) and Home (H) still refer to the tenor's calling positions at the back; Home being the position it has in rounds, i.e. when it's dodging 7-8 down and Wrong is when it is dodging 7-8 up. The course ends shown in the first column don't show 7 or 8, because both bells come back to their original positions at the end of each course. Note that they're not unaffected, as you can see there are Befores, called when the tenor runs out. But because the 7ths runs in at each of these calls, their relative position remains unchanged.

So every course has a call at Wrong and Home, which makes this quite easy to call. The only issue is getting the right number of Befores in each course; looking at the positions of 2 and 4 can help with this, as you can see they do the same in each part, as the part end is 26435, so 2 and 4 are back in their rounds position.

So can we check the length of the composition? In Major, each course would normally be 7 leads, as there are now 7 working bells. But the calls at Before add extra leads to each course; there's an extra 1 in the first course, 2 extra in the second course and three extra leads in the final course of each part. So the courses have 8, 9 and 10 leads respectively. That's a total of 27 leads, giving 27 x 16 = 432 rows in each part. This is a 3-part, so the total length is 3 x 432 = 1296, as expected.

Now that W and H refer to calls when the tenor is in 7-8, we need new labels for the calling positions at 5-6 up and 5-6 down. 5-6 up is "V" (as in the Roman numeral for 5) and 5-6 down is "M", standing for "Middle". 6ths place is certainly not at the back or the front, but I'm not sure it's really in the middle, either, but that's what it's called - and on higher numbers, we shall see it's even nearer the back.

This touch includes 6 calling positions (out of 7 - can you see which one isn't used?). They are shown in the order the tenor gets to them; 7-8 up (W), 5-6 up (V), 2nd (B), 3-4 down (I), 5-6 down (M) and 7-8 down (H).

It's also a one-part, so there's a bit more to learn. Looking at the column of course ends, we see that the 7th is included this time - at least sometimes. That's because it is affected in some of the courses and isn't always back in 7ths place at the course end. But whenever it is in 7ths for consecutive courses, it is omitted as it was before. Note that the third course end is Queens.

Hopefully there's not too much more to say here; there's a pair of singles at Home at the end of the first course, so the first line of the composition is 15 leads in length (2 courses plus one extra lead for the Before). And there are two blocks of 3 Homes, one of which is right at the end, so the last line is 3 courses (21 leads) long. The band think it's about to come round at the first of those three course ends, then find they have to ring for an extra 8 minutes or so!

Just a couple more quick touches of Plain Bob Major, before we move on. Firstly a little more abbreviation:

One column has the heading "V/F", with calls there marked as 'x', rather than '-' or a number. This indicates that in all those courses, both V (5-6 up) and F (Fourths) are called (at consecutive leads). This has the effect of keeping the 7th and 8th in the same position relative to each other, as they each make 4ths at one of those bobs, but it shortens the course by 2 leads.

The next example shows that numerical columns for calling positions can still be used, as they were in some of the Doubles compositions. Here it's because the composition has cyclic part ends; the tenor doesn't come back to 8ths place at the end of every part, but the part ends are rotated version of rounds - the first one is rounds (apart from the treble), starting with the 5th:

Here we're helpfully told that each course is six leads long; otherwise we'd just have had to go on until we reached the correct course end. In the first course, there's a Single at the 5th lead and then a Bob at the following lead. In the second course, the calls are at the 4th and 5th leads, before a plain lead to finish the part. You could write the composition as P P P P S B, P P P S B P. Note that each course end is written out in full, as none of the bells are back in the same position at the end of the course.

Here, for variety, is a quarter peal of St Clement's Major:

This should all make sense; the "3rds" column indicates Singles at 3-4 down, where the tenor makes 3rds each time. The note at the end tells us to call a Single instead of a Bob at the final Home in the 2nd and 4ths parts; otherwise it would come round after just 640 changes.

The only difference that you might notice is the order of the columns; Middle comes first. This reflects the method - in St Clement's, the tenor does 5-6 down at the first lead end.

And here's some Cambridge - the advantage of Surprise methods is that there are generally fewer calls:

Again, the columns are in a different order, reflecting the lead end order of the method. Also, with the different lead end order, the rule about the '3' in the Before column adding an extra lead to the course doesn't hold true; in fact, in Cambridge, a Before shortens the course by 3 leads.

And this quarter also has a block of 3 Homes at the end. As above, the touch appears to be about to come round, before a Bob is called just before it would have been rounds, and, being Surprise, with 224 rows in each course, you have to ring for another quarter of an hour!

Before going on to even higher numbers, I should mention Triples, due to a historical oddity. Home is always the final position on any number of bells, so it refers to calls at 5-6 down in Minor, 7-8 down in Major and 9-10 down in Royal. On even numbers of bells, Wrong is always the next place down (i.e. 5-6 up in Minor, 7-8 up in Major and 9-10 up in Royal).

This also used to be the case on odd numbers of bells, so, in Triples, Wrong was used for a call in 6ths place, i.e. the bell doing 5-6 down. And Middle would be used for the next place down, i.e. the bell in 5ths place, doing 5-6 up. This not only meant that the calling positions came in a different order from on even numbers, but that calls with the same name affected different sets of bells. For instance, a Wrong in a plain course of Plain Bob Minor, Major, Maximus or whatever, will always affect bells 2, 3 and 5. So this was confusing.

Usually, these days, Wrong is used for the first lead-end in a course of Plain Bob on odd numbers; 5-6 up in Triples, 7-8 up in Caters and so on. And Middle is used for the penultimate lead-end; 5-6 down in Triples, 7-8 down in Caters etc.

So, it's always worth checking, especially when looking up touches of Triples in older publications. The main clue is usually in the column headings; see whether the first column is Wrong or Middle.

Here are couple of quick examples, chosen as they each have a slight variation the calling positions' names.

Here 'T' is used to stand for "Thirds". Note also the different sets of multiple calls; a 'ss' at Wrong, a block of 3 at Middle, two blocks of two Homes, and one that has a note to explain it; '4*' is calls at Home in four consecutive courses; first a Single, then two Bobs and another Single.

This compositions uses all 6 calling positions in a course of Plain Bob Triples. And '4' is used for 'Fourths', instead of the more common 'F'.

While on Triples, perhaps I should mention Grandsire and Stedman... [I originally wrote "briefly mention", but I don't think it'll be quite like that!]

Here we have numerical calling positions, as well as a repeated named block, 'A'.

Also the course ends in the first column are again of variable length. The second course end will be 423675, as the back bells are inferred as being in the same positions as the previous lead end. Similarly the sixth course end is 423756.

You have to be careful with the length of each course. It's very tempting to think that the first course has 8 leads, but after that Bob and the 8th lead, you've only got to 1256734. You need to add plain leads until you reach the required course end. In this case, 1234675 comes up at the 11th lead end.

Similarly, how long is the second course? Unless you're very familiar with the "usual" touch of Grandsire (BBPP repeated, calling the 7th in and out of the hunt three times), you'll have to write it out before trying to call it. The two Bobs shown get you to the change 1475362, which, again, doesn't match the course, so we need more plain leads; the next lead is 1437256, so we go on to 1423675, which is enough. The second course is BBPP. The third course is the same.

You have to go through the same process for the fourth course (which you will find does actually have 8 leads) and the seventh course (which is 4 leads again). The tenth course is the same as the fourth, so must have 8 leads. And then we call the whole of the A block again.

This one is like some of the those first Doubles touches, with the number at the end of the line indicating the number of leads before that call. So there's a Single at the first lead of each part, then another Single two leads after that. Then bobs after another 4 leads and so on. Each part could be written S P S P P P B P P P P B P P B. But the 3rd and 6th parts have a Single instead of the final Bob.

Do you remember this one from the Doubles examples? The lines with a blank in front of them are Bobs, but each part ends with a plain lead. Each part could be written S P B P P P B P B B P P B S P.

Stedman is often also written out numerically:

The numbers refer to sixes, so a course is 14 sixes long. The 7th is unaffected by calls at the 3rd and 8th sixes, so each course in this composition is 14 sixes long, and the 7th is unaffected throughout.

Lots of touches of Stedman use pairs of Bobs at consecutive sixes (as that means you always go back in to the front the way you were expecting). Each of these calling positions is a pair of Bobs, which leave the 7th unaffected. 'S' stands for 'Slow'; a call as you go in Slow, plus one at the following six (positions 3 and 4), 'H' stands for 'Half Leads' and is two consecutive Bobs in the middle of the Slow work (positions 5 and 6). 'L' stands for 'Last Whole Turn', i.e. two Bobs at the end of the Slow work (positions 7 and 8). 'Q' stands for 'Quick'; a call as you go in Quick, plus one at the next six (positions 12 and 13).

Note that in the second course, the calls at S and H mean that you have four Bobs in a row. And, similarly, when you call HL in the last course of parts 4 and 8 you will get four Bobs in a row.

Finally, a few examples on higher numbers, but hopefully they'll all look very familiar from what you've seen so far.

This looks very like the touches of Grandsire Triples above, specifying a named block which is used again later on. And you have to be careful about course length again, being prepared to go on past the last call given, with further plain leads until you reach the course end shown.

On even numbers of bells, Middle is position 'n-2', i.e. two places from the back. Remember on 8 it was 6ths place (i.e. when the tenor is dodging 5-6 down, becoming 6ths place bell). In Royal it is when the tenor becomes 8ths place bell (i.e. dodging 7-8 down) and in Maximus it is 9-10 down.

Note that the course ends only feature bells 2 to 6; all the other bells are unaffected by calls at Wrong (when the tenor is in 9-10 up), Middle (7-8 down) and Home (9-10 down).

Again we have 7, 8, 9 and 10 omitted from the course ends. They have all been affected during each course, but the combination of In and Fifths (Bobs for the tenor to run in and then at 5-6 up) bring them all back to the same positions in relation to each other, so the course ends all end 7890.

Each course is 22 sixes in length, except for the course with code 'a', specified below. Apart from the 'a' and 'b' courses, there are only calls at the 6th and 19th sixes of each course, which are as the 11th goes in slow and quick, respectively. The special courses are sometimes referred to as 'turning' courses, as they swap the back bells round to a different, usually musical, position, before another section where they are unaffected, while the little bells are swapped around.

Not much to learn in this one! However, I'm concious that all the examples I have given for even bell methods have been for 2nds place methods. Bristol is a 12ths place method, so the bells at the back of the row are affected by 4ths place calls. Previously only bells in 2nds, 3rds and 4ths places have been affected.

Home refers, as you would expect, to being in 12ths place at the lead end. But it refers to being in 12ths place as a result of the call; it's not called at the lead at which the tenor would have normally become 12ths place bell. Similarly, Wrong is when the tenor becomes 11ths place bell as a result of the call.

So the first call is actually right at the end of the plain course. This makes the tenor 11ths place bell, then the next call is 3 leads later, as it is expecting to become 10ths place bell, but is affected by the call, doing a dodge and becoming 12ths place bell. Each part has 14 leads.

And finally, a peal. Just 13 calls, with bells 7 to 12 all unaffected for more than 3 hours! Middle is when the tenor is in 9-10 down, Wrong is 11-12 up and Home is 11-12 down. You might just want to warn your band about the final Single (especially the 5th, who has to make 3rds). Then it comes round a couple of changes later, at the treble's snap lead. That's why the final course end is in brackets, as you never get as far as that point; it's already come round.

(NB the use of Singles like this used to be looked down on, so most early peals of Surprise Maximus were 5280 rows in length, being 10 whole courses. But when ringers found they could get to the pub at least 10 minutes earlier, by only ringing nine and a half courses, they gradually became accepted!)