Calling Touches

There appears to be a common misconception that calling touches is difficult and that you have to ring a heavy bell.

In fact, the opposite is true (mostly). It means you know in advance when the Bobs will be, so you can run through them in your mind beforehand, rather than having to react quickly to someone elses's calls. And in most cases you have the option to be completely unaffected; I've certainly called quarter peals in which I've been unaffected throughout and there are lots of peals where that is the case for the conductor too.

And you will be hugely appreciated by your ringing master, who doesn't have to call the touch themselves, yet again.

The Rule of Three

In the majority of methods, only three bells are affected at a Bob.

This means that if there is another Bob later, at the same point in the method, those three bells will again be the only ones affected. And a third Bob in the same position will swap them round again. As the three bells are being affected in the same way each time, this third Bob must bring them back to their original order, so we will be back in the plain course of the method.

If you have three pieces of fruit, can you swap them around so that they've all changed places?

You should have found two ways to do it. One of them is this, where each item has moved one place to the right, bumping the orange off to the other end of the row:

That was one Bob, swapping three bells round. At the next Bob, the same thing will happen - each item of fruit will move to the right, leaving the apple to appear at the left:

And what happens at the third Bob? They shift one plate to the right again, and the banana ends up back at the left. So they are all back at their starting positions.

[The other possibility is that every item moves one plate to the left each time, but again, they get back to where they started after three moves, i.e. after three Bobs. For a little more justification of how we know these are the only possibly ways to swap all three objects around, see here.]

The most familiar application of this Rule of Three is in Plain Bob Doubles.

If I call a Bob every time I'm just about to ring 4 Blows Behind, I know I'm going to be unaffected. I have to call it at my first blow in 5ths place, which will be a backstroke. [Calling it slightly early will help too, to give people thinking time; as you're near the end of the row, you ring that much later than the bells at the front.]

The other three bells are all affected at the Bob, so I know I'll have to call three Bobs before I get back to the plain course and can call "That's All". This gives a touch containing three courses, which is 120 rows, i.e. the extent (all the possible rows) of Doubles.

In fact, this technique of calling yourself unaffected three times in the same position works for many other methods - and many longer compositions contain these "blocks" of three calls in the same position within them.

It works for other Doubles methods, like Reverse Canterbury, St Simon's and St Martin's. Again, the call is made at the start of 4 Blows Behind. In All Saints Doubles, the bell unaffected is the one making Seconds, so that's where your three calls come, called at the backstroke at your second blow in lead. For Grandsire Doubles, you are unaffected making 3rds; calling three Bobs at this point gives a touch of 90 rows. However, it is false and, when called from 4 or 5, rounds comes up before the end. But it's still a useful touch.

But the Rule of Three also works for Plain Bob Minor or St Clement's. You can call three Bobs, one each time you're in 5-6 down. Or, alternatively, three Bobs at 5-6 up. This gives three courses, which is 180 rows, which will probably take about 6 minutes to ring. The same touches work in Cambridge Surprise Minor, but this time you get 360 rows, which is probably a bit long for a practice night. But it does give a useful 600 on Cambridge, if you have three Bobs at 5-6 down, then three Bobs at 5-6 up. [Or vice versa, depending which bell you're ringing.]

For Little Bob Minor, a block of three Bobs gives 120 rows, which works nicely - again either call three Bobs unaffected in 5-6 down or three Bobs unaffected in 5-6 up. But make sure you only call at a lead end - there are two places in the plain course that you dodge 5-6 down, but only one is a calling position; the one not long after you did 3-4 up. Similarly if you're calling yourself three times at 5-6 up, that's the 5-6 up dodge after making 2nds.

On higher numbers of bells, the touch still works, but gives longer and longer touches, so is less practical.

So far, we've only looked at calling unaffected. We know that in most methods the three bells affected Run In, Run Out or Make 4ths at the Bobs. Like the fruit above, the bells affected loop through the three possible calling positions, in this order:

Some people remember the order of the calling positions using the acronym IOM (as in "Isle Of Man"), where "I" stands for running In, "O" stands for running Out and "M" stands for Making 4ths. If you Run In, the next Bob will be to Run Out. If you Run Out at one Bob, the next one call has to be to Make 4ths. Remember that this is a circle, so if you Made 4ths at one Bob, then next one will be to Run In.

You can call this from any bell, starting with any one of the three calling positions. Then just make sure you call three Bobs, following round the circle. So the three possibilities here are IOM, OMI and MIO.

The other point to make is that there is a whole course between successive calls, so if, for instance you Ran In at one call, you would have become 2nds place bell. The next call has to come a whole course later, to stop you becoming 2nds place bell again. Hence, instead of making seconds, you would Run Out.

The Power of the Pair

Singles in most methods just affect two bells.

So you don't need any fruit for this bit. One Single swaps a pair of bells over. Another Single affecting the same pair of bells will swap them back again.

Again, the easiest way to do this is to call yourself unaffected at the same position in two successive courses.

This works nicely for Stedman Doubles. One convenient place to call the Single is just after doing 4-5 down, in 3rds place, at handstroke. Note that to get a true 120, it has to be called in the same place in both courses, so either as you are about to go in slow, or as you are about to go in quick, but not both. [However, as long as you call two Singles (and no-one makes a mistake!) it should come round, just not necessarily where you would expect it to.]

Pairs of Singles are also good for Plain Bob Minor or St Clement's as they give a 120, which is a convenient length. Once again, you can call from any bell. It could be twice in 5-6 down, two Singles at 5-6 up, or two calls making Seconds (unaffected) at the Single.

In Little Bob Minor, a pair of Singles will give a touch of 80 rows. But if you call the Singles at a point early in each course, you can then add another pair of Singles in just the same way, using a different calling position later in the course. For instance, if you were ringing the 3rd, you could call two Singles when you are making Seconds, then two more when you are doing 5-6 up, to give a 120.

A Pair of Bobs

In most Minor methods, a pair of Bobs can make a very useful short touch.

But, I hear you ask, surely you need three Bobs for it to come round. Yes, you do, if you're calling in the same place unaffected each time. This touch involves making 4ths at a Bob twice in succession.

However, there is a slight caveat. Although this touch can be called from any bell, you may get a longer, false, touch calling from some bells, as you get an extra plain course sandwiching the touch. For Plain Bob, you get 72 rows (called from 4, 5 or 6). In St Clement's, you get 48 (called from 2 or 4). In Little Bob, you only get 16 rows (called from the 4). But in Cambridge you get 192 (called from any bell except the 3), in Norwich, Kent or Oxford, you get 144 (called from 2, 3 or 4).

Plain Bob Doubles

We've already seen the usual 120; three Bobs unaffected in Long 5ths, or "IOM" (In, Out and Make It).

Another useful touch, which is easy to call, is to call three Bobs, at alternate leads, giving 60 rows.

It is easiest to call this from the 4 or 5, as you Make 4ths at each Bob. You call the Bob at a backstroke, when you're in 3rds place, just about to dodge 3-4 up. Note that if you're calling from the 4, be ready for it to come round just after the last Bob.

Grandsire Doubles

Grandsire is very different in many ways, partly because most touches need both Bobs and Singles. The only touch we've mentioned so far is a false 90.

The easiest callings in Grandsire are all from the 3 or 5, which is sometimes called the "observation" or "half-hunt" bell. It isn't unaffected, but it does do the same work over and over, which helps. And that work is to repeatedly make 3rds, then double-dodge 4-5 up. To do a double-dodge 4-5 up, you need to make a call (either a Bob or a Single) every time you are about to do 4-5 down; it is called at handstroke in 4ths place on your way out, then you dodge immediately. This means that there is a call at every other lead.

If you call three Bobs (again that Rule of Three, as the other three bells swap positions relative to you), you get 60 rows.

To get a 120, you need to use Singles too. Replace one of the three Bobs with a Single and repeat. It doesn't matter which Bob you replace, so you could make the calls either BBS BBS, BSB BSB or SBB SBB. [In each case, these are just the calls; there's a plain lead between each of them, as you make 3rds]. A good way to remember when to call the Singles is to watch who you are doing the double-dodges with. You will find that you are double-dodging with the same bell at both Singles. So see who is up in 5ths place as you head up to the back; if it's that bell, call a Single instead of a Bob.

Minor Ups and Downs

The most common touch of Minor is two courses in length, using four Bobs, which also forms the basis for longer touches, including the extent (720).

Again, you are unaffected, this time calling a Bob every time you're dodging in 5-6, both 5-6 down and 5-6 up. In each position, the call is made at a backstroke, immediately before the dodge. At 5-6 down, this means calling at your second blow behind. At 5-6 up, the call is made in 5ths place on the way up. Make sure the calls are prompt, as you're at the back of the row, to give the affected bells enough warning time.

This will work for any method where 2nds is made at the lead end, for instance Plain Bob, Little Bob, St Clement's and Cambridge.

Depending on which method you are ringing and which bell, the order you encounter the calling positions will vary, sometimes with calls made at consecutive leads. And the same warning for Little Bob given above still applies - make sure you know which 5-6 up and which 5-6 down are the ones at the lead ends, as those are the ones at which to call Bobs.

This touch is often referred to as "Wrong, Home, Wrong, Home", as Wrong refers to the 5-6 up position and Home refers to the 5-6 down position. However, if you're not ringing the tenor, it's quite possible that the Home will in fact be the first calling position you encounter (for instance when ringing the 5). But, once again, you can call this touch from any bell.

For a bit of variety, this touch also works with all the calls as Singles, instead of Bobs.


As this is intended to be a simple guide, this is probably the point at which to stop. (Although if you have an questions about other touches or methods, please do ask.)

However, it's worth following up on some of what Jonathan Agg said in his useful webinar on Short Practice Night Touches, that we can use the principles outlined above to construct longer touches. Doubling the length of a touch with a pair of Singles is a common ploy. Embedding a pair of Singles inside another touch can add an extra course, while including a block of three Bobs will add two extra courses. Can you see how this touch of Plain Bob Minor is constructed? If you didn't read the articles on Reading Touches, you will need to know that "W" stands for Wrong (i.e. 5-6 up), "F" stands for Making Fourths and "H" stands for Home (a call at 5-6 down).

The first two calls are a pair of Singles, so we know that they return the bells to the plain course. And in fact all the Singles in this touch come in pairs, so have no overall effect on the progress of the touch. beyond adding an extra course each time. So, ignoring them, the structure of the touch is just this:

Once again, look at the first two calls - we have Made Fourths twice, whcih we saw above also brings us back to the plain course. The pairs of Bobs have cancelled each other out, so we reach the same point as we would have done had they not been included at all. And, once again, this happens in each of the three parts. If we take out these pairs of Bobs at Fourths, we are left with:

And that's just a set of three Bobs, which we know brings us back to rounds.

So the original 576 is a block of three Bobs, with three pairs of Bobs at Fourths embedded within it. Then an pair of Singles is inserted before each of the calls at Fourths, adding an extra course each time.

Finally, these touches and a few others appear on this page on the District Website.