Calling Call Changes

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Being able to call call changes is a useful skill to have; even if you wouldn't have to need to do so on a regular basis. Firstly, it makes ringing call changes much easier because you become familiar with the standard sequences and maneouvers involved. Secondly, you never know when being able to call a touch of call changes might come in useful if the usual caller is away. Personally, if I'm running a practice I usually try and get as many people to call a touch as possible so that it keeps everyone awake!

Contents

The Rules

There's only really one rule to calling call changes: a bell can only move one position at a time. When the conductor calls a change, they are telling a particular bell to follow another; in other words, that the first bell should hold up and follow the second. For example if the conductor calls "3 to 4" when the band are ringing rounds on six, the call results in swapping bells 3 and 4:

1 2 3 4 5 6
     x
1 2 4 3 5 6

It would not be a "legal" call to say "3 to 5" from rounds because it would require the 5th to jump two places:

1 2 3 4 5 6
      x
1 2 5 3 4 6

The reason this is not done is because of the difficulty in altering the speed of the bell by that much; this is especially the case on larger bells.

General Approach

The usual approach to calling call changes is to have a particular musical sequence in your head, say Queens (135246), and alter the sequence of bells one-by-one to reach it. So the conductor needs to come up with a strategy (or memorise one) for how to get from the starting change to the desired one.

For example, to get from rounds on six to Queens (135246) the following path might be taken:

1 2 3 4 5 6
   x        "2 to 3"
1 3 2 4 5 6
       x    "4 to 5"
1 3 2 5 4 6
     x      "2 to 5"
1 3 5 2 4 6

In this example, the conductor has seen that first he must bring the 3rd forward to ring after the treble which means the 2nd and 3rd must swap: so the call is "2 to 3". That makes the first two bells correct - 1 3 - and so the next bell to move would be the 5th. This has to move forward two places to ring after the 3rd. This requires two separate calls (because each bell can only move position by one each time): "4 to 5" and "2 to 5".

To return to rounds, the conductor can employ a similar strategy of sorting the order out from the front:

1 3 5 2 4 6
     x      "5 to 2"
1 3 2 5 4 6
   x        "3 to 2"
1 2 3 5 4 6
       x    "5 to 4"
1 2 3 4 5 6

Notice that each of these calls is just the reverse of one of the original calls. A similar strategy to get back to rounds is to simply call the original changes in exactly the reverse order.

Longer Touches

The above set of 6 calls takes the band from Rounds to Queens and back. Which is all very well, but doesn't take very long: not very good on its own for service ringing!

Therefore conductors often extend the touch by calling each bell to the back in turn (ignoring the tenor). For example, from Queens the conductor first calls the treble to the back, one bell at a time:

1 3 5 2 4 6
 x          "1 to 3"
3 1 5 2 4 6
   x        "1 to 5"
3 5 1 2 4 6
     x      "1 to 2"
3 5 2 1 4 6
       x    "1 to 4"
3 5 2 4 1 6

The treble is now at the back and the 3rd is leading.

Next, the 3rd is called to the back:

3 5 2 4 1 6
 x          "3 to 5"
5 3 2 4 1 6
   x        "3 to 2"
5 2 3 4 1 6
     x      "3 to 4"
5 2 4 3 1 6
       x    "3 to 1"
5 2 4 1 3 6

Next, the 5th is called to the back, then the 2nd and then the 4th, bringing the order back to Queens.

Musical Changes

In the above examples, we have discussed getting in to and out of Queens. This is very popular change for call changes as it sounds quite musical. However there are many other changes that are named and provide a nice change!

"Devon's" or "60 on 3rds"

A further embellishment on calling to Queens and back is known as "Devon's" or "60 on 3rds". This is a technique used to produce 60 different changes by moving (or hunting) the treble from front to back (or vice versa) between each call. So the conductor will first call the bells into Queens and then call the treble, one blow at a time, to the back. Next, instead of calling the 3rd all the way to the back straightaway, it is only moved one place (3 to 5) and the treble is called down to the front. After it gets to the front, the 3rd is call back another place and the treble is called to the back. This continues until all the bells have been called to the back and Queens is brought up - 60 changes later.

Because of the number of changes the trick is to keep the calls coming regularly; every three whole pulls is a good pace. It can seem like a bit of a challenge to keep up but you'll probably find that your fellow ringers make fewer mistakes because there's less time to drift off! Another tip is that around half way through, the change 123546 comes up: this allows you to easily bring it round if time is running short.

I have to admit a bias here as I was brought up in Devon, but I think a well-struck touch of Devon's is one of the most satisfying and pleasant things in bell ringing.


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