This post is for those who are new(ish) to ringing. I’m assuming that you have got as far as at least attempting Plain Hunt and you are wishing to move on from there. In a music analogy, you have learnt to play a scale, and you want to learn a tune.
In many towers, you aren’t really told about the progression through the stages. You are loyal to your tower and are grateful for the opportunities that the tower captain and band can offer you. This dutiful approach no longer fits in with modern expectations. Most ringers want and need to make rapid progression: this will mean that you must study away from the tower so that you can make the most of the limited opportunities that present themselves (or that you can make for yourself).
Fortunately there are many good books on the subject and here I will discuss the books that I personally find most useful. I would start by recommending Steve Coleman’s ‘Ringing Companion’ series of books. These are written in very modest, human language, recognising the worries that confront all ringers. Some people might find the style a bit too chatty, but make no mistake, he understands, confronts and advises on overcoming the difficulties that all ringers face. He is clearly a wise and clever man. The only downside is that his books are meant for learning, and are not so handy as a quick reference guide.
You will need that when in the tower, and a lot of people find the ‘Ringing Circles’ book useful for that. It has the blue line for many methods that are regarded as the bread-and-butter of ringing, and which offer a stepping-stone to more advanced methods. But it only has a minimum of explanation and no real advice on how to overcome difficulties. In other words, you need someone to explain it to you first.
‘The Ringers Handbook’ explains in considerable detail how to ring the ‘standard methods’ of Plain Bob, Grandsire, Stedman and Kent Treble Bob. I learnt these methods from this book and I would still recommend it, even though its language seemed old-fashioned to me fifty years ago. The main problem is that it doesn’t deal with the difficulties that learners encounter, especially developing ‘ropesight’.
Ropesight is the ability to see (a) the order in which the ropes are falling; and (b) your own position within this order. You can ring the very basic methods of plain hunt and perhaps Plain Bob Doubles or maybe Grandsire Doubles without ropesight, but once you get into touches with Bobs or Singles, you will be completely lost at sea.
‘Ringing Circles’ does contain simple methods useful for developing ropesight, but doesn’t explain what they are for: your tutor has to do that.
The ‘Ringing World Diary’ is a diary with well over 100 pages of methods, touches and helpful advice. Every year, they try to add something new – such as more methods or new ideas for learning progression. However, it contains very little explanation and I, as a long-established ringer, find some of it rather inaccessible. Nevertheless, it is very handy for reminding yourself of the blue line of a method that you haven’t rung for a long time or indeed to suggest new methods to try. However, I find it almost useless for looking up touches to call immediately as they are set out in such a compressed notation that it takes time to unravel them into something callable – unless of course you are a very experienced conductor who wants a quick reminder.
If it is just the ‘blue line’ that you want, then there are a number of smartphone apps which have a huge library of methods. Two of them are ‘Methodology’ and ‘Iagrams’. For myself, I find these hard to read and cumbersome to learn from, although that may be down to my less than youthful brain. Certainly they do not have any explanation and I would not recommend them to new ringers.
There are dozens of other good books, but armed with the first few mentioned and a good tutor, you will be off to an excellent start. You will need to read, re-read, practice and practice again. Anyone who things that ringing is easy is either Einstein or deluding themselves!