Frequently Asked Questions
Change Ringing

Change Ringing Simplified

Cross and Stretch System

Moving Change Ringing

Change Ringing in Musical Terms

 Links to other Change Ringing Web Pages

  Subject: Change Ringing Simplified  --  Bob Butler

Change ringing can be done on any number of bells from 4 on up. The vast majority of handbell change ringing is done on 6 or 8 bells. While it doesn't have to be, it is most often rung on a major scale with the lowest note the tonic of the major scale.

What ever the number, the lowest bell is called the tenor and the highest bell is call the treble. The bells are numbered from the highest bell  (#1) to the lowest bell. In a single change each bell is rung once.

The change is rung with an even beat at a tempo of between 3 to 5 beats per second. (bell strikes not changes) Each time slot in the change is call a place. There are as many places as there are bells. They also are numbered from #1 on the first beat out to the nth. beat. Since there are both place numbers and bell numbers it can be confusing until you get it sorted out as to which set of numbers are being spoken of at any moment.

Rounds are rung from the #1 bell to the nth bell. In the ringing of rounds each bell is rung in a place with the same number as the bell number. All successful change ringing starts with rounds and finishes with rounds. In all the changes between the sets of rounds the bells are systematically moved to adjacent places such that the order which the bells ring is never repeated between the two sets of rounds.

The basic principle of change ringing is called the Plain Hunt. Our good friend the Cross and Stretch causes the bells to cycles thru exactly the same changes and in the same order as Plain Hunt. Cross and Stretch is far easier to learn and execute then the Plain Hunt in full change ringing style.

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The CROSS & STRETCH system;

1) Lay out a set of six or eight bells. e.g. C to A or C to C with the low C to the left.
2) The three or four ringers picks up a pair of bells.
3) They ring them from right to left. Any number of times you want.
4) As you ring rounds for the last time you are ready for the Cross.
5) Each ringer crosses his bells and sets them down on the table to their front.
6) The ringers release the bells, uncross their hands and pick their bells up.
7) The order of the bells from right to left will now be 21436587
8) The ringers ring the bells from right to left again. Now the Stretch.
9) The ringers stretch out and put their bells in front of their neighbor.
The two bells on the end do not get passed. They can remain in the ringer's hands. There will be a collision here.
Have the ringer passing their bell to the left be under the person passing their bell to the right.
10) The ringers release the bells and pick up the bells in front of them.
11) the order at this point is 24163857
12) the ringers ring from right to left again. And Cross,
Then Stretch. Continue with alternate Crossing and Stretching.

The 8th change should be back rounds. The bells ordered 87654321

On the 16th change the bells should come back to rounds.

There is a rolling action to this. The ringers on one end will be making their bell changes while the ringers on the other end are ringing. They should be rung with an even beat and the next change should start on the next beat without pause. (In normal change ringing where there are two different types of strokes and there is a handstroke pause. This occurs ever two changes, but don't worry about this at this time.)

Another wrote:

I have been involved in this cute little Ditty.
"Joy to the World" Starts on rounds.
So, do your Cross and Stretch in the Key that "Joy to the World" is in.
As the bells come back to round make it the first 8 notes of "Joy to the World" . Ring the entire song and at the end ring the Cross and Stretch again.


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Change Ringing in Musical Terms

Written by Sue Fautsch,  Coon Rapids, MN  (included by permission)

Suppose you want to do some change ringing on 8 bells.

If you are ringing in a tower, you need 8 ringers. Each ringer will ring one bell.
If you are ringing on handbells, you only need 4 ringers. Each ringer will hold and ring two bells.

The highest pitch bell is called the treble. The lowest is the tenor.
The ones in between are the inside bells.
Musicians refer to each bell by their musical notes. Change ringers use consecutive numbers.

You have to write some music to ring on these 8 bells. There are some rules that you have to follow:

1. Eight bells means that there will be 8 beats in every measure.

2. Every bell will ring once and only once in every measure.

3. In the first and last measures of your composition, you will ring the bells in a descending scale.

4. As you move from measure to measure, any given bell can either:

a) ring on the same beat,
b) ring one beat earlier, or
c) ring one beat later.
This rule is because of the weight and motion of ringing tower bells. Once the bell starts swinging back and forth in a full circle, you can only make slight variations in how you pull the rope. It would be impossible to stop and ring the bell in a random order.

5. No two measures can be alike (except for the measures in step 3).

6. The ringers can't read music so you have to come up with a pattern that they can memorize. Every bell will follow the same pattern but each one will have to start in a different place in the pattern because they can't all ring at the same time. For example, the pattern might be 112 measures long.

7. Many compositions will have the treble bell ring the same pattern over and over. This is different from the pattern that bells #2-8 will ring. A treble bell pattern might repeat every 16 measures.

8. The treble bell pattern will define the verses of the composition. In this example, there are 7 verses (16 x 7 = 112). There will never be a chorus because you can't repeat any measures.

Translation to change ringing vocabulary:

A measure is called a change.
The first beat of the measure is the front.
The last beat of the measure is the back.
A descending scale is called rounds.
An ascending scale is called back rounds.
The treble bell pattern is called the red line.
The other bell pattern is called the blue line.
5000 measures or changes is a peal.
1250 measures or changes is a quarter peal.
A verse is called a lead.
A false composition means that some of the measures have been repeated.

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Links to other Change Ringing Web Pages

Glen Iris Handbell Ringers - Change Ringing on Handbells

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