Thomas A. Alspaugh
Plain Bob

You don't need to understand all this to start to ring Plain Bob. Everyone learns in their own way; for some learners, it is easier to get an overview first to see how everything fits together, then dive into the details. If you are such a learner, this page is for you. Don't feel like you have to understand the details on this page; just see if you can pick up the way things are organized for Plain Bob, so you'll be ready with a framework into which you fit the details for Plain Bob Doubles or whichever number of bells your tower starts Plain Bob learners on.

Overview

Name Number
Singles 3
Minimus 4
Doubles 5
Minor 6
Triples 7
Major 8
Caters 9
Maximus 10
Cinques 11
Royal 12

Plain Bob is a family of methods that are relatively simple, often the first methods new ringers learn after they can Plain Hunt. The treble plain hunts, while the other bells (called the working bells) all ring the same pattern though they start at different points in the pattern; thus we say Plain Bob is a method rather than a principle such as Plain Hunt, in which all bells ring the same pattern. As in Plain Hunt (and all ringing), at each stroke, each bell either stays in the same place or exchanges places with a bell next to it; unlike in Plain Hunt, a bell can stay in the same place in 2nds as well as when it is in leads or at the back.

Whereas for Plain Hunt the number of bells is often given as a number, for Plain Bob and other methods the number of bells is given by the traditional names listed in the table at right. Thus Plain Bob on 4 bells (including the treble) is always spoken of as Plain Bob Minimus. This page will occasionally refer to Plain Bob on N where the number N is particularly important, as in the next paragraph.

Where the names come from

Name Pairs Total
Singles 1 1+2×1 = 3
Doubles 2 1+2×2 = 5
Triples 3 1+2×3 = 7
Caters 4 1+2×4 = 9
Cinques 5 1+2×5 = 11

The odd-numbered names come from the number of pairs of bells that can exchange places, besides the treble. Caters and Cinques are anglicized versions of French: Caters means fours (French quatre four) and Cinques (pronounced sinks in English) means fives (French cinque five).

Name In Latin Number
Minimus smallest 4
Minor small 6
Major big 8
Maximus biggest 10

The even-numbered names are mostly from Latin. They don't signify numbers in Latin, but are at least ordered from smallest to biggest. Royal (12 bells) is not Latin, of course; presumably for an English ringer Royal would signify something bigger than biggest.

The Work

For Plain Bob on N bells, that is, one bell (the treble) hunting and (N-1) working bells, the treble returns to leads every N pulls (i.e. 2N strokes). The sequence of N pulls is called a lead.

The working bells follow a more complex pattern, in which they take either

The extra pull (two extra strokes) and the pull (two strokes) in 2nds of Make 2nds occur at each lead end, the pull (two strokes) during which the treble is in leads. See the diagrams at right for a visual representation of what each bell is doing. The dark bars in the diagrams mark the lead end backstroke (see below).

Each working bell's work is one of the following:

  1. Dodges, in which two bells change places then go back again. Examples are Dodge 3‑4 Up and Dodge 3‑4 Down.

    A dodge can occur between 3rds and 4ths, 5ths and 6ths, 7ths and 8ths, and so forth, but between no other places; there is no dodging between leads and 2nds, for example, or between 2nds and 3ths, 4ths and 5ths, etc.

    Of the two bells that are exchanging places, one interrupted its hunting out to the back to dodge, and is said to be dodging up, while the other interrupted its hunting in to the front to dodge, and is said to be dodging down.

  2. (Only if N is odd) Long Nths, in which a bell strikes two extra blows at the back (in Nths). Examples are Long 3rds in Singles and Long 5ths in Doubles.
  3. Make 2nds in which a bell strikes two blows in 2nds.

(Strictly speaking, the lead end is the handstroke row in which the treble leads — it is sometimes called lead end handstroke for emphasis — and the next row, the backstroke row in which the treble leads, is the lead head. However, in ordinary usage lead end is used to refer to both strokes, and the lead head may be called the lead end backstroke.)

Each Lead Moves Each Working Bell to a Different Place

Recall that each sequence of N pulls in which the treble hunts out to the back and back in to leads is called a lead. The treble is in leads at each lead end backstroke and returns to leads for each lead end backstroke. But this is true for no other bell.

Each lead takes each working bell from an initial position at a lead end backstroke and puts it in a different position at the next lead end backstroke.

For Plain Bob (and most other methods), (N-1) leads brings all the bells back to their original places (unless the conductor has made calls such as Bob or Single).

You can see this in operation in the diagrams in the figure below. For example, in Plain Bob Singles, a lead takes the bell in 2nds, following the blue line, to 3rds. Toward the end of the lead it starts to do Long 3rds. In the next lead, it will finish Long 3rds; this lead takes the bell, starting now from 3rds, along the green line to 2nds. Toward the end of this lead, it starts to Make 2nds. The two leads in combination take the bell from 2nds back to 2nds. You can trace a similar (but longer) path for each working bell in Minimus, Doubles, Minor, and Triples.

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Singles (3)
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Minimus (4)
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Doubles (5)
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Minor (6)
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Triples (7)

A lead of Plain Bob Singles, Minimus, Doubles, Minor, and Triples.

This gives the coursing order for each method. The coursing order is identical to that for Plain Hunt on the same number of bells, except that it does not include the treble (1). The same mnemonic may be used for it (evens course up, odds course down).

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Coursing order for Singles, Minimus, Doubles, Minor, and Triples

The Sequence of Work

The coursing order organizes the work each bell does, based on that bell's place at the lead end backstroke. Many ringers think of each piece of work as lasting 4 strokes, from the backstroke before the treble arrives at leads through the handstroke in which the treble leaves leads. Thus for example in Plain Bob Doubles, the four blows of Long 5ths continue one stroke into the next lead, and each dodge is completed by continuing in the original direction at the handstroke of the next lead.

Plain Bob Singles
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Long 3rds 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds
Plain Bob Minimus
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Dodge 3‑4 Down 4ths
4ths Dodge 3‑4 Up 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds
Plain Bob Doubles
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Dodge 3‑4 Down 4ths
4ths Long 5ths 5ths
5ths Dodge 3‑4 Up 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds
Plain Bob Minor
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Dodge 3‑4 Down 4ths
4ths Dodge 5‑6 Down 6ths
6ths Dodge 5‑6 Up 5ths
5ths Dodge 3‑4 Up 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds
Plain Bob Triples
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Dodge 3‑4 Down 4ths
4ths Dodge 5‑6 Down 6ths
6ths Long 7ths 7ths
7ths Dodge 5‑6 Up 5ths
5rds Dodge 3‑4 Up 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds
Plain Bob Major
Place
before
Work Place
after
2nds Dodge 3‑4 Down 4ths
4ths Dodge 5‑6 Down 6ths
6ths Dodge 7‑8 Down 8ths
8ths Dodge 7‑8 Up 7ths
7ths Dodge 5‑6 Up 5ths
5ths Dodge 3‑4 Up 3rds
3rds Make 2nds 2nds

Every odd-numbered Plain Bob has a Long Nths at the back. Every odd-numbered Plain Bob above Singles adds a pair of dodges in (N-2)-(N-1) to the work of the one above it, and replaces Long (N-2)ths with Long Nths. The new dodges and Long Nths are inserted in place of Long (N-2)ths in the sequence of work. As a result the sequence consists of the down dodges, from lowest to highest in sequence, followed by Long Nths, then the up dodges, from highest to lowest in sequence, then finally Make 2nds.

Every even-numbered Plain Bob adds a pair of dodges in (N-1)-N to the work of the one above it. The new dodges are inserted between the highest dodges in the previous even-numbered level of Plain Bob. As a result the sequence consists of the down dodges, from lowest to highest in sequence, followed by the up dodges, from highest to lowest in sequence, then finally Make 2nds.

Passing the Treble

Because the treble hunts out and in in a constant cycle of N pulls (2N strokes) while the working bells go out and in in a cycle of N+1 pulls, the treble is always gaining on the working bells and the inside ringers (those who are ringing working bells) can use where they pass the treble to help them keep track of where they are.

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By convention, a bell is said to pass the treble in m-n up when it is hunting out and the treble is hunting in, and it is in mths when the treble is in nths, then in nths with the treble in mths. (For me what has proved useful is the second half of this, namely when I am hunting out and ring over the treble when I'm in nths.)

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By convention, a bell is said to pass the treble in m-n down when it is hunting in and the treble is hunting out, and it is in nths when the treble is in mths, then in mths with the treble in nths. (For me what has proved useful is the first half of this, namely when I am hunting in and ring over the treble when I'm in nths.)

Keeping All This in One's Head

Hah. You don't, it's too much. Instead, everyone who is successful at Plain Bob appears to learn just enough stuff to make it all work; when they get into trouble, they scratch their heads, take advice from senior ringers, and memorize just enough more to prevent that problem from happening again. Eventually ringers seem to absorb the rhythm and the sounds of the method, and no longer have to think about all these facts unless something out of the ordinary happens.

Calls

Once you master ringing a plain course of Plain Bob (a sequence of leads without any calls), you can start ringing touches (a sequence of leads during which the conductor calls Bob and/or Single from time to time). You do not need to worry about this until you have mastered plain courses and your teacher takes you aside and starts helping you learn to ring touches. However, here's what goes on with calls in case you are interested.

In Plain Bob, the conductor makes calls only at the backstroke before the lead end, and then some of the ringers do something different at the lead end backstroke, one full pull (two strokes) after the call was made. There are only two possibilities for Plain Bob:

  1. (You need Firefox or another modern browser
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    Bob:
    1. The bell that was going to Make 2nds runs out to the back instead;
    2. The bell that was going to Dodge 3‑4 Down runs in to leads instead; and
    3. The bell that was going to Dodge 3‑4 Up makes the bob by ringing two blows in 4ths then running back in to leads.
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    Single:
    1. (The bell that was going to Make 2nds does so.)
    2. The bell that was going to Dodge 3‑4 Down strikes two blows in 3rds then runs out to the back; and
    3. The bell that was going to Dodge 3‑4 Up makes the bob by ringing two blows in 4ths then running back in to leads.

Why have calls? The reason is that in Plain Bob Doubles (5 bells), for example, a plain course of 4 leads 10 strokes long brings all the bells back into rounds, after having rung 40 different permutations of the 5 bells. But there are 5! = 5×4×3×2×1 = 120 different permutations of 5 bells, 80 of which don't occur in a plain course. Calls are a way of shifting the bells so that all the permutations can be reached from rounds.

123
1213
2231
3321
4312
5132
6132
7312
8321
9231
10213
11123
12123
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Singles

There are no calls in Plain Bob Singles (3 bells) because there aren't enough bells for anyone to normally ring Dodge 3‑4 Down or Dodge 3‑4 Up and do something different for a call. Also, a plain course of 2 leads of 6 strokes rings 12 rows, and there are only 3! = 3×2×1 = 6 permutations of three bells, so a plain course covers all the permutations anyway (twice, in a palindrome; see table at right).

Plain Bob Minimus has enough bells for a Bob or Single but no one ever calls them. A plain course of Plain Bob Minimus (4 bells) is 3 leads of 8 rows each or 24 different permutations, and there are only 4! = 4×3×2×1 = 24 permutations of four bells anyway, so there is no need to make a call in order to cover all of them. They are already covered in a plain course. Singles aren't appropriate in any case for Minimus because, as you can work out for yourself, a single would result in two identical permutations in sequence at the lead end. A Bob can be called; if you work it out you'll see that a Plain Bob Minimus lead in which a bob is called is the same as a lead of Plain Hunt on Four.

Plain Bob Doubles (5 bells) is the lowest number of bells for which calls are needed to cover all the permutations. You could call either Bobs or Singles, but all the permutations are reachable with Bobs only so singles aren't called.

Plain Bob Minor (6 bells) is the lowest number of bells for which both Bobs and Singles are needed to get to all the permutations.

And so forth!


Plain Bob Minimus
Plain Bob Doubles
Plain Bob Minor

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Plain Bob Singles

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Plain Bob Minimus

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Plain Bob Doubles

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Plain Bob Minor

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Plain Bob
Minimus

1234
12143
22413
34231
44321
53412
63142
71324
81342

Plain Bob
Triples

1234567
12143657
22416375
34261735
44627153
56472513
66745231
77654321
87563412
95736142
105371624
113517264
123152746
131325476
141352746