Thomas A. Alspaugh
Call Changes

Under construction.

Call Changes are a way for a band that includes inexperienced ringers to ring something other than rounds, and a way for any band to ring irregular sequences of rows.

The conductor calls out changes one by one and the band acts on them. Each call causes two bells to swap places at the next handstroke. The calls are of the form A to B, where A and B are bells; for example, 4 to 2. The result of the call is that A will follow B (e.g. 4 will follow 2) starting at the next handstroke.

The conductor calls out each change at a handstroke, and the change is acted upon at the next handstroke, so that everyone has time to get set and make it happen. Ideally the call is made during the handstroke pause so everyone can hear it clearly:

If a call is made at any other time, the band is likely to become confused: which handstroke does the call take place on? If you are the conductor, make everyone's life a little simpler by calling during the handstroke pause.

The same motions:
called up 2 to 3 or
called down 3 to 1

There are two conventions for Call Changes. In both conventions, the call A to B means A will follow B.

  1. In calling up, the bells that swap are A and B, the bells named in the call. Before the call, they were in the sequence A-B. After the call, they will be in the sequence B-A.
  2. In calling down, the bells that swap are A and a third bell C not named in the call. Before the call, they were in the sequence B-C-A. After the call, they will be in the sequence B-A-C. B doesn't move.

In calling down, there are also calls of the form A to lead for the case where C is leading off of B rather than following B.

A to B Calling Up Calling Down
A moves: up from nths to (n+1)ths down from (n+1)ths to nths
B moves: down (n+1)ths to nths (B doesn't move)
C moves: (C doesn't move) up from nths to (n+1)ths

The band begins by ringing rounds. At each call, a pair of bells in adjacent places swaps places. The conductor (the person making the calls) can wait as long as needed between calls, so the band can settle down into even striking before moving on to the next change. Calls are made only at a handstroke, and take effect at the next handstroke. This gives the ringers time to make the change happen; the affected ringers will need to adjust the next backstroke (pulling a little harder or a little easier) to strike the next handstroke in the new position. If the band is experienced, the conductor can make a call at each handstroke, or even two or more calls at a single handstroke, but that requires much more from the ringers (and the conductor). Often the conductor continues calling until the band is back into rounds, though this isn't necessary.

When two bells swap places, at least five bells are involved to some degree. Let's say that four bells D E F G and H are ringing in the sequence DEFGH, and E and F are to swap places producing DFEGH. Here's why all five are involved, even though only two move:

  1. E has to know which way to move (out) and which bell to follow (was D, will be F).
  2. F has to know which way to move (in) and which bell to follow (was E, will be D).
  3. G has to know which bell to follow (was F, now E).
  4. H has to be keeping track of its two-ahead bell (was F, now E), in case the next call swaps G and H, placing H following E.
  5. D doesn't have to do or know anything different, but E and F have to know something about D.

Perhaps the most rational way to make a call would be to call out DFEG, but who said ringers have to be rational? It's not like change ringing is a French custom.

The table below summarizes what's happening for the five bells DEFGH.

Before D E F G H
After D F E G H
Role Before swappers Swap out Swap in After a new bell 2‑after a new bell
Motion (None) Move 1 out Move 1 in (None) (None)
Up call
E to F
Not mentioned,
does nothing
Called, so
moves out
(moves in)
After called‑to

after called
2‑after called‑to

2‑after called
Down call
F to D
Called‑to, but
does nothing
Other bell
(moves out)
Called, so
moves in
After called

after other bell
2‑after called

2‑after other bell

The table doesn't mention C, the bell that D is after (there isn't room). C does nothing, but after the swap F will be 2-after C. F has to figure out who C is in order to be prepared in case the next call swaps D and F. (The usual way for F to figure this out is to look at D to see which bell D is looking at, i.e. following, then confirm either by listening or watching their ropes.)

The table doesn't indicate who is leading, in part because everything's the same no matter who is leading. The only constraint is that the at-the-back/leading boundary can't be the thick line between E and F; the bell at the back and the bell at the front don't swap (it would require everyone except the bell at the back to hold up for a stroke, and is not done). Let's consider the cases of who's leading:

G is leading
E and F are swapping at the back.

G was leading off of F, and will be leading off of E.

H was 2-after F (keeping in mind that F was at the back), and will be 2-after E.

H is leading, G's at the back
H leads off of G.

G was following F, and will be following E.

H was 2-after F, and will be 2-after E.

D is leading
F will have to figure out who D is after (leading off), in order to be prepared for a call in which D and F swap.
E then F is leading, D is at the back
If D is at the back, the down call is conventionally F to lead rather than F to D.

F, being a canny ringer, was keeping track of who was 2-ahead (D), and so was ready to lead off of D after the call.

For more details, see:

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