General principles of conducting
I think it’s useful to realize a few principles about conducting (as opposed to bob calling).
1. You should try to learn and ring methods in ways that facilitate conducting.
2. You can conduct even when you are not.
I have a hobby horse here in that I believe there is far too much emphasis on blue line method teaching and learning these days. This does not help people conduct at all.
By way of example here, what I mean is that Plain Bob (PB) on any number of bells can be represented by the simple statement that all the bells plain hunt until the treble leads when the bell in 2nds makes seconds and all the others dodge in pairs then carry on plain hunting until the treble leads again. [PB on odd numbers obviously needs four blows behind for one bell as there’s no one left to dodge with!] It’s quite remarkable that some ringers do not realize that all the bells dodge at the same time in Plain Bob.
This facilitates ‘on the spot’ corrections by knowing what’s happening around you. Whilst this is not using coursing order (CO) it is a very important skill to develop. More of my correcting is done from this knowledge rather than from CO. Having said that, when a mistake gets ugly, CO is vital!
Another point on this is that, contrary to popular teaching practice these days, to a certain extent there is nothing wrong with learning the bells to follow. What else is conducting really? CO ultimately allows you to predict who you are going to pass next.
This is simple really and takes away some (a lot actually!) of the stress. For example next time you are ringing a QP with someone else calling, ask them for the composition and try both to follow the calling and try to apply some of the conducting techniques. Most conductors should have no objection to this.
One thing I will say that will probably surprise you, is that it is actually easy to conduct on more than 6 bells! The reason is that with more bells, more of them can be ‘fixed’ relative to each other. For instance you can ring a QP of PB8 without affecting 6,7 and 8 so they form a framework around which you can build. On six you have to affect all but one of the bells. Having said that ‘on the spot’ conducting is easier on six as you are never very far away from anyone else. Wonderful stuff isn’t it!!
Setting your sights at the correct level …
One thing to say straight away is that you shouldn’t set your sights on conducting methods by coursing order if you are concentrating on ringing the method itself. If your upper limit is Stedman, your conducting limit is probably grandsire – if your upper ringing limit was Cambridge major then conducting PB Major would be your goal.
If you can “see” doubles, that’s fine. No one really conducts doubles other than just by seeing the complete picture. On more than five, the complete picture is difficult for most people to see, hence the use of techniques such as coursing orders. There are ways of keeping numbers in your head, which take practice.
I find it difficult to say things out loud
Now saying things! This is not easy!
Anyway I assume you are happy saying Go, That’s is all, and Stand? [Aside. You should aim to say Go and Stand when there is no bell sounding i.e. at the handstroke gap – assuming that is, that you don’t ring cartwheel!
A technique that you might find useful is to ‘conduct’ a touch which doesn’t actually need ‘conducting’. By this I mean, say you are ringing PB5, at the first lead end you could say (out loud) 3 is making 2nds, 5 is dodging 34 up, 2 is dodging 34 down and 3 is 4 blows behind – similarly then for the other two lead ends. You probably won’t be able to say all of this but it may raise your confidence to speak. Then call 120 from 5 and at the first bob say 2 out, 4 in and 3 make and at the next bob, 4 out, 3 in and 2 make etc.
As a general point (and unfortunately) you may actually have to tailor what you say to the person concerned as people learn things differently. Also if you say 2 to some people they don’t know they are on 2! It’s usually best first to say their name (to attract their attention) then what the instruction is. When panic sets in it’s often quite difficult to convey information – not just a ringing issue that one!
When I call doubles, I can “see” what the other bells are doing, and know what they should be doing next (but that may not be by the correct methods!)
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a ‘correct method’ of conducting (or ringing, memorising methods etc). Whatever works for you is ok: it may be quite different to what works for me but that doesn’t matter. If you can ‘see’ what the bells are doing in Doubles then you’re already a long way towards being able to do it on higher numbers too. Some things stay the same all the way, others develop as the number of bells increases. Sometimes higher numbers are easier just because more bells are fixed. If you call 120 of Bob Doubles only 1 of the 4 working bells is fixed. It’s possible to call a quarter of Bob Major with 3 bells fixed and only 4 affected by the calls. This means that there’s a much larger fixed framework within which the working bells change round, and this makes it easier to keep a check on what’s happening.
Some dexterity in transposing and using coursing orders (and even course ends) is fairly essential for a conductor. I know its tough, but you have to persevere. I spent many hours with pen and paper, but now I can do it in my head. DNCB and Plain Bob are good examples of methods where coursing order is of real value in spotting and correcting other peoples’ mistakes. The bells stay in their coursing order throughout, as opposed to Cambridge, for example where the bells get split up below the treble. It’s probably best to learn the coursing orders for a few touches you are going to call, and try following them while you are ringing. Keep it simple!