23rd February 2016

Conduct 5040 FAQ – Starting to use coursing orders


Getting started – calling simple touch of Bob Minor with coursing orders

I think what we are going to do first is focus on your base touch of WHWH in Plain Bob Minor. Great touch to start with – probably the most used ‘utility touch’ of all time. If you know about coursing orders you have probably learned how the basic calls affect the coursing order and then how to do the transpositions. I think that is covered by Coleman, but it is explained far better in the chapters of Chris Mew’s books.

In advance of calling the touch, you should be confident that you can transpose the coursing orders at the calls in your head as follows

W 32546
H 35426
W 54326
H 52346

Practice doing those transpositions on paper, but more importantly, in your head. You’ll get to know them and that is not a problem, but a help.

Don’t try and use the coursing orders yet because that is crossing too many bridges at once. I want you to be able to transpose the coursing orders in your head, and see then when you are ringing. By see them I mean see that you are passing bells in the coursing order. Or seeing that bells are hunting down to the front in the coursing order. That is really important. Seeing the coursing order is the first step.

There is no doubt that coursing orders are easiest to see if you are not one of the working bells. If you can ring the tenor to the touch, not only is it slightly easier to know when the Bobs come, but it is easier to see the coursing order because you pass all the bells that have changed order and you aren’t one of them. This is I think why there are far fewer women conductors than men – women get less chance to ring the tenor (or are less physically able to) and hence don’t benefit from the entry level of conducting which is to call from the tenor and see the coursing order. Someone who does not ring the tenor has to start further up the learning curve. Just a theory of mine!

How do I keep a string of five numbers in my head?

When you say you can’t keep a string of numbers in your head it is only a matter of degree isn’t it – can you do three numbers for instance? I keep them in my head by constant repetition and reinforcement. I have not found any conductors who have particular techniques for remembering strings of numbers. I suppose part of the secret is that as you grow in knowledge you realise that the strings of numbers are not random, and they become familiar.

When you start off in calling using coursing orders, if you call a touch that is just three Homes, then instead of having to remember the whole coursing order, 53246 52436 54326 53246, all you really need to remember is the middle three numbers – the ones that change. Then when you move up to calling Wrong Home Wrong Home you are manipulating a string of four numbers because the 6th is not affected.

When I am conducting I am saying the coursing order to myself almost constantly, and reinforcing it and checking it whenever I am passing other bells in coursing order. I don’t let myself forget it.

You don’t have to remember a five-figure sequence in isolation, and some are easier than others. Most conductors find that the in-course ones are more familiar than the out-of-course ones, so use bobs only compositions to start with, if possible. Create mnemonics – someone called any 364 sequence a Hutton and a 365 sequence a Sobers after their batting totals in certain Test matches!

In terms of struggling to transpose and hold the numbers in your head, doing homework in advance does partly help with this. If you regularly call a particular touch, e.g. WHWH, you get to know what the coursing orders are anyway, and the transposition becomes easier. If you are calling something longer, it is wise to go through the COs on paper in advance, and not exactly learn them, but be aware of them all. I would always go through a composition in my head many times before starting the quarter or peal, doing the transpositions of the COs in my head so that I know I can do them. Some of them will stick, especially the memorable ones. When I write out a composition that I am learning, I write it out by the coursing orders.

Being able to hold the CO in your head at the same time as ringing needs practice, but you get that practice my doing it all the time, whether you are calling the touch or not. You don’t leave working out the CO until someone goes wrong – you have it in the front of your mind all the time. When I am conducting I reinforce my knowledge of the CO virtually every blow as I pass other bells in CO, unless I know the ringing is particularly safe.

Also sometimes if you are not sure you have quite transposed right, but the ringing hasn’t gone wrong, pick up the CO from the order you pass the bells just to check it.

By far the most useful use of the CO that you are not doing is using it to see what people do at calls. I wouldn’t waste too much effort on the lead ends point compared with what happens at calls. Let me tell you what goes through my head as I am coming up to a call.

Example. CO is 24653 and we are coming up to a bob at middle.
I will say the CO over and over to myself a few times just so I am sure it is right in the memory and then I ‘park’ 2 and 4, so I remember the new CO will start with 24.
Then I focus on 653 and turn them into 536 (irrespective of method).
Then you apply the standard formula of Out In Make. So I know 5 will run out at the bob, 3 will run in at the bob, and 6 will make the bob. That really is worth knowing because those bells are the three most likely to go wrong.
As I put in the call, I watch 5 run out, 3 run in and 6 make the bob just to be sure they’ve done it.
If one of them does go wrong in the next lead, you may be able to remember what they did at the bob.
Then I pick up the CO order again by attaching my new 536 to the 24 = 24536.

I think that might be enough for now. Only to say that apply the CO to harder methods isn’t easy – there is no simple trick I am going to tell you. But there are things to look for.

See if this makes sense and then try applying it a bit, especially seeing how Bobs work.

More on learning to transpose coursing orders in your head

I think the next steps must be for you practice transposing Coursing Orders (COs) and using them as you ring – even if you are not conducting. The reason I mention both of these is that there is little point knowing the CO unless you can do something with it! But at the same time you have to able to transpose them in your head and (importantly) remember the current one when the proverbial hits the fan!

You can transpose them in your head as you walk or cycle to work for example. This is actually quite hard to start with, but is a very necessary skill. One point on that while I think of it, for most of us, in course COs are much easier to handle than out of course ones. In course (or positive) COs are the ones you can have without calling singles. Out of course (or negative) COs are obviously the opposite. If we are talking about the usual situation of only moving 2 to 6 then there are 60 of each. Little test… Do you know why?

Similarly when you next ring a long touch or QP of PB ask whoever’s calling it for the comp beforehand, write out all the COs then try to follow them through the touch. If you forget what it is at any point, you should then try to pick it up from the ringing. Another vital skill to develop! You could of course jump in and try to do this while you are calling too but it might be more sensible to split the job.

I prefer to write COs in separate columns rather than all underneath one another. That is have columns for W B (if used) M H and put the new CO where it appears. That’s the way it’s done in On Conducting I think. Writing them out is useful practice for transposition too, so do both.

As you do this they start to become familiar.

I think that I need to learn a lot about coursing orders but am concerned that I will forget to put in a bob or go wrong if I try and pay attention to them. Coursing orders appear formidable and not easy to see but I expect this improves with practice.

You are right that coursing orders improve with practice but I will put out of your mind that coursing orders are going to cause you to forget anything else. This is because they are also linked to learning and calling the composition. To put it into context I called a peal of Bristol on Sunday where I could learn the composition in about five minutes, but I spent several hours practising the transposition of the coursing orders to such an extent that I knew what all the calls were doing and knew what coursing orders to expect. I didn’t choose an easy composition because the more music there is, the more obvious it is what the calls are going to do, and the more obvious that is the easier they are to remember! When you understand coursing orders you start to understand composition, and if you know what a call is going to do to the coursing order it is a help not a hindrance.

How about some priorities? For instance, if you can’t follow the whole coursing order, at least know the two bells each side of you. Then recognise where you meet them: in Plain Bob, obviously at the front and back, but in Cambridge Minor you can dodge with them in 3-4 and they will also run through when making places. Where are mistakes made in Plain Bob Minor? Mostly missed dodges at the lead-end – so try to concentrate on spotting that. Are there weak people who need close attention? Organise the band so you are coursing them, or they have someone strong on each side.

If you have any tips on how to retain the coursing order whilst all around you appears to be going hay wire I would appreciate it.

It can be hard to keep coursing orders (CO’s) in your head when there’s other things to be doing, like keeping people right. My advice is not to aim too high – budding conductors often think they SHOULD be able to do everything buts its quite rare! In any case remember that if the ringing needs that much sorting out, its better to stop!

The main thing is practice which you can do outside ringing – I used to transpose coursing orders whenever I had a spare moment, on the train, in the bath, walking along, whatever. Take a simple composition, bobs only, like half of Pritchard’s’ Bob Major (WB3H, WB3H, W2H, W3H repeated) and see if your mental transpositions bring it round. Just doing the mental tasks involved will improve your ability to remember the CO.


One thing that would be useful in these mental exercises would be a set of touches which have the coursing orders with them, so that you can check accuracy as you go along. Currently my only way of knowing is if it comes round at the end.

As far as I know there are not any collections of compositions with full COs listed nor indeed any software that does.

I suggest you write out the diary touches and quarters/peals with COs but keep them in a notebook so you can review them again.

What I do before calling a peal is to write out all the COs under the respective columns (say W B M H for PB8 – I agree is the very best method to start with) and then ‘walk through’ the whole peal in my head. Especially with PB8 and the at least 45 and often as many as 60 COs that you get in a peal, inevitably I lose track! With a peal of say Y10 there are many fewer (<20 usually) and it’s less of a problem. Of course when you’re actually ringing you can pick it up again if you lose track. As long, of course, as no one goes wrong at the same time!

If you haven’t done this yet, do 3W then 5B then 3M then 3H in your head. This is a false touch of PB8 (do you know why it’s false?) but after each group of 3 (5 for Befores) it comes back to the plain coursing order

Applying “place bell” concept to effect of calls.

Many people learn what to do at a call by wrote, thus for Bob Doubles – run out, run in or make the bob. In the vast majority of methods with 2nds place made over the treble the effect of calls is the same. Thus a Bob called in Plain Bob Doubles has the SAME effect as one on Yorkshire Major or Cambridge Maximus.

The fact that these are differing methods doesn’t matter because they all employ calls affecting the front three working bells. So for example one could ring the 2nd bell to Cambridge Maximus and call yourself to “run out, make 4ths and run in” the same way as in Bob Doubles but the resulting three courses would be 1,584 changes long!

The bells affected by the calls rotate thus:-

Bob at end of first course gives order 1423
Bob at end of second course gives order 1342
Bob at end of third course gives order 1234

The number 2 bell is, at the end of each course, successively 3rds place start, 4ths place start and, finally 2nds place start.

The place a bell starts after a bob is called does not alter with the complexity of the method. Look at the Diary at London Minor, the bell about to become 3rds place bell at the end of the lead is NOT dodging 3-4 up because there are no dodges when the treble is leading as in Plain Bob.

It is nevertheless that bell which makes 4ths as in Plain Bob. Its actual work is that it is hunting down when the call is made, makes 4ths place (for the bob) and then takes up the work of the 4th place bell and hunts up.


Am I right in assuming that the transpositions to the coursing order are as for PB?

The transpositions to coursing order for calls are the same for all methods with plain bob lead ends and fourths place bobs on all numbers, hence the usefulness of coursing orders. The only commonly rung methods where coursing order transposition is different are Grandsire and Stedman.

Can I watch the coursing order in Cambridge Minor?

In Cambridge you will very quickly see that you pass the bells in coursing order when you are above the treble, but not when the bells are below the treble. Until you are very good at conducting, putting people right or seeing that they are right is only going to be easy when the bells are above the treble. Someone who has gone wrong isn’t going to be below the treble for long and you may have to wait until they are above. This is true for Cambridge on all numbers.

There are great places to spot the coursing order in Cambridge. Best is when you are thirds place bell because you pass all the bells in coursing order through the lead. You will also notice that as you are double dodging down in thirds place bell, the first bell you are over is not in coursing order, but the second one is. Those two bells swap over during your double dodge because one of them makes fourths, lets the other through, and then follows it up.

I want to learn how to keep Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire right. Your advice on the most sensible order to tackle these would be much appreciated.

Of these, by far the easiest to keep right is Yorkshire. It is no coincidence that Yorkshire Major is the most rung method when you look at the annual peals analysis, and if I absolutely have to score an eight bell peal I either go for Bristol or Yorkshire. The reason for that is that the bells are in coursing order in those two methods for longer than in many other surprise major methods.

On the whole it is too much to expect the conductor to correct mistakes which are made below the treble. ‘Ordinary’ ringers may not be very aware of this, but you will find that most mistakes in surprise major are corrected when bells are above the treble, when they are in coursing order in standard methods. The only exceptions to this in the right place standard eight are in Rutland when some bells get stuck on the front, and Superlative where the bell turns round in sixths and mucks up the CO. But C, Y N, P all have the bells in coursing order when they are above the treble.

So in terms of watching the coursing order, only do it for the bells above the treble. See how in the first lead of the plain course of Cambridge the bells all come and go from the back in coursing order. Look at the bells on the front and they are all over the shop!

Have a look at Yorkshire below the treble and you will see how coursing pairs stay very close to each other, passing through each others places, but ending up in the right coursing order again.

The best place for you to check the coursing order is when you are thirds place bell because all the bells you pass are in coursing order. 5ths place bell is pretty good too.

So focus on that a bit. Forget what happens below the treble and just watch what happens above the treble. If someone goes wrong below the treble, unless you happen to know what they are doing, the best thing to do is to see what bell they are in the coursing order and hence who they should be coursing AFTER. Then you pick up the bell they should be after, and wait until they should be following that bell above the treble. It is not usually going to be more than half a lead.

I would like to know about picking up coursing orders from an inside bell in Surprise Major (I mean a working bell affected by calls) in order to keep myself and others right, and how to know where to put the calls in from an inside bell.

Re picking up CO’s from a working bell and calling it from there – quite a big subject. I’m assuming you’ve already done quite a bit of calling from 7 or 8 for Major, so you don’t have a problem with that? From an inside bell I watch the tenor and 7th for where the calls actually are, and follow each course through, so for Cambridge the Middle is lead 3, Wrong lead 4 and Home lead 7. However the coursing order (CO) will also tell you.

From the plain course 53246 a bob at Middle gives you 53462. Of the three affected bells 4 runs out, 6 runs in and 2 makes the bob. In other words the order of the new CO for those bells is OIF (out, in, fourths). So if you’re on the 2nd and the next bob is Middle you call yourself to run out.

If the next call was a Wrong the new CO would be 34562, and the 4th would…work it out.
Its one of the reasons that some conductors like to be affected by most of the calls, because they can easily see when to call them.

The two unaffected bells each call you need to know where they are for that calling position, that is, for:

M 5 is 7-8 up, 3 is 5-6 up
W 4 is 5-6d, 6 is 7-8d
H 5 is 5-6 up, 6 is 5-6 d

Hope that’s a bit clearer!


However I would like to know how to pick up the coursing order from an inside bell in case I forget it, to check the bells are right and to use it to put the rest of the band right. To start with, could we perhaps look at Middleton’s peal of Cambridge Major and go through the techniques of calling this peal from the 2nd bell?

CO 53246 to start means I have 53 on my ‘left’, I will dodge 7-8 up with 3 passing the 5th just before I get there, and 46 are on my ‘right’, meaning I’ll do my 7-8 downs with 4 and pass the 6th straight after.
M 53462 – jumping over the other two bells means I’m making the bob, so that’s at the end of 7ths pb. Also I should be able to see 78 roll up behind just before the lead end as it’s a Middle.
Now I will pass all the bells on the way up 5-3-4 and be 7-8 up with 6. 7-8d will be the tenor followed by 7.
M 53624 – running in after backwork at the bob. Not worth thinking too much about the CO as the next call is only a lead away
W 36524 – unaffected, I’m 6th pb with the 7th at the call and 8 is behind with 4. Now I’m looking at passing 3-6 before being 78 up with 5, and doing my 7-8 down’s with 4, passing 8 and 7 on the way down
W 65324 again unaffected and as its a course since the last call I must be in the same place
H 63254 Run In. At the call I should see 78 dodging behind, and 64 dodging in 5-6. Back in the middle of the CO so pass two bells (6-3) on the way up and two bells on the way down (5-4)
H 62534 Run Out
H 65324 Make the Bob.

Don’t forget the CO is how you pass bells in the above-the-treble work for Cambridge, so anything in front of you in the order is on the way up, and anything on the right is on the way down.

Start by learning the numbers if you have to

I assume from what you say that your calling of quarter peals has been from an observation bell but you say that things do not stay in your head. Might I suggest that you try to remember things by heart rather than trying to “see” them as they happen.

To draw a comparison, many people when they start to plain hunt remember the “numbers” of which bells to pass. Some ringers are dismissive of this on the grounds that eventually when calls are made the orders change and you need to rely on counting and ropesight. However, if iot gets the desired effect to start with that is good.

In the same way it is possible to remember quite simple number sequences for a touch, especially in Doubles, which will at least give you an indication of both what you are doing and what others SHOULD be doing.

I will give you two examples, the first being Plain Bob Doubles.

You can call a 120 of Bob Doubles either by calling yourself unaffected when making long 5ths behind OR by the sequence of your work. Set out below are the lead end orders (that is the order of the bells at the backstroke lead of the treble) for a 120:-
13524 12543 14532
15432 15324 15243
14253 13452 12354
BOB 14235 BOB 13425 BOB 12345

To start off with all the bells are in plain course order, coming down to lead in the order 2, 4, 5, 3 right up to the fourth lead when a bob is called – presumably you know where this happens (at the backstroke before the treble leads)

If there is no problem ringing the 5th bell (weight of bell) then you can call yourself
three times in long 5ths , each time unaffected. The order of the bells rotates so that as an initial guide the order of the front three working bells at the successive bobbed leads is 423, 342 and 234 (rounds). Learn this by heart and you will be able to say at each of the bobs what bells should be doing – you will of course make 5ths. Taking the first order for example the 4th is running in, the 2nd is running out and the 3rd making 4ths.

If you wish to ring a lighter bell this can be done for the same touch remembering the work which YOU need to do at successive calls. So if you rang the 2nd you would ring almost a plain course the calls bobs to (1) make yourself run out, (2) make 4ths place and (3) run in, thus bringing up rounds. Again you could remember the same orders 423, 342 and 234 (back into rounds).

Now let us look at 60 of Grandsire Doubles which is often called either from the 3rd or 5th bells, calling alternately to double dodge 4-5 up at a bob and make 3rds at a plain lead (so called “half hunt”).

Let us look again at the calling for the 5th bell:-

12534 13542 14523
BOB 13425 BOB 14235 BOB 12345

Look at the order of the front three bells and compare with the touch of Plain Bob above, the rotation of orders is different but the orders themselves are the same
1342, 1423, 1234. Immediately we have a sequence which is recognisable and can be remembered by heart. You can also say what each bell SHOULD be doing at the bobbed leads so, for the first example, 3 is going into the hunt, 4 is making 3rds (unaffected) and 2 is double dodging 4-5 down out of the hunt (with you)..

For 120 call a single instead of the last bob and repeat the whole thus Bob, Bob , Single, Bob , Bob , Single. The order of the bells at the successive calls will be
1342, 1423, 1324, 1243, 1432, 1234, It should be remembered that at the two singles the front two working bells are respectively making 2nds and long 3rds places.

These are just simple examples but do some writing down on paper and think about it.

Having called quarters and a peal of doubles but still can’t “see” what others are doing.

It is possible to remember quite simple number sequences for a touch, especially doubles, which will at least give you an indication both of what you are doing and what others SHOULD be doing.

First an example for Bob Doubles: Call 120 by calling yourself unaffected when making long 5ths OR by your sequence of work. Set out below are the lead orders (at the backstroke of the treble lead) for an extent of 120 changes.

13524 12543 14523
15432 15324 15243
14253 13452 12354
Bob 14235 Bob 13425 Bob 12345

To start off with the bells are all in plain course order, coming down to lead in the order 2, 4, 5, 3 right up to the fourth lead when the bob is called (at the backstroke when the treble is in 2nds place hunting down). The order of the bells rotates so that as an initial guide to the order of the front three working bells at sequential bobbed leads is 423, 342 and 234 (rounds). Learn this by heart and you will be able to say at each of the bobbed leads (where most errors are made) what the bells should be doing (you will be making long 5ths as observation bell). Taking the fist call as an example the 4th is running in, 2nd is running out and 3 making 4ths.

Now let us look at an example of 60 changes of Grandsire Doubles which is often called from the 5th as “half-hunt “ bell alternately making 3rds at a plain lead followed by dodging in 5ths at a bob.

Looking at the calling and order of bells at successive lead we have the following:-

12534 13542 14523
Bob 13425 Bob 14235 Bob 12345

Look at the order of the front three bells at the bobbed leads and compare with the previous touch of Plain Bob, the rotation of orders is different but the orders themselves are the same, 342, 423, 234. Immediately we have a sequence which is recognisable and can be remembered by heart.

You can also say what each bell should be doing at the bobbed lead, so in the first instance the 3rd is going into the hunt, 4 is making 3rds (unaffected) and 2 is dodging out of the hunt. The bell dodging out of the hunt is, in each case, doing its double dodge with you as the “half hunt “ bell

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