ON THE ROLE OF METHOD STRUCTURE IN CONDUCTING
How can I use Method Structure to help me with my conducting?
Maybe what you’re looking for is how to ‘see’ what’s happening in a Surprise Minor method so that you can put people right when they go wrong. We can think about that in the context of a plain course to start with, and then apply those principles to touches. I think one of the most useful starting points is to consider how you learn a method to ring it. If what you learn is a blue line, which I guess is what most people do, this isn’t very useful for seeing how everything fits together. (Also it’s not self-checking, so it you make a mistake or miss a bit out, it’s not always apparent until you come to ring it and fall into a hole).
For years now I’ve learned methods by writing out the half lead grid and tracing the blue line within in. What’s a grid, I (may) hear you ask? If you look at a method in the RW diary, or similar, where the methods are written out by the rows of figures, try joining up each bell’s path (like a dot-to-dot). That’s the grid, only it’s easier to look at if the figures aren’t there. Try writing out half a lead of Cambridge Minor on squared paper, either by tracing each bell’s path, or by place notation, i.e. filling in the places and then joining up the rest (if this isn’t something you’re familiar with don’t worry, as the other method will do just as well). (Red pen for the treble helps too). At the end of the half lead write down which bell is at the end of each line. (should be 256431) I visualise this picture, and that helps me know what everyone’s doing. So then try answering questions like this:
1 You’re ringing the second at the start of the plain course. Dodge with the treble and lead. Another bell (bell A) comes down to the front. Which one is it?
2 You make seconds and dodge. What is the other bell doing?
3 What’s the treble doing at this point?
4 Who with? What’s that bell doing?
5 You lead again: bell A leaves the front to be replaced by> bell B. Which one is that?
6 You dodge with it at the end of your full work – what’s it doing?
7 Where’s the treble now?
If you can see the answers to those questions from the grid, try coming back to them again later and answer them visualising the grid in your head. Another good thing to do is to watch (and listen to) Cambridge Minor being rung while you’re sitting out (I know that may be difficult to achieve with limited resources): try to identify what the bells are each doing. Perhaps start with the bells on the front, then when you’re happy you know what they’re doing watch the bells on the back and see how they fit together, then those in 3-4 (probably the most difficult to identify). Right-place methods (eg Cambridge, Norwich) are always easier to work with than those which have wrong places and hence backward hunting (lie London, Beverley etc). In right place methods you can break down the work into what’s happening in 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6, and how the bells move between these partitions.. The same happens in methods with wrong places, but the patterns are more complex and difficult to see.
Conducting requires some extension of ropesight beyond what is necessary to ring a single bell. Your remarks about watching the group as whole and how bells interact is precisely what I do when I conduct. Clearly it also needs a good knowledge of the structure of the method, so that one knows what should be happening at a particular point in the lead. Once again, paper studies help, for example by studying grids. I find that keeping track of the treble is a useful guide both to conducting and ringing.