Have you heard the expression “follow your course bell” and not had a clue what this bit of bell ringing wisdom meant or what to do with it? Like a lot of things in ringing, the concept of coursing order is quite simple to understand but it is routinely very poorly explained, if it is explained at all.
In Plain Hunt and Plain Bob, the coursing order is the order in which you follow the bells, although it is in fact a much deeper property of the way methods are constructed, and so the concept of coursing order can be applied to other methods too.
The easiest way to see the coursing order is by looking at the order that specific bells (e.g. the treble, the 2nd and the 6th) pass the other bells in Plain Hunt. You will notice a circular pattern:
The 5th always courses the 6th, the 3rd courses the 5th and the treble courses the 3rd etc. This is the coursing order and on six bells it is 5 3 1 2 4 6. Extending to higher numbers the coursing order is always the odd bells descending followed by the even bells ascending, so on ten bells the plain course coursing order is 9 7 5 3 1 2 4 6 8 0.
In Plain Hunt and Plain Bob, the coursing order is the order in which many things happen:
Coursing order is a convenient way of describing how the bells follow each other around in a method, which remains constant between calls. It is easiest to see in plain hunt where it is the order in which the bells come to the front and to the back, (i.e. 531246 in Minor). The order is cyclic, so it repeats and could be written down starting at any point.
In a method the coursing order is defined with the treble omitted (so the above becomes 53246). In Plain Bob this order is constant through all leads of the plain course. Because the coursing order is cyclic – it is conventional to consider the tenor to be at the end (or beginning) and to omit it when written down (so 53246 is written 5324).
you ever wondered how conductors keep people right or know if two bells
have swapped over? Well ... transposition is the answer. It is a
method of calculating and writing out touches of methods in a
shorthand-way and tells you the order that the place bells occur at each
lead head of a method. It might sound complicated but it is easy to do
and very useful.
Every time a call (bob or single) is made, the coursing order of the bells changes. Transposition allows you to work out the new coursing order and hence keep people right if they go wrong or tell if two bells have swapped over.
Ask an experienced conductor in your tower or local area to sit down and show you how transposition works; it shouldn’t take more than five minutes so you can do it between touches at a practice. Alternatively there are some good online resources that you can use to teach yourself at home.
Get out your coloured pens and paper and write out Plain Hunt on 12 or 20 bells and work out the coursing order. You should be able to see how the coursing order extends to all numbers of bells.
Your course bell is the bell you follow down to the lead – so you might hear someone say “take your course bell off the lead.” Your after bell is the bell that follows you down to lead – hence the instruction “your after bell takes you off the back”.
The coursing order on 6 bells is 653124 i.e. the 5th courses the 6th, the 3rd courses the 5th and the treble courses the the 3rd.
If you're ringing the 5, your course bell is the 6 and your after bell is the 3.
If you're ringing the 3, your course bell is the 5 and your after bell is the treble.