Rhythm, listening and striking

Overcoming difficulties with listening

Many new ringers find that the ringing is too fast to start with. The speed of ringing is usually expressed in terms of the peal speed, which should be set at the normal peal speed for the bells you are practising on. However, each of the applications allows you to slow the ringing right down, and as your skill improves you can speed the ringing up. Another way is to start by counting along to three and four bells first, and then gradually increase the number of bells.

All applications have a feature where you can press a key or tap the screen to make one of the bells sound, and the computer rings the other bells. This allows the new ringer to practise their listening skills at home, even on a tablet or smartphone.

Of course, you have to be able to pick out your bell to hear how accurate your striking is, but most of the software packages have the ability to show the results graphically afterwards. They can even show the results graphically as you ring in each row, and there are also features to practise listening to uneven ringing to learn to detect the errors.

When ringing with real ringers in the tower they will often wait for you, but computers will carry on regardless. Beltower also includes a ‘cooperative striking’ feature where the computer can wait till you have pressed your key before ringing the other bells.

When using a sensor, there are also features where the speed will automatically be changed to fit with the speed of the ringer.

Playing back the ringing and striking analysis tools

One of the most exciting tools is to be able to see a graphic of the striking to help analyse any consistent problems. The latest releases even allow you to record something as it is practised, and play it back afterwards.

The applications also give a variety of statistics for errors, some even broken down by place, so that you can measure how your accuracy improves over time. There are usually two statistics: one measures the overall error at each stroke; this can be useful in a tower situation to tell whether you are consistently quick on one stroke or another. As errors can be positive or negative and cancel each other out, a second statistic, ‘average error’ or ‘standard deviation’, is usually provided, which measures how variable the striking is overall.

» Find out more about accuracy statistics

Improving striking with practice

You can use the simulator packages to measure how accurate a ringer's striking is. The results can be measured each time with a few minutes of rounds, long enough to obtain a representative result. Of course striking will not magically improve overnight but, like any other musical instrument, regular practice over an extended period of time will help achieve a marked improvement.

Doug Nichols was able to use Virtual Belfry with a group of ringers at Orange, New South Wales, a remote tower, to measure how their striking accuracy improved over the course of a year with the use of a simulator (right).

The striking tools in the latest software also provide valuable information to help improve striking. For example, a ‘saw tooth’ pattern will often be visible in rounds, where one stroke is consistently quick and another slow. Variability is also an issue, but as handling improves the bell can be more consistently struck in the right place, so it is important to practise bell control exercises in parallel. Often the inability to hear a bell is misdiagnosed when it is bell control that is the real issue.

Measuring striking

The National 12-bell Striking Contest has developed a software tool to analyse recordings of ringing and those from Abel and Beltower can also be imported and analysed. With a multi-bell interface, you can therefore run your own striking competition, or your band can practise for a competition, with a computer as the judge. This has the advantage of eliminating human subjectivity and producing consistent results (see side-bar for examples).

The Computer Analysis Software (CAS) is free to download from the 12-bell contest website, although you may also need to install Java on your computer to run it.

CAS Software developed for the National 12-bell Contest

The CAS Software is able to produce a range of statistics for each bell, as well as a percentage score for the whole band for the whole piece of ringing. The results for a typical District competition would range from around 50% to 90%

Placing of band

Percentage score

Standard deviation for typical ringer

Average Error for typical ringer

Winning teams

90 – 95%

30 – 40ms


Mid-table teams

70 – 90%

40 – 60 ms

20 – 30%

Inexperienced teams

50 – 60%

60 – 100 ms

30 – 50%

The Orange NSW band therefore progressed from about the level of an inexperienced team to just below the level of a winning team; a fantastic achievement. Of course, this was ringing rounds. The results will suffer depending on how much the team need to concentrate on other things. However, well struck rounds and call changes are always preferable to poorly struck methods.

Cirel is a similar tool to the CAS software, but can take the data straight from a multi-bell interface without the need to collect it via simulator software and then save it in a format that can be analysed by the CAS tool.

Developing listening by covering

Perhaps the easiest bell to hear in any ring or on the simulator is the tenor. As it stays still in odd bell methods you can practise developing listening skills by ringing the tenor (6 th) to a Doubles method such as Grandsire or Plain Bob without needing to worry about changing speed or developing any ropesight.

Some people have extreme difficulty picking out their bell, but very few people are totally tone deaf.

Striking competitions


The Chester Diocesan Guild runs a "striking ladder" similar to the table tennis or squash ladders of our youth. The referee or judge can be human or technology can be used, in the form of recording the striking on a simulator and submitting it for analysis.

» CDG Striking Ladder


The Isle of Dogs have a simulator, connected to all of the bells, so they can record two touches of 120 changes in Abel and the file can be marked by the 12 bell competition striking analysis software (CAS). As the judge is a computer, it is 100% consistent each time it is used, and produces a percentage score which enables easy comparison.

» Isle of Dogs Striking Challenge

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