Rounds Toolbox

What are rounds?

Once you have learned to handle a bell you will be ready to ring rounds with other ringers. You will be aiming to ring with even, rhythmic striking without any “clips” or “gaps”.

In rounds the bells are rung in a sequence of descending notes starting with the treble and finishing with the tenor in a row [a sequence in which every bell strikes once]. The gaps between the bells should all sound even:

1 2 3 4 5 6

In rounds the 1 [treble] rings first [or leads]. The 6 [tenor] rings last, is “ringing behind” or is “covering”. The 3 is ringing in 3rd place [a place is the position in which the bell sounds or strikes in the row].

Bell control and keeping in the right place in rounds

To ring rounds successfully you need to be able to change the speed of your ringing at both handstroke and backstroke. At first your teacher will tell you to ring quicker or slower to keep in time with the other ringers. Over time you will develop your own listening skills so that you can do this yourself. Find out more about developing listening skills.

If you need to ring more quickly. You need to ring below the balance so that the bell moves through a smaller arc. Slow or check the sally or backstroke so the bell does not rise as high. You may need to:

  • check the sally and don’t let it rise so high at handstroke.
  • take some rope in [shorten the tail-end] at backstroke.
  • put more weight on the stroke to keep the bell up after you have checked the stroke.

If you need to ring more slowly. You need to ring at the balance so that the bell moves through a complete arc. Let the sally or backstroke rise to (or nearer) the balance. You may need to:

  • put more weight into the previous stroke.
  • let the sally rise a little higher at handstroke.
  • let some rope out [lengthen the tail-end].

Ringing with others for the first time

When all the ringers have taken hold of their ropes the treble ringer will say “Look to”, or “Look to the treble”. This is a warning that ringing is about to start. You should then put some tension on the sally to pull the bell off the stay towards the point of balance in preparation for an accurate pull off.

The treble ringer will then say “Treble’s going” [and will check that the ringers have looked to] followed by “She’s gone” as he or she pulls the treble off. You should then pull off your bell in rounds immediately after the bell you are following.

To stop the ringing the conductor will call “Stand” or “Stand next time” when the treble is ringing a handstroke. You should ring that handstroke, the following backstroke and set the bell on the following handstroke.


When a bell is ringing in the first place of a change it is said to be leading. It does not follow a bell in the same way that the other bells do, and striking it well requires practice.

You can learn about leading from watching and listening to the treble in rounds:

  • Stand behind the treble.
  • Watch how it follows the tenor at the opposite stroke.
  • Listen to the handstroke gap – is it open or closed?

There are two types of leading – closed or open. Generally method ringing bands ring with open handstroke leads, whilst those from the Devon Call Change tradition ring with closed handstroke leads.

Open handstroke leads

Listen to these simulated rounds and you'll hear a one-beat gap after every twelve changes. This is the handstroke gap

The backstroke change follows on immediately after the handstroke change. However before the treble leads again at handstroke there is a gap or space of one blow. This is known as the handstroke gap or lead.

The bell that is leading cannot look at and follow the bell in front of it in the change. Instead it must lead by following the last rope to come down on the opposite stroke. When leading at handstroke the bell follows the backstroke of the last rope down and when leading at backstroke the bell follows the handstroke of the last rope down. To start with your teacher will usually ensure that this is the tenor.

Closed handstroke leads

More later.

Learn by watching

What exactly is good striking? Watch this video to hear some examples of good striking and listen for errors. The handstroke gap is also explained and demonstrated.

Teaching leading

» Teaching leading

Teaching aids

» Bell control games

» Twinkle, Twinkle and beyond

» Ropesight lottery

» Putting out the fire

Beyond rounds

Once a student can ring well struck rounds, it is time to explore call changes and kaleidoscope exercises. Bell control games are a fun way to help the student learn how to move their bell from one place to another. Aim for a crisp, accurate move and be prepared to give lots of bell handling advice along the way.