Simulator sessions are extremely well placed to help a ringer improve their striking by developing rhythm and listening skills:
It could be argued that simulator practice to improve striking would be useful for even very experienced method ringers!
To start with, many new ringers find that the ringing is too fast to hear their bell. The speed of ringing is usually expressed in terms of the peal speed, which is usually set at the normal peal speed for the bells being rung.
the applications allows the ringing to be slowed right down, and as a ringer's skill improves the ringing speed can be increased. All applications have a feature where a key can be pressed or the screen tapped to make one of the bells sound, with the computer ringing the
other bells. This allows a ringer to practise their listening
skills at home, even on a tablet or smartphone.
In the tower, simulator sessions can be rung on a small number of bells with the ringer counting, and then ringing, along to three and four bells and then gradually increasing the number of bells. Someone who is having difficulty hearing their bell can continue with this exercise for as long as is required – not having to worry about the patience of others to continue with this exercise.
Of course, the ringer needs to be able to pick out their bell to hear how
accurate their striking is, but he software packages have the
ability to show the results graphically afterwards. They can even show
the results graphically as the bell is rung. There are also
features which allow listening skills to be honed using uneven ringing. Be patient – some people have extreme difficulty picking out their bell, but very few people are totally tone deaf.
When ringing with real ringers in the tower these will often wait for the learner to ring, but computers will carry on regardless. Simulators now include a "cooperative striking" feature where the software waits till the learner has pressed a key before ringing the other bells.
Perhaps the easiest bell to hear in any ring or on the simulator is the tenor. As it stays in the same place in odd bell methods, listening skills can be developed by ringing the tenor (or any bell programmed to sound as the tenor) to a Doubles method such as Grandsire or Plain Bob without needing to worry about changing speed or developing any ropesight.
In the simulator sessions, they both worked on covering to Doubles initially, with increasing success – the scoring facility is amazingly motivating! Striking analysis showed that their handstrokes started off being too close and they crunched in. Then we looked at the striking analysis, listening at the same time, and saw the effect. I was able to ring to demonstrate and show them on the screen that the open handstroke lead goes all the way through the row, so they had to incorporate that in covering.
When learning how to plain hunt, ringers may rely too much on (imperfect) ropesight and not develop a sense of rhythm. Shadowing an experienced ringer is a useful way of developing this sense of rhythm.
I watched a whole group of students model their speeds for plain hunt on one experienced ringer, ringing her bell at the correct times and talking through speeds and place. They were aiming to fire their bells with her, as she did this. (She was on a mid-range bell to avoid extremes of visual gap.) Any number of tied bells can have their sound turned off on the simulator, so many can do this exercise at the same time.
Simulators are well suited for practising ringing by ear and rhythm alone:
Looking at the screen for the blow by blow analysis and using the built-in tools to analyse striking, play ringing back and make the link with the visual display, to demonstrate common faults e.g. slow handstrokes or slow backstrokes or consistently ringing below or above the place.
One of the most exciting tools is the graphic of the striking which is really helpful in analysing consistent problems. The latest releases even allow ringing to be recorded as it is practised and then it can be played back afterwards.
The applications give a variety of statistics for errors,
some even broken down by place, so that a ringer can measure how their 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.
You can use the simulator packages to measure how accurate a ringer is at striking their bell. 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.
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 can be 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.
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.
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.
Doug Nichols was able to use Virtual Belfry with a group of ringers at Orange, New South Wales, to measure how their striking accuracy improved over the course of a year with the use of a simulator.