Bell handling: Backstroke
The rope needs to be exactly the right length, you should be able to pause at backstroke with a tight rope and arms reaching up straight not bent. Practice adjusting the length of the rope at backstroke so you can easily find the correct position for you. When pulling down at backstroke, many ringers find the rope goes slack and flies about. This is because the bell is accelerating faster than you are pulling. The solution is to pause at the top of the stroke and then pull quickly and firmly all the way to your knees. This keeps a tight rope and stops it flying about. I recently told a ringer to do this and to pull even quicker half way down and it seemed to help.
Bell handling: Handstroke
Do not look up for the sally, just wait for it to go past your head and then react. It is important to be able to pause at handstroke without setting the bell. This enables you to maintain composure while learning. The pause is achieved by catching the sally in exactly the right place. Too high and the bell will not pause, to low and the bell will hit the stay. Try to ring with straight arms, the same as at backstroke as this makes it easier to pause the bell without hitting the stay and allows a longer, even pull to your knees.
Setting the bell at handstroke
Setting the bell is difficult and is even more difficult with an audience! Your tutor should avoid practicing this with other people watching! The secret of setting the bell at handstroke is having the rope the correct length at backstroke. If the rope is too long the bell will hit the stay and if it is too short the bell will not reach the stay. So with the rope the correct length, pull reasonably hard at handstroke, pause at backstroke, then pull gently down. If the bell does not set, try to make small adjustments to the pull down at backstroke until the bell sets at handstroke. Try not to over compensate by pulling too hard and hitting the stay.
Setting the bell at backstroke
This is even more difficult than setting the bell at handstroke!! Do not slip down the rope to make the bell set, as it will only hit the stay. With your hands in the ideal ringing position at backstroke, pull the bell slightly harder at handstroke and reach up on tip-toes until the bell sets. If the bell does not set, make small adjustment of only 1 or 2 cms at a time down the rope until the bell sets.
Following another bell
Initially it is very easy to keep getting in front of the bell you are following. Aim to stay behind by pausing and then reacting. Do not worry if you get left behind as it is easier to catch up than slow down. Keep pausing but try to react more quickly. Try not to over compensate by pulling harder and quicker as you will end up in front. Keep calm, pause and react quickly until you are in the correct place again.
To ring faster at backstroke, bend your arms slightly at the top of the stroke. This will take away some of the momentum from the bell so you will need to pull harder to maintain control of the bell. To ring faster at handstroke, bend your arms to reduce the pause and pull harder to maintain control.
To ring slower
To ring slower at backstroke, pull harder at handstroke and reach up to make the bell pause. To ring slower at handstroke, pull slightly harder at backstroke and pause at handstroke.
When ringing heavy bells, experienced ringers will change position of their hands at backstroke depending on whether they want to ring quicker or slower.