Stedman - Quick or Slow

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Quick or Slow? The Definitive Guide by Simon Linford

Knowing whether to go in Quick or Slow is pretty important in Stedman, and how to work it out is one of the more common questions asked. Some time ago during a peal of Stedman Cinques, my wandering mind started to analyse how I was deciding whether to go in Quick or Slow, and then how many different ways there were of working it out. I could think of eight at the time, and seemed to be using four of them myself, and I thought “there’s an article here”.

So here it is – a “cut out and keep” guide. You will note that some of the methods are not really recommended ...

1. Monkey Method

Rule: Guess. Or always go in the same way.

Usage: Too high.

Pros: Needs little thought. You will be right half the time.

Cons: You will be wrong half the time. Annoys the conductor.

2. Going in Medium

Rule: Go in Quickish, and if you hit someone in 2nds place, amend the strategy and go in Slow instead. Or go in Slowish and if there is a gap, yank in the backstroke quickly.

Usage: Widespread

Pros: Works, after a fashion.

Cons: You will not make any friends.

3. Thin Ice Method

Rule: Finish your 4-5 dodges down, still oblivious as to how you are going in. When you put your handstroke in 3rds place, watch the person who is doing a handstroke lead. If that person starts to look up as they pull their handstroke, or if they pull the handstroke with the amount of effort that looks like they are going up, then they are going to put their backstroke in 2nds place, which means it is a Slow six, so you make thirds and go in Slow. If the person leading doesn’t look up, then they are going to lead full, which means it is a Quick six, so you need to get your backstroke in sharpish and lead after them, i.e. in Quick. Alternatively if you find it easier to see the bell that is in 2nds place, if they look up as they pull their handstroke then they are wanting to pass you at backstroke so you are going in Quick. If they don’t look up at you it is because they are going to lead at backstroke, and that means you are going in Slow.

Usage: Personally I use this about half the time, especially if ringing a light bell. I suspect it is widespread amongst the lazy.

Pros: Doesn’t need any advance thought and hence very efficient on brain usage.

Cons: Risky if the bells on the front get it wrong. In very fast Triples it becomes a split second decision. More difficult the heavier your bell. Not really to be recommended.

4. Eleanor’s Variation of the Thin Ice Method (Ed. aka the Just-In-Time rule)

Rule: Very like 3 above, except that when you put your handstroke in 3rds place over one of the bells below you, your backstroke just needs to be over the other one.

Usage: When I was first told this one I couldn’t believe anyone did it, but have since found many users, and started doing it myself.

Pros: Works provided the bells on the front are right.

Cons: Doesn’t work that well in my experience. Very difficult if you are ringing a heavy bell, which means you end up ‘Going in Medium’ all the time.

5. Diary Method (Ed. aka the 4-5 rule)

Rule: As you get into 4-5 down, you remember who your first backstroke is over. Then once you’ve finished your 4-5 dodges, if your next handstroke, i.e. in 3rds place, is over that bell then you go in Slow, and if it isn’t, then you go in Quick.

Usage: Very common. Most used explanation when anyone asks.

Pros: Easy to do in practice. Get someone to stand behind you first time and show you because it is easier than it sounds.

Cons: Doesn’t help you if the bells on the front have gone wrong.

(Note that you don’t really need to watch who your first backstroke is over. You can do it with the second two backstrokes and then the bell you watch for next is the one of the three below you that you missed.)

6. Course Bell Method

Rule: Follow your course bell down from the back, and watch which way they go in. (Your course bell is the one you dodge up with before you turn round, and who then leaves the back before you do.) Go in the opposite way. If you can’t see which way they go in then you can use the rule that if your first backstroke in 4-5 down is not over your course bell then you go in Slow because they went in Quick. If your first backstroke in 4-5 down is over your course bell, then they have clearly made thirds, hence are going in Slow, and you go in Quick.

Usage: This is a cleverer method and is more likely to be used on higher numbers when you can watch your course bell for longer.

Pros: Generates more awareness of course bells.

Cons: You may find it difficult to follow your course bell, and they may go in the wrong way anyway!

7. Watch or Listen Method

Rule: Watch or listen to the bells on the front when you are in 4-5 down. If they are hunting wrong, or if the bells are leading right (which is easier to hear), go in Slow. If the bells leading are swapping at backstroke, go in Quick. You can watch as well as listen to make it easier. Or just watch if you can’t hear.

Usage: Widespread in the Black Zone.

Pros: Doesn’t need much thought. Foolproof if ringing is good.

Cons: Advanced ropesight or listening skills required.

8. Alternate Quick/Slow Method (Ed. aka Remembering)

Rule: Go in the opposite way to which you last came out, unless there are an odd number of Bobs when you are at the back. Note this does not work in Doubles – if you are affected by a single in 4-5 you go back in the same way.

Usage: Widespread, especially in Triples. Many easier compositions of Triples have pairs of Bobs, which means you will always go in the opposite way to the way you came out.

Pros: Foolproof. You only have yourself to blame if this one goes wrong.

Cons: Not so good on higher numbers because you have to remember which way you came out for longer (unless you are on one of the boring back bells and are ringing the same position for half an hour).

9. Dancing Feet Method

Rule: Mentally label your feet ‘Quick’ and ‘Slow’. When you leave the front, jump on the spot so your other foot is forward. If you are affected by a bob at the back, do another little jump to swap your feet. When you are in 4-5 down, look down at feet and note whether Quick or Slow foot is forward. Go in that way.

Usage: This is more common than you might think, including some experienced ringers.

Pros: Foolproof if you do it properly.

Cons: If you have that bad a memory you may forget which foot is which, and you might forget to do the shuffle. Looks a bit silly.

10. Conductor’s Method (Ed. aka Alternate the Sixes)

Rule: Know whether you are ringing a Quick or Slow six because you know what six you are in and you know whether it is Quick or Slow by experience.

Usage: Assumed.

Pros: Foolproof if you are good.

Cons: None.

11. Ask the Conductor

Rule: While you are dodging 4-5 down, ask the Conductor whether you should go in Quick or Slow.

Usage: Very rare

Pros: Works if the conductor is awake.

Cons: Annoys the conductor and isn’t really the way you should be learning to ring Stedman!

12. Ask the other person in 4-5 (Ed. or anyone else you dodge with on the way down)

Rule: While you are dodging 4-5 down, ask the person you are dodging with which way they just came out, and go in the same way.

Usage: Very rare, such that I have never heard it done.

Pros: Works if the other person has the ability to speak out loud.

Cons: Even more annoying than 11. Will distract the person you ask and hence may cause them to go wrong. If you need to ask someone in an emergency, as the conductor.

(Note this was the one method that was introduced to me after this article was first published in the Ringing World.)

13. Skywalker Method

Rule: Turn off all thought of using any of the methods above and let the Force guide you.

Usage: Widespread amongst the Jedi.

Pros: Foolproof.

Cons: Takes a long time to learn.

14. Cop out Method

Rule: Catch hold of Tenor.

Usage: There’s (almost) always one.

Pros: Foolproof.

Cons: Limited availability of the Tenor. May be boring.

15. The Daisy Chain method


On 7: Track the sequence of bells going in Quick starting with the treble, whoever they dodge 4-5 with is the next Quick bell etc. If they end up dodging with you, you are Quick, if not, you are slow.

On 9+ you can track the same bell further up and the same dodging rule applies. You might remember more than one bell to help understand the structure. Track bells until you know how you are going to meet them yourself. You can have a breather when you go in slow.

On 9: Track either Quick or Slow bells but stick to one or the other.

On 11+: Track slow bells.

Finally, on higher numbers, as I leave the front I remember consecutive bells about to go in slow as I pass them on my way up. I will eventually pass or dodge with these bells in the same order and spacing when I come back down. This has the same basis but is perhaps a different method??

Usage: Only me???

Pros: Totally reliable and you are both independent of other people's mistakes and can put them right knowing whether any given six is quick or slow. Easier than counting sixes, which I always miscount even when (rarely) calling touches.

Cons: Requires good ropesight and concentration! On 7 it is easily manageable. On more bells I often alternate it with other methods. E.g. having a rest for a bit then looking to see whether leading is right or wrong in any given six.


I found that in that particular peal, the method I was using to go in Quick or Slow was entirely driven by how awake I was, and hence how early in the act of coming down from the back I started to think about it. If early, I would use the Course Bell and Watch or Listen Methods. If I was in the early stages of 4-5 down I would use the Diary Method or the Watch or Listen Method. At least half the time I would wait until the end of 4-5 down and use the Thin Ice Method.

I think that in general, using two techniques is the best way, which gives you a back-up if one fails. A combination of the Diary Method and the Alternate Quick/Slow Method is a good choice, whereas weaving in use of the Course Bell Method and the Watch or Listen Method will enhance your understanding of Stedman.

Simon Linford, 2008


Conducting Stedman