Lots of ringers talk about coursing order, but even some of the old hands who nod along don't know what it is or why its useful. This is where you can tell the difference between people that call a touch, quarter or peal, and those who conduct.
Coursing Order, the Conductors friend
Put basicaly when you understand and keep track of coursing order you can put people right, not just the hand wavey, theres a gap there "you on the 5th, fill it" sort of way, but actualy keep people in the right place. You can't put people right unless you first know that they've gone wrong, so by pre-empting the order in which you pass the bells you can check that this actualy happens, and if it doesn't you can put people back in the right place, or if someone just looks vaguley lost, tell them which bell to course up or down for example.
This is easier to see in Plain Methods especially Plain Bob & Little Bob, but is also there to see in some more complicated methods like Kent & Yorkshire, you just have to learn to see it.
What is it
The basic Plain Bob coursing order is (for minor) 53246, quite simply put this is the order in which each bell passes the others and the treble barges in there at some point. e.g. the 2nd passes the bells in the order 4653146531 as it comes off the lead (it of course can't pass itself). Seeing this is the first step.
How to put it in to practice
At this point it is worth mentioning that callings are normally based around the tenor, so the 6th in this instance.
Once you are happy with this you need to learn what happens when you call a bob or single, you may have noticed that a bob at Home only affects the 2, 3 & 4 so it stands to reason that these are the only bells to change in the coursing order. The way it changes is like this;
5abc6 becomes 5bca6 53246 becomes 52436 this rotates the middle three bells in the couring order
So now lets say you are ringing the 6th to a touch of Plain Bob Minor, the coursing order up till the first call is, 53246, you call a bob at home, the coursing order then becomes 52436 and remains this way unitl the next call, lets say you call a second home, the coursing order becomes 54326 until the next call, the third home will bring the coursing order back to 53246 and the touch comes round.
Now that wasn't too hard was it. The next call you are likely to be using is a Wrong, if you think about the bells that are affected at a wrong (being the first call) you will see that it will be the 2, 3 & 5. These are rotated in the couring order in the same way;
abc46 becomes bca46 53246 becomes 32546 this rotates the front three bells in the couring order
You can now attempt to call the touch, three wrongs, the coursing order changes thus;
53246 W 32546 W 25345 W 53246
Now we come to the realy icky part, we have seen how just using calls at Wrong and Home the same bells are affected all the time, however we can now use both. Below is a standard 360 of Plain Bob Minor, the first half of a 720, written out with the coursing orders next to the calls that produce them.
53246 W 32546 H 35426 W 54326 W 43526 H 45236 W 52436 W 24536 H 25346 W 53246
Are easy! Simply put a single (by deffinition) will only swap a single pair of bells. A single at Home changes the coursing order thus;
53246 becomes 54236
and a single wrong affectes the coursing order like so;
53246 becomes 23546
You can now put this all into practice to produce an extent of Plain Bob Minor:
53246 W 32546 H 35426 W 54326 W 43526 H 45236 W 52436 W 24536 H 25346 W 53246 sH 54236 this is repeated (you get the idea)
Calls at other Positions
Wrong & Home are the only positions in Minor in which the tenor is unaffected at both bobs & singles, as it is conventional to keep the tenor fixed at the back of the coursing order the other calls become a little more difficult to keep track of, they are below:
Before: 53246 => 54326: The best way to think of this, is that the last bell in the coursing order (excluding the tenor) becomes the 2nd, and everything else shifts up, this rule holds true on higher numbers.