Project Pickled Egg - Part 13

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The first seven PPE methods, maybe to become called the Starter Seven unless someone comes up with a better moniker, may well be practiced first as whole courses, but then ringers and bands will be looking to combine them in touches of spliced.

I think it is very worthwhile explaining the techniques for putting together touches of spliced rather than just offering a selection of touches that work. This skill seems to be locked in the box that only members of the conducting ‘Magic Circle’ know how to open.

All the Surprise Major methods we ever ring have the same seven lead ends – the ones that come in a course of Plain Bob Major. We call them the Plain Bob lead ends. This may seem surprising, but historically methods without Plain Bob lead ends were called “irregular” and were frowned upon. Composers of methods stuck to the “regular” Plain Bob lead ends which makes composition and conducting far easier. (There are just 76 out of nearly 6000 Surprise Major methods without Plain Bob lead ends.)

We can assign these methods to groups based on two things: the order of the lead ends and the change rung at the lead end itself. For example, a method that has lead ends in the same order as Plain Bob, and which has second-place lead ends like Plain Bob, is an “a” group method (as is Plain Bob, itself). Cambridge has a first lead end that is the same as the second lead end of Plain Bob and is a “b” group method. Methods with seconds-place lead ends are in groups a g. depending on the order of the lead ends. Methods that have eighth-place lead ends are assigned to groups h m, again, depending on the order of the lead ends. One of the most popular groups, m group, is usually rung with 4ths place bobs and designated ‘mx’.

In PPE, our first seven ingredients are three b group methods (Cambridge, Yorkshire, and Superlative), two f group methods (London and Lessness), one l group (Cornwall – and it’s “L” as in leather), and one “mx” method (Bristol). The Standard 8 only have three groups (b, f, and mx). Despite having one fewer method than the Standard 8, in PPE we have one more lead end group, which gives us quite a bit more flexibility.

So, how do you splice them?

For a simple start, you can ring seven leads of the same lead end group in any order – a plain course. For example, you can freely splice Cambridge, Superlative, and Yorkshire, all b group methods, and for more of a challenge you can freely splice the two f group methods, Lessness and London. Actually, as long as you aren’t fussed about truth, which you shouldn’t be for short touches, you can add Bristol to Lessness and London even though they are in different groups - as long as there are no bobs called, f group and mx methods have the same lead end order.

From now on, we are going to abbreviate the method names. Cambridge, Yorkshire, Superlative, London and Bristol are easy: “C”, “Y”, “S”, “L”, and “B”, respectively. Lessness is usually abbreviated “E”, and Cornwall as “W”. These abbreviations are not universal, but are common enough.

You can get a different length course by mixing method groups. You can do this by thinking about what place bells the tenor is ringing. For instance if you rang four leads of the b group methods, e.g. CSYS, the tenor would have become 7ths place bell. So you think to yourself “what sort of method gets you from 7ths place bell back to 8ths in one lead?” The answer is any f group or mx method – London, Lessness or Bristol. So it is worth remembering that a single lead of an f group or mx method, plus four leads of b group methods, comes round, and that you can ring them in any order.

Another way of thinking about that five lead course is that the f group method had the same effect as three leads of b group methods – it gets the tenor to the same place. So you could replace three more of the leads of CY or S with another lead of, for instance, London.

Then we have Cornwall where 8ths place bell becomes 4ths. How do you get from 4ths place bell back home to 8ths? Simply with one lead of Cambridge or equivalent. So there is a two lead course combining Cornwall with any of the b group methods, either way round.

What course options do we have with the Starter Seven? First here is a recap of method names, their abbreviations and their groups:

C Cambridge b group

Y Yorkshire b group

S Superlative b group

W Cornwall l group

B Bristol mx

L London f group

E Lessness f group

No of leads Explanation Example

7 Mix C Y and S in any order CYSYCYS

7 Mix L E and B in any order BELBELB

5 One lead of an f group, four of b group LCCCC

3 Two leads of f or mx, one b LSL

2 Cornwall plus one b group WC

Now for a complication – calls. If you make a call at Middle Wrong or Home (when the tenor becomes 6ths, 7ths and 8ths place bells respectively) in a 2nds place method the lead order is not affected because the tenor is not affected. If, however, you call a bob at the end of a lead of Cornwall or Bristol, the order does change – the tenor “jumps” on the line. In Bristol the tenor jumps back a lead and rings the same lead again. In Cornwall … have a look at it and see what it does.

  A simple touch comprising three bobs at Home could therefore be put together with three short courses all called differently, containing six of the PPE methods. For instance:

23456 H

42356 - LSE.

34256 - WY.

23456 - B. ________

It is worth getting used to how touches like this are often written out. The calling positions used are at the top (just Homes in this case). The course ends brought up at the end of the course are on the left (missing out 1 7 and 8 as they stay the same), calls made in each course are shown as dashes in the appropriate column, and each course is on a separate line. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the numbers on the left are the course end that results from calling the calls and methods to the right.

So in a more wordy form this is LSE (bob) - three lead course, Superlative as middle lead will have Queens in, Lessness and London interchangeable WY (bob) – two lead course, start with Cornwall otherwise the bob messes it up B (bob) – Bristol repeats the lead so repeats the call

Any course can be extended by calling a bob at the end and then adding a couple of bobbed leads of Bristol, e.g. LSL-B-B- (That’s another way of writing it – a string of letters with the bobs as dashes.) Two bobbed leads of Bristol at the end is nice because they contain a few 5678 roll ups. So just with short courses and bobs at Home you have lots of good practice options.

As a composer/conductor, you expand your repertoire of callings for short touches. Then all you then need to do is use combinations of methods that will get you to those calling positions. For practice touches we don’t tend to worry about truth, so all we need to do is work out how to get back to rounds by combining methods with different lead-end orders with callings that would come round if rung to a single method.

Touches worth knowing are:

3H or 3W

sH sH



I will more often that not use W H W H for a shortish touch, particularly if I am wanting to test changing direction in and out of London. That would be



  Don Morrison has offered the following options showing how these touches can be used to combine the PPE methods. An s in a column denotes a Single, with the dash used for Bobs.

23456 H ________ 24356 s WC. 23456 s YCYCW. ________

23456 H ________

42356 - EYE.

34256 - WC.

23456 - WY.


23456 H ________ 24356 s ESE. 23456 s WLWBW. ________

23456  H
24356  s  B.
32456  -  EWWLE.

(23456) BS(E)

23456   H
24356   s  WS.
32456   -  LCE.

(32456) BY(Y)


Those two touches will come round after two rows of the method in brackets, i.e. at the treble backstroke snap with the tenor is 7ths place bell.

23456 B W M ______________ 23456 - - - CY.EL.WB.SE ______________

A different calling introduced here, with a bob before (tenor runs out). Note that this is the lead of Superlative with Queens in because after the three bobs you are back in the plain course.  

23456 W B H _______________ 52436 - LS.B 25364 - s WE.CY.(S) _______________


(32456) sB,sB,sF,B,V,B SC.B.W.L.E.Y.W(C)


Next week I will move into the next batch of methods, including some less familiar names. Any criticism levelled at PPE so far, for instance that all it has done is dropped NPR from the Standard 8 and added Cornwall and Lessness, which are quite well known anyway, may start to disappear.