[r-t] Are FCH's needed any more?

Graham John graham at changeringing.co.uk
Fri May 21 23:49:50 UTC 2010

When I was at school, we had to learn how to use log tables to multiply and
divide. Then, along came calculators, and the log tables became redundant.


FCHs were a marvellous invention to simplify the job of proving compositions
and find an existing composition that worked for a new method, but the
question arises  of how much value they have today when a computer can
generate and check all the individual rows in a composition in a fraction of
a second? Technology has increased our expectations of compositions from
achieving an original objective of just being true, to getting the absolute
maximum of music from a method. FCHs were a compromise, in that, for
simplicity's sake, you only worried about the falseness of whole courses.
Yes, this then developed into looking at the incidence of the groups to
individual leads, but this was a refinement which added further complication
(and risk of error) back into the process. 


Manual techniques are often not the most appropriate when developing
algorithms for programs. For example, SMC used false leadheads and
pre-calculated the false lead pointers for every lead that could be reached
given the calling constraints. SMC32 optimised this further by using false
nodes (falseness between calling positions). Another option is to use truth
tables rather than falseness tables. The fact is that, like calculators and
log tables, computers take away the need for FCH tables as a tool.


So should someone new to composing like Alex be worrying about what FCHs
are, or should he take a completely new approach? I think you can probably
argue this both ways. Yes, it is useful to understand past methods and build
upon them*, but it is also good to utilise the knowledge and technology of
the day to take the next leap forward, bringing completely fresh ideas and
techniques.  Composers tend to be people who like solving problems, and most
of those I have met say that they were self-taught. Perhaps this is a
requirement for the role, if you are not just going to repeat what others
have done before.




*And therefore I do think it would be good to have FCHs explained on the

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