[r-t] Start from backstroke - A question from a novice in technical matters

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Thu Mar 29 08:03:58 UTC 2018

Richard - there are two different, unrelated properties of the start of 
any touch:

1. Which change of the method the touch starts with.

2. Which stroke you start at.

Don't confuse these!

For (2), almost without exception we start at handstroke. By this we 
mean the handstroke is the first change of the touch, or in other words 
the first non-rounds row is brought up by bells doing something 
different at the handstroke pull. Very occasionally the composer or 
conductor will say "start at backstroke" - if the band does this, then 
all that happens is you get the same rows as in the original touch, but 
at the opposite stroke. In some methods (e.g. Grandsire Cinques) this 
may be desirable, but it's quite unusual to do it.

For (1), there is generally a conventional rotation of the method we 
use. For treble-dominated methods, this is the first change after the 
full lead of the treble. For Stedman, it's the 4th row of the quick six. 
If the composer or conductor varies this, e.g. by starting a touch of 
Stedman at the last row of a quick six, the resulting touch will have 
*different* rows in it. That means there is potential for getting better 
music. It also opens up the possibility of getting touches of slightly 
different lengths.

Where your friend's confusion lies is with the instruction "start at the 
backstroke snap". This instruction affects start property (1), NOT (2). 
This is because "backstroke snap" is a (lazy) shorthand for saying "the 
point in the method where the treble, whilst dodging 1-2 up, comes back 
into lead". Or, "the 2nd row of the method compared to the conventional 
start". If you adopt the conventional start for property (2), this point 
in the treble's path is indeed at backstroke.

The main problem is that it is quite difficult to specify property (1). 
The changes of a method join up in a circle. Where on the circle are we 
starting? Saying "backstroke snap" is a nice shorthand way of 
identifying the particular position on the circle, but it would probably 
be better to say "from change 2 of the method's lead, where the 
conventional start is change 0". Imagine the confusion if I combined 
properties (1) and (2) with the shorthand notation for (1): "Start at 
backstroke with the treble's backstroke snap" - which snap is this!

However, "start at the backstroke snap" is I suspect here to say. You 
just have to remember, when you read it, that it applies to property (1) 
of a touch not property (2).


More information about the ringing-theory mailing list