Stedman is a commonly rung odd-bell method, which has much musical potential and a structure that extends easily to higher stages. The place starts and the dodges in 4/5, 6/7, etc give the method a similar feel to Grandsire in some ways, but Stedman also contains pieces of work not found in commonly rung Plain methods, as well as wrong hunting. Ropesight is also tricky, there is no hunt bell to provide structure, and Stedman is difficult to conduct-so in many ways it is more tricky for a band to ring than simpler Surprise methods.
We’ll consider Stedman Triples. Learning the line for other stages is straightforward once the basic structure is known, as is explained later on, but note in particular that Stedman Doubles has very different calls (Singles) to other stages.
At a high level the method consists of double-dodging at the back, and plain hunting on 3 at the front. The method is divided into blocks of 6 changes. In a “slow six” the bells on the front hunt wrong; in a “quick six”, right.
At each “six end” the bells at the back move between dodging positions while the bells on the front change direction.
This structure results in two different ‘frontworks’, one ‘quick’ (which the treble starts in the middle of) and one ‘slow’ (which 4ths place bell enters at the start and finishes 2½ leads later), with sections of double-dodging in between.
Although in theory this section is made up of alternating blocks of right and wrong plain hunting, it is more commonly learnt as a single long piece of work.
Make 3rds on the way in (which switches you into wrong hunting), and then do the first “whole turn”—lead, point, lead. Note that the first lead is back/hand and the second is hand/back (the point 2nds switches you back into right hunting).
The next section is “3rds, point lead, 3rds, point lead, 3rds”. The points are often referred to as a “half turns”. The first of which is at handstroke, and the second at backstroke. It is worth carefully counting your place while you get used to the swaps between wrong and right hunting.
Come down to do another whole turn—lead, point, lead. This time with the first lead at hand/back and the second at back/hand.
Finish by not forgetting to make 3rds on the way out to the backwork.
Going in quick is straightforward—just hunt to the front, lead and hunt back up to the backwork.
The whole section is right hunting, and so will feel quite natural.
The backwork consists of everything above 3rd place, which you’ll see consists of double-dodging in each dodging position up to the back and all the way down to the front again.
This is more difficult that it looks, because unlike Plain Bob or similar, the bells don’t come down from the back (or up from the front) in a particularly predictable pattern. This is due to the bells going in quick “overtaking” bells which have gone in slow and muddling the coursing order. The transitions between dodging positions are the most difficult part. Tapping through the line on-screen won’t help much here unfortunately, but with practice comes experience.
Try running through a full plain course on the treble, which starts by going out quick to the backwork. Next time you will go into the slow frontwork, before doing the backwork once again and then finishing by going in quick.
Note where each of the place starts fall as you go.
Calls are made by the bells at the back of the change. In both bobs and singles if you are dodging 4/5 then you “make the bob” by doing a place in 5ths and turning around to dodge 4/5 down, missing out the 6/7 dodges.
If you are in 6/7 (up or down), then make an extra dodge for the bob instead of moving to the next dodging position, and then continue with another double dodge in the same position. This results in five dodges in total, but you’ll be less likely to lose count if you split them up as described.
- Practice Make
- Practice Up
- Practice Down
If you make the bob then you skip two sixes of work, so that makes no change to whether you go in quick or slow, but just accelerates your return to the front. If you are at the back then the bob swaps the way that you go in, so if you came out quick last time you will now go in quick again next time.
Singles are slightly different to bobs. They are less common, so it can be harder to get practical experience, and so people often find them more difficult. There is no need to fear them though, they’re simpler than bobs.
If you’re dodging 4/5 up then you do the same as in a bob—make 5ths and skip the 6/7 dodges. If you’re at the back then you don’t do an extra dodge for the call, but instead make a place. This results in the bell dodging down making 6ths and turning around to dodge up, while the bell dodging up makes 7ths and dodges down.
- Practice Up
- Practice Down
Note that this actually results in no change to the line of the bell that lies behind. Although it does result in all the work in 6/7 (dodging up, lying behind, and dodging down) being done with the same bell, which does feel unusual.
In Quick or In Slow?
As the backwork is identical regardless of the frontwork there is ample opportunity for confusion about whether you are going in quick or in slow, particularly after a bob or single. This has been the subject of many an article, and everyone has their favourite way to remember. We’ll walk through a few common methods:
Count Bobs/Singles and Just Remember
In a plain course you will always go in the other way to last time. Each bob that is called swaps the way that you will go in next time, and each Single has no effect.
You may find it difficult to keep track, in which case one of the below methods may be useful.
Listen to / Watch the Leading
When you are dodging in 4/5-down note which way around the bells on the front are leading: right (hand/back) or wrong (back/hand).
If they’re leading right then they’re ringing a quick six and you will go in slow. If they’re leading wrong then they’re ringing a slow six and you’ll go in quick.
This method could be extended to work at your 6/7, 8/9, etc dodges as well. If the bells on the front are leading right when you are dodging in 6/7, then in two sixes time you will go in quick (and vice versa).
- In Quick
- In Slow
This method similarly relies on watching other bells, although this time a little closer to your own position.
When you arrive in 4/5-down note the bell you follow for your first blow in 4ths. If your first blow in 3rds is over the same bell then make thirds and go in slow, otherwise go in quick.
- In Quick
- In Slow
Ringing on Other Stages
Extending Stedman to other stages is straightford in theory. Simply remove or add extra sets of double dodging at the back as shown in the lines below.
In practice, ringing the method on higher stages is more difficult particularly in the backwork, where ropesight gets even harder as the number of bells increases.
Calls in Stedman Doubles
Stedman Doubles doesn’t have Bobs, and the Singles are completely different to the Singles on other stages.
Singles are made in the middle of a six by the bells that were to dodge in 4/5 making a place instead and picking up each other’s work. This results in pieces of work known as ‘Cat’s Ears’ and ‘Coathangers’ (other names exist), and after doing each you go back in the same way that you came out.
- Cat’s Ears Practice
- Coathangers Practice
Stedman is a difficult method, but hopefully the tutorial has helped with some of the learning so you can make the most of any practical experience you’re able to get.
Stedman doesn’t really lead on to any other commonly rung practice-night methods. You might consider learning Erin or Shipway to challenge a quarter peal band; they are also principles and share some similarities with Stedman. Erin also has the advantage that Plain Bob coursing order is maintained, so less experienced bands might find it easier to ring than Stedman ono higher stages.