When Andrew asked me if I'd be scribe for the final of the YACR striking competition, I readily agreed. I foolishly thought that sitting in a car, writing stuff down would be easier than ringing! How wrong was I? Even as I write this, I'm still counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6 1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6 in my head, interspersed with an occasional 1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6 cartwheel style, just to make me concentrate!
Bob Cater was the judge, and he scored each row 0 for perfect, 3 for a crash, with 1 and 2 inbetween. The first band to go raced along and I just listened to the overall sound, rather than to each row. The next bands rang a little more slowly, and Bob was tapping out his expected rythmn, to see how bang on they were. It wasn't until Band 5, the first cartwheelers, started ringing that the perfect rhythm was obvious. Their slow speed made even slight errors in striking sound terrible. I started to guess what score Bob would dictate. Surprisingly, I agreed most of the time! Generally, I was more harsh than Bob- experience and maturity shows!
Being in a unique position to listen to some excellent striking really made me concentrate on listening. Without having to worry about bell control, I suddenly found that I was hearing the bells, when they were late, and when they were early. It even became easier to imagine I was the treble and to pick out the treble's path, listening to the striking. I didn't hear every fault, and know everything, but I improved.
If anyone gets the chance, I'd recomment listening to all the teams at a striking competition with an experienced judge. It's improved my listening skills - whether or not it improves my ringing we'll have to wait and see!