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Learning question

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by W9BFZ, May 30, 2018.

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  1. AA8NN

    AA8NN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been into Cw for about two years now. When I thought I was ready for my first qso I called Cq and got a answer. That's about the time the nerves set in and I got all crossed up. Lol. Good thing the other op was a good sport and we got through it. I still mess up on the regular and never had anyone be negative about it. Just get on the air and let it happen.
    W5BIB likes this.
  2. N1OOQ

    N1OOQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yup, I got the adrenaline rush with my first CW contact in 20 yrs... Makes for a shaky fist. Perfectly normal, and it passes pretty quickly with a few more QSOs.
    W9BFZ and AA8NN like this.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Most experienced CW ops won't even mention anything about your making mistakes.

    Who cares?
    W9BFZ likes this.
  4. N0MAP

    N0MAP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think there is some unspoken law amongst cw ops, and I'm probably going to be never allowed into their hallowed halls for revealing this. But.

    Have you ever noticed on ssb, especially on nets, how people tend to do lots more talking than listening? Like maybe 90% vs 10%? I mean everyone talks the same amount, but listening is usually in shorter supply than the talking. I think that holds on cw as well. In fact, I have this sneaking suspicion that when people say "just listen and make a note here or there" about learning to head copy cw, what they're actually saying is "accurate copy isn't really all that."

    In fact, the moment I began to observe this was when a very experienced cw op friend told me he can easily go for a nature break during the other guy's go-round with zero impact on the conversation. I started listening to QSOs with an eye to this and, in fact, it tends to be true. If someone is going to ask a question, they do it at the end of their go-round, and they make it VERY clear. And if the other guy doesn't answer the question, the exchange isn't slowed up at all.

    The moral: copy what you can, send as accurately as you can, and waste exactly zero brain cycles worrying about your mistakes. There is a way better than even chance the other guy/gal didn't even notice.
    M6GYU and W9BFZ like this.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    want to be I presume you've already seen my "12 Tips" piece, so I won't repeat it here.


    1) Your best bet is to learn all the characters (A-Z, 0-9, comma, period, slant bar, question mark, error/repeat) first, at whatever speed. Then work on speed skills.

    2) Your use of Farnsworth spacing (20 wpm characters with extra spacing between them) is a very good practice for learning. It avoids the bad habit of "counting dits" and gets you to recognize sound patterns rather than individual dits and dahs. It also gives you lots of time to recognize and respond. (5 wpm is one character every 2.4 seconds). Helps avoid the "10 wpm wall" and such. However, you won't hear a whole lot of Farnsworth spacing on the air.

    3) Sending helps receiving.

    4) Always remember that you're learning a set of skills, not just one, and that one size never fits all.

    5) In my experience, "writing it down" is a good idea when you're learning. (This includes using a keyboard and computer, or even a mill). Yes, folks will say "put down your pencil", but I say that for most people, "writing it down" is the way to go when learning.

    Here's why:

    When you "write it down", your task is to hear the incoming character, recognize it, and write it down, over and over and over. You don't have to split your concentration between the tasks of dealing with the current character and remembering the previous ones. Yes, you will eventually want to be able to "head copy" - which is another skill. For most people, it's easier and faster to learn one skill at a time. Complex skills are usually best taught by being broken down into pieces which are later combined. When someone is learning to play an instrument and sing at the same time, or to sing and dance simultaneously, they usually learn the pieces separately, then combine them - at least, when they're new at it.

    6) On the one hand, insisting on absolute perfect copy can be a hindrance to progress. On the other, being sloppy about the details makes for a poor operator. Anything worth doing is worth doing well - and it's actually more fun to do it right. The trick is to find the exact Zen sweet spot between becoming fixated on perfection and being sloppy - which is another skill.....

    7) People make a big deal about "talent" and "having a knack" and other nonsense, but the reality is more like this: talent2.png

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    W4DMK and N8AFT like this.
  6. W9BFZ

    W9BFZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Indeed I have. I still haven't had a chance to read the book you recommended but it is still on my "to do" list. A bit overwhelmed with my "to do" list at the moment :)

    While I'm still not even close to 100% on my copy, I am learning to recognize some of the more common words and prosigns. For example, I don't hear the individual letters C and Q any more. My brain sort of auto completes it to CQ and gets ready for the next part. This may be one of those times where my severe dyslexia comes in handy. Over the years I've adapted to rapid pattern recognition.

    Had a bit of a setback in that realm, but all in good time.

    And I LOVE that picture you posted.
    N2EY likes this.
  7. W9RAC

    W9RAC Subscriber QRZ Page

    Consider giving the SKCC website a peek . Lots of great insight for new op's. Also take a look at there Elmer area there, you may find one close by who can work with you on-air , which will help you immensely regarding your learning , and it's way more fun! 73, Rich
    W9BFZ likes this.
  8. N2SUB

    N2SUB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Having graduated from a school if the arts, I can assure you that some people have more talent, or more of a knack, than others. My college roommate travels the world playing music. Another roommate is a well-published author. Other people like Wynton Marsalis are names you might know. But the majority fade into obscurity. That's why I fell back on ham radio....I have more of a knack for that.
  9. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Of course! No argument there.

    However.....those folks with "talent", or a "knack".....didn't the vast majority of them have to work long and hard at developing their knack/talent? How many hours did/does Wynton Marsalis practice his trumpet?

    As for "obscurity"......

    I'm privileged to know and work with some really good musicians. They may not be famous but they're good - IMHO.

    For some, music is not their "day job" - they do it because the love it. For others, the rewards of things like teaching, performing in smaller venues, etc., are what they really want.

    And some may be famous some day. It happens sometimes.

    I have learned much from them - and I'm still learning.


    Ever read a short story called The Foster Portfolio, by Kurt Vonnegut?


    The point I was making is that, too often, people use talent/knack as an excuse for not learning things like Morse Code. Often, the reality is that they just don't want to learn it. Or, they think that there's some magic easy way which will turn them into Ted MacElroy in a few weeks by reading a book and watching a video.

    Learning skills doesn't work that way.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
  10. N2SUB

    N2SUB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Believe it or not, some of the best players I've seen skate through school and don't hardly practice at all. It's in their blood. I don't know if you can understand unless you've lived among them. In their minds, they are practicing all the time. It's freaky.

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