Copy Speed Going Nowhere...

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KN3O, Jan 26, 2016.

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  1. VK5EEE

    VK5EEE Ham Member QRZ Page

    * DO write down what you receive, but when you miss a letter, put an underscore, quickly forget it, move on
    * Relax, enjoy, don't stress, learn not to worry about characters you missed, you'll fill them in later
    * Do not allow 5WPM character speed! Nothing less than 18WPM character speed, but have long gaps (farnsworth spacing)

    I think you've probably been trying too hard and too long. A few minutes a day is better than hours or than a big session a week. Enjoy it and only do it when you're relaxed and want to. Maybe you've been listening at 5WPM with character speed also at 5WPM then you will only hear "dots" and "dashes" and not characters. Character speed at 18WPM but effective speed at 5WPM by long gaps, G4FON software is free, and among the very best for learning CW, and doesn't allow you to even set the character speed too low - foolproof.

    Good luck and hope you notice soon the difference.
  2. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Lots of good advice already. If it were me, I'd simply be calling CQ at a speed I can copy, and expect callers to match that speed so I would be comfortable. Indeed, I did so when I came back into ham radio in 2012 after a long absence, and it didn't take much to get my code speed up to where I left off, and now I am quite beyond that point.

    Once you get to 20 wpm or so you might try the CWTs on Wednesdays ( 1300, 1900, and 0300 ), each for an hour, typically 25-35 kHz up from the bottom of the band on the non-WARC bands, exchange is name and member number or state. Non-members are welcome! Most CWOps members are sending at 25-35 wpm but will slow down for you if you are in the ballpark of 20 wpm. Working the CWTs every week really got my speed up.

    One thing I don't understand about your post is the statement "I know that I can transmit at an effective rate to hold a QSO and snag the dx I want" ... A DX exchange tends to be fairly short, and in my experience most DX I find are in the 25-35 wpm range. In order to work them, you need to be able to copy them, and send at a speed that is not too much slower than theirs. No doubt there are DX at all speeds, but listen to the pileups/rare ones and you will see that most are sending fast and working at fairly high rates.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    DX stations use all different speeds, but 'DXpeditions,' which imply 'rare' ones, almost always operate at 30-40 wpm; logical, since the point is to make many thousands of contacts in limited time and they'll probably never be wherever they are again.

    But to work at way above normal copy speed you really only need to copy their callsign, and your own if and when they reply. Log it with the band, date and time and you're done. I timed my contacts with K5P and see they each took about eight seconds from start to finish.

    Key to getting good is just using it a lot. I don't encourage 'listening,' although that may work for some. I really don't encourage the computer programs, tapes, CDs, etc, which are all just 'listening.' Interactive use, by actually making CW contacts, seems to work a whole lot better and gets you there faster; plus it's good sending practice. No use in knowing how to copy code if you can't send it well also.
    W5BIB likes this.
  4. AC0H

    AC0H Ham Member QRZ Page

    One correction. Using the Koch method you learn the code two letters at a time at the final speed you want to be able to copy.
    The character speed and word spacing are set equal.
    You want to learn to copy 30wpm? Character speed set for 30wpm and words spaced for 30wpm. Learn 2 letters at 99% before adding another letter.
    Fast character speed and slow word speed is the Farnsworth method, not Koch. I'm convinced the Farnsworth method is why people hit the infamous "10 wpm wall". That and writing down every character. Once you get to 20wpm you won't be writing anything down other than short notes. You won't have time.

    Practice time, one 20 minute session per day. if your sitting in front of the computer or rig for more than that you may as well punt.
    You have to learn the characters as sounds. You learned English as sounds way before you learned to read. You hear dit dah you know it's an A without accessing the lookup table in your head.
    You don't have time to "translate". If your missing letters at 5wpm then you don't know Morse code as sounds. If you think your sending good code at 15 - 20wpm with a straight key and not able to copy properly sent code at 5wpm....your not.

    Do a google search for "The Art and Skill of Radio Telegraphy". Read it, learn it, put it under your pillow at night.
  5. N0NB

    N0NB Ham Member QRZ Page

    You described me to a T as a Novice 32 years ago. Exactly the situation you describe is why i crashed and burned as a Novice after one incomplete QSO on New Years Day '84. My thought process was something along the lines of "real men don't ask for repeats" and during that portion of the QSO when I forgot every last vestige of Mr. Morse's code that I thought I knew, I abandoned ship rather than take Steve's advice and ask for fills. I also did not know about the utility of BK back then and how ops use it as a quick "over" prosign. In other words, "I'm breaking my transmission for you to make a short transmission back to me." I was also mortified to ask the other station to slow down a bit. Don't keep those thoughts as most ops will be glad to accommodate you.

    My one regret is that I let my unfounded fears destroy my confidence and with it any chance at a fun Novice career. That experience did teach me that I'll fail at everything I refuse to try.

    Over the years my copy has gotten better as I use it more, especially over the past decade or so. Oddly, I still have a bit of anxiety when starting a contest or some other event that goes away once the first QSO is complete. I chalk it up to performance anxiety or stage fright.

    Keep on advancing your skills. Today you have a forum of friends willing to help you understand what you're experiencing as we've been there ourselves at some point. You'll make it through just fine. Enjoy!
  6. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't suggest anything other than get on the air and make contacts. Time and practice will usually work to your favor and others have said...loosen up and don't get too serious.

    At least you are sticking with it and wanting to improve which is a great attitude.
  7. N3HEE

    N3HEE Ham Member QRZ Page

    WB2WIK has given the BEST advice. That is exactly what I tell my students. They make very quick progress using this recipe. It cant be said enough to just get on the air and use the code. People seem to be reluctant to do so. They will spend HOURS on the computer practicing and only make one QSO a week ! I require my students to make a minimum of 2-3 QSO's per day. -Joe N3HEE
    W4KYR and W5BIB like this.
  8. AA4OO

    AA4OO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I encourage you to join the SKCC.

    The SKCC Group has a scheduled qso page where you can ask folks to meet you on a particular frequency. Really nice operators and since they all use manual keys they can QRS to whatever speed you're comfortable with. The schedule page also lets you send messages back and forth. Not really a chat window but if you completely fall apart you can send them a message in near real time and they can get you back on track.

    Rich N4PBQ
  9. KE0FWZ

    KE0FWZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    A lot of good encouragement here. I also am learning CW. I think I am going abysmally slow but I am seeing progress ever so slowly. Right now I am using LCWO at 20 wpm. My biggest difficulty is to not freeze up if I stutter on remembering a letter. I need to instead just focus on typing in the letters I am hearing and not sweat the brain farts. I hear it gets easier learning words and prosigns.
  10. KN3O

    KN3O Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm already a member of the SKCC, and use a straight key myself, but I wasn't aware of the sked page, thanks!

    And thanks to all the advice. I did the CQ 160 CW contest this past weekend and got 62 QSO's. The key was I had to wait for the op to call a few times to get the whole call, and if the op was real fast I would wait to hear them complete a QSO to here the exchange more than once.

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