Issues learning CW

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KI7QVR, Jun 11, 2019.

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  1. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    About a month ago my wife and I decided to learn CW. I'm using the website It's a great tool and you don't have to install it and it's available everywhere! My handwriting is sloppy so being able to type it in instead of writing it is a big help...

    Anyway, I'm finding that one time, I can go through a 2-minute session of copying 5-letter words and everything comes to me, the next time, it's like it's all foreign and I'm hearing it for the first time! It's frustrating. Like the harder I try, the worse I get.

    My character speed is set to about 20 WPM. Anything slower and I can't hear the rhythm or pattern. My actual WPM is somewhat slower, giving me a second to process what I just heard.

    My question is, is it normal to suddenly have a brain fart and forget everything? I think relaxing is a big part of it; when I'm doing well, I'm relaxed and and just hear it. If I'm trying to focus, I seem to miss more characters then I fall behind and, "tumble down the hill" for the rest of the session.

    Is this a normal part of the progression? Are there techniques for relaxing and just going with it?

    Brian, KI7QVR
  2. KE6EE

    KE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Try slowing down the character speed as low as 12 wpm. If character speed is too fast you may not be able
    to distinguish between characters adequately to keep them in memory. I think this is often
    a problem with those who hope to learn relatively fast code as quickly as possible.

    There's an old saw: "go slow in order to go fast." To spell it out, you can only learn at the
    outset at the speed that works for you. A month with an hour a day listening to code should
    be sufficient to master it completely at a useful speed, if not at 20 wpm.

    Learning code is quick and is an easy task for most people but it can't be rushed.

    You may need to drop the expectation that there is some magic way (high character speed) to make
    learning instantaneous. There isn't. We all learn in different ways and we have to be flexible enough
    to learn in the way that works for us. It's likely that 20 wpm character speed is too fast for you at this stage.

    12 wpm or a little more is just fine for hearing each character as a different rhythm.
    You don't sound relaxed in your post about learning code. Relaxing means not getting up tight when something isn't
    working and trying something new that does work. You should be progressing, however slowly, in a clearly-measurable way. If you are not progressing, then it's time to try something new until you find what works for you, not continue with something that someone else says is the "best" way to do things. The human mind, unlike a computer, doesn't have to
    be taught how to learn. It's completely automatic. When you discover an approach that
    works for you, you will know it.

    You don't want to continue with an approach that clearly is not working for you.

    And falling behind is exactly what experienced CW ops do. When you are relaxed and hearing characters
    clearly you can stay several characters behind so that typing them up or writing them down is not frantic, it's relaxed.

    Eventually, listening to code is completely automatic and subconscious. When you truly recognize character rhythms, you don't think about them.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
    NL7W, N7BKV, WZ7U and 1 other person like this.
  3. K4AGO

    K4AGO Ham Member QRZ Page

    This happened to me many years ago when I would get behind and try to play catch up. If yu get behind just skip what you missed and go on. There is no such thing as a "brain fart."
    W4IOA and AC8UN like this.
  4. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Then what is it that I smell when this happens? :):):):D:D:D
    K4KCY, WG8Z and WZ7U like this.
  5. KA6IBM

    KA6IBM Ham Member QRZ Page

    hang loose, it will take a year. The big obstacle for me is discerning a di di di and a di di di dit

    I use to scream at the receiver "Slow down!!!"

    stick with it! Dont get tempted by the code machines
    KI4AX and KP4SX like this.
  6. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Do you have any random group practice sets? Random groups FORCE you to be accurate, and even though they're a lot harder than plain text, working with them allows you to avoid plateaus. Lots of hams will disagree with me on this...but they're WRONG!
    KI4AX likes this.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page
  8. K3EY

    K3EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page


    If this was true I would have taken up crocheting

    in less than a year a life can be lived
  9. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have NO Short term memory!!
    Tell me your name, and unless you have a badge on, in 5 seconds I have forgotten it.
    That greatly hampers my ability to copy high speed code. It is hard to write faster than 15WPM, which is why I never passed the 20WPM test. I just marvel at these folks who can zip along at 35WPM!1!
    but the same thing is true for people of different languages. My wife thinks in Chinese so when I talk to her, she has to translate what I said in English to Chinese to understand what I am saying. She really should be an Interpreter as she knows, ENGLISH, CANTONESE, MANDARIN, and VIETNAMESE! That is so Remarkable!! So she would be great at code. She learned the code for her Tech Test back in 1987, but quickly forgot it after she passed.

    SO I cannot copy faster than about 15 no matter what!. I hear each letter and recognize it, but forget it a second later if I haven't written it down
    KI4AX, K4AGO and KI7QVR like this.
  10. W5LZ

    W5LZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I posted a long one explaining all about learning about CW. Then I erased it. It's simple, really. It takes practice listening to CW to understanding it. That's it in a 'nut-shell', just practice, lots and lots of it. Lots of time practicing 'sending' it in your head, signs, newspapers, the names of whatever you happen to be looking at. Practice, practice, practice. It'll seem like it takes forever. Till you do learn the sounds and then you wonder what all the trouble was about. Ever been 'there' before??
    One of the things you will do that you will have to 'un-learn' is that dot-dash written form. Everybody does it, it's a normal 'step' in the process. (Didn't say it was a -good- step, just a 'step in the process.) The only 'trick' is to -hear- the sounds, not see them.
    Have fun.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
    K4AGO, K4TTJ and K7MH like this.

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