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Issues learning CW

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

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is true, but not all practice yields equal results. The trick is to find what works for you.

    K3EY likes this.
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    What worked for me, and hundreds of students I taught years ago when the code test was a requirement, was to not write or type anything at all, and just listen to the code like it’s a spoken language.

    I don’t know how well the computer exercises work, although I hear they can work well — never tried any of them.

    With my students in class I’d always set them up in pairs, with one sending and one paper, no pencils...just listening and starting out with just the simplest letters E, T, A, N, I, M. Once they all have those nailed, add U, D, G, S, O, R, K, W. Now they know enough letters to actually make words and send them back and forth to each other.

    I’ve found “sending” is 100% as important as “copying” when learning the code. Without sending, you’re missing half the skill set; plus, it seems to help cement the sounds and rhythms.

    As soon as the students knew enough letters to send and copy simple phrases, I’d take over sending to the whole class to see if they were really understanding what they heard. “BOSTON RE...” and they’d yell out “Red Sox!” LA LAK and they’d yell “Lakers!” I’d vary it a lot but never send an entire phrase to see if they’d be able to complete it, and they always could.

    The lessons were 60-90 mins each and after six classes, there was never a student who couldn’t copy the alphabet, numerals and a few punctuations at about 13-15 wem. That’s nowhere near a year, and was usually three to six weeks.

    The advantage of just hearing and understanding the code like it’s a language is once you can do that, you’ll never need paper or a keyboard or really anything, so you can operate CW mobile or anywhere.

    My memory isn’t terrific, either, so at home I always write down the other op’s callsign, name, location or anything I really want to remember or “log.” If I didn’t do that, five mins later I’d forget who they were. But no need to write all the other stuff.

    You might try acquiring two hand keys (if you don’t already have them) and a code practice oscillator (most HF rigs can be used this way by setting to CW and turning OFF the VOX/Break-In function, so you just key and hear the side tone without actually transmitting) and sending back and forth with your wife. IMO, you’ll get there faster and better than just “listening and copying.”

    Good luck!
    KZ4KX, K8BZ, N7BKV and 1 other person like this.
  3. W9RAC

    W9RAC Subscriber QRZ Page

    Brian congratulations to you and the wife for taking on the learning one of the most fun aspects of Amateur Radio. Below is a post I did earlier over on the CW forum here. With all due respect...... leave that code speed at 20. You will thank yourself later. 73 Rich

    "Listing to code at 20 with regards to the character speed lets you learn the sound of the character properly. If you learn a L at 5 and a then listen to a L at 15,18,20 you will not recognize it. Meaning your going to be learning the L again,along with everything else, at 20.
    So rather than having to relearn the characters again, learn them at 20 to start with, it may seem harder but in the long run its very much easier, then all you have to work on in the future is the recall time. Also it will prevent you from counting the dits and dahs. I do not believe you can lean code at 5 wpm or 10 for that matter without learning by counting, and once you have started that its over....done....kaput...its in your head. What happens is as you progress once you hit 15 ish, maybe less, and you are still trying to count you can't. Its too fast. So you're done. Then you are trying to learn NOT to count and trying to learn the characters at the sound speed of 20, over again.
    I learned at 5 wpm, with a Gordon West cassette program. I learned counting. When I moved up to 13 for the General I was still counting. I struggled even at 13 and head copy was never a option while counting. It took me a long time to relearn, wasted time, not to count and how to listen properly. I'm a 20/21 these days but even now I might even today catch myself trying to count a certain character now and again. When I do its over, I am immediately lost in the conversation. The time it took me to even think about the counting of a letter Im behind 5 characters. I have learned that head copy and counting are enemies so I have been certain to use head copy most of the time. Good luck, 73 Rich"

  4. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have taught code classes for over 59-years and have developed a system that works very well.

    I do NOT use the e, i, s, h, 5 and t, m, o, 0 method. That is a sure way to get in the habit of "counting" the "dits" and "dahs" which, generally, limits one's code speed to well under 10 wpm. I start with the letter "A" followed by the letter "B" followed by the letter "C", and so forth down the alphabet. By using that method, some of the more complex letters are learned early on in the process.

    Generally, I send each character at about a speed of between 15 wpm and 18 wpm. That fast, and it is very difficult to "count" the "dits" and "dahs" forcing one to actually listen to the "sound" of the character. I encourage the student to think of learning the International Morse code as learning a foreign language, a language with only about a total of 50 "words" (actually letters, numbers, punctuation, and pro-signs). Counting the "dits" and "dahs", the letter "A" is dit . . . dah but listening to the "sound", the letter "A" is ditdah. The letter "B" needs to be recognized as dahditditdit, and so on down the alphabet into the numbers, etc.

    Typically, with 2-each 1.5-hour formal sessions each week (and with the student practicing at home), it take 6-weeks to get all the characters learned and the code speed approaching 10 wpm. Some students learn in around 4-weeks and the slowest in about 8-weeks.

    There are, almost always, a couple of students who, generally, drop out within the 1st 2-weeks because they are just not willing to put forth the effort (not all that much) to really learn the code. After that, I have had a 100% successful rate in learning.

    I started teach code classes my sophomore year in high school for the local amateur radio club. There were students from younger than I to old enough to be my grandfather. Of course, there were some "raised eyebrows" especially from the older students when a high school student was introduced as the teacher. But, once the class started, there were no more problems with age.

    Others have different methods of teaching the code. I am not criticizing those methods, I have just found the method, that I use, is very successful in teaching the code.

    Glen, K9STH
    KE6EE and KI7QVR like this.
  5. AG6QR

    AG6QR Subscriber QRZ Page

    Absolutely normal!

    Your brain can only take so much at a sitting, when it's not working at all, take a break for at least a few hours, and/or get some sleep, and marvel at how much better you are when well-rested.

    Vary your speed. You'll hear different speeds on the air, so start listening to varying speeds now. Slowing down to where you can get 99 percent or better of what you hear will give confidence and cement those letters in your brain, while speeding up to where you only catch a few letters here and there will build your ear, as well. Most practice should be in the middle speeds, but don't get stuck at a single speed.

    Have fun!
    WZ7U, KE6EE and KI7QVR like this.
  6. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Wow, all of these offer some really good ideas! I think I'm on the right track and experiencing normal fatigue...

    I am up to lesson 19 of the Koch method. My character speed is currently 18 and word speed is 8 WPM. The "real" speed translates to a hair over 10 WPM. I can do a 2 minute session of 5 letter words and 2 out of 3 times get 90% or higher. Many of the characters are burned in memory and some I still have to think about but the more I do it, the more I just, "hear it" without thinking.

    There's a mix of 2, 4, 5, 6 element characters, including period and =. So, i think I'll be good.

    And, I DO find that a faster character speed forces me to hear the pattern rather than counting the elements. I started out at 5 WPM in the beginning but decided to speed it up to hear the pattern more clearly. I had to start from scratch! 5 WPM is too slow to hear the rhythm of the character. Now I know why one of the Elmers in our local club said slower speeds are almost painful and hard to copy.

    Thanks for all the input!
  7. W3MMM

    W3MMM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Also, consider your "end game" - you mentioned that you and your wife decided to learn morse code. Why? What do you plan to do with it?

    That may seem like a dumb question, but my advice is tied to it. Now that you can do morse code, mostly...why not dive in and start using it the way you'd hoped? Put another way, to put on the "doing" cap alongside your "learning" cap.

    The learning will continue, but now you can actually get a return on your investment. Besides, you'll be learning exactly the kinds of things that will be most useful (rag chewing / contesting / traffic handling, whatever) in real time. Others are generally understanding if you make occasional mistakes.

    Now, if your end game is to become a 50wpm rag chewer, well, maybe you do still need some practice. But for most anything else, you probably could begin to join the fun.

    Good luck!
    KI7QVR likes this.
  8. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Don't worry, I won't get tempted by the code machines. I'm doing this because it's a skill I want to have and use. It takes me some time to find something to tune into that I can follow. Some of the folks out there are savages with code! Tons of respect from me! When I first started hearing it I was saying, "there's no way that's a guy with a key or paddle!" But, the elmer who taught our class can code that fast, (he did it in the Navy, years ago).

    I'm finding that the, "sticking with it" is the key. It's becoming more natural and automatic...
  9. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm getting to where, SOMETIMES, if I fall behind, I can keep a couple characters in my head then type them in real fast. Sometimes I get em right and sometimes I'm off. Like, I'll think I heard dididit, but it was really didit. But, at least some of it's sticking in my head for a few seconds.
  10. KI7QVR

    KI7QVR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well, Tony, :D

    My primary thing would be ragchewing with like-skilled operators, but I'd probably do a few contests just to say I did it. If I advance to higher speeds, so be it, but right now, I'm comfortable with 20cpm/10wpm speed. It pushes me just enough that I do fumble here and there but not so fast that I crash right out of the gate.

    Brian, KI7QVR
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