Learning CW, it just doesnt stick!

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by SA7CNG, May 21, 2020.

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  1. M0KBO

    M0KBO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I’ve found the echo trainer on the Morserino has been great. Admittedly I used lcwo for a few months before to learn the characters but there is a Koch trainer on the Morserino too that could be useful for the OP.
    YMMV tho.
  2. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Lots of good advice already.

    Instead of adding redundant advice, perhaps I can just comment on stickiness.

    Some people find it easy to learn CW. Some people have to work harder. Some have to work much harder. Perhaps there is a threshold that once you have reached that threshold it sticks.

    I taught myself CW in 1963 and started with a 5 wpm Novice license. Was on the air every day doing CW for an hour or so. Took me a few months to get from 5 wpm to 13 wpm. Then made General later that year and joined the South Carolina CW Net and started CW traffic handling. Handling CW traffic every evening really helped. Quickly got to 20 wpm and then to 25 wpm. Going to the ( faster ) regional and area nets helped with speed as they pushed me.

    In other words, using it every day so that it became part of me.

    Then I was off the air for almost 30 years. When I came back I went straight to CW and found I could easily make contacts at 20 wpm. That's 30 years without doing CW and then an instant re-start at 20 wpm. When I came back I started operating in the weekly Wednesday CWTs and doing CW contests on the weekends. Took a week or two to get from 20 wpm to 25 wpm. Then maybe a month and I was at 30 wpm. Now at 35 wpm without really trying. And 40 wpm if I focus. The point is, once it really sticks, it sticks.

    The challenge of course is to get to where it sticks.
    W5BIB, M0KBO, K8PG and 1 other person like this.
  3. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Your experience is similar to mine.

    What is seldom mentioned is that "learning Morse" is only the first step. Becoming proficient with Morse generally requires "full immersion" - and not just "for a while."

    If one "learns Morse", then merely dabbles at it for a spell, then Morse will never "stick."

    And active participation in a CW traffic net improves one's proficiency far more than exchanging "599 SPC" in contests.

    Full immersion and sufficient time.
    VE3BXG, N4UP and M0KBO like this.
  4. K5TSK

    K5TSK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    In the period since late 2015, when I relicensed to extra hoping for a few months on ham radio, I've been a self experiment of one. Relearning to hard copy, head copy, at various speeds with varying success. Learning to send on right hand, then left hand. Reversing fingers from index finger on dits to index finger on dahs, both hands. It has been fun. It has been exasperating and depressing at times. No brag, just fact.
    It's all a process. You have to want to do it. You have to want to do it badly. No one can tell you the very best way for anyone else to learn, but they can tell you what has worked for others. Listen. Try different tools. When it's all said and done, it's a process and you have to use the best tools for you to achieve. Then when you have worked your tail off, remember some of us can train all our life, but we will never be the very best. Then it's time to just be humble about it all. Good luck.
    WN1MB likes this.
  5. PU2OZT

    PU2OZT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Try this https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/k6rau
    I hated anything needing a keyboard, limiting computer hassle to LoTW is already too much.
    "Please copy!" seems very basic but... it works :)
  6. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would say that this very much is the case.

    There are some similarities to having learned to ride a bicycle.
    This "sticks" and a minimal effort is required to use the skill again.

    Same with Morse skills.

    When the reflex of translating a sound to a letter on a paper is acquired, it becomes very well ingrained into your brain.

    I have heard from many that "once Morse is properly learned,
    it never becomes forgotten", and my own experiences mirror theirs.

    W5BIB and N4UP like this.
  7. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was sold the Koch method on that basis, and wasted well over a year persisting with it when it was clearly (in retrospect) not working for me at all, and I've heard often enough since from others to know it certainly does not work for everyone, though it clearly does work for some.

    It was only when I abandoned Koch that I actually made any real progress. Things that did help me included:
    • Taking all the "Do not..." advice and either turning it round so it was usefully positive, or throwing it away. Something like "Listen to the rhythm", for example.
    • Finding a good pitch and volume for my ears. For me, 400-500Hz works far better than the more usually encountered 600-700Hz.
    • Finding a sensible target speed. No point in listening at 20wpm if you can only write at 15wpm.
    • Listening to predictable sequences (like ABC..., 123..., etc.) to start with, and then moving on to plain text.
    • For short exercises, working with short words, or q-codes or callsigns.
    • Getting a paddle and keyer, and practicing sending as well as listening.
    • Finding a regular reliable on-air Morse practice session. My favourite one is weekly, mixed mode (SSB and CW), sent by a real person (not a machine), and includes plenty of helpful comments along with the Morse.
    K8PG, W0PV, M0KBO and 1 other person like this.
  8. W4WVW

    W4WVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I first learned morse code (60s) I bought an ARRL book filled with 5 letter random groups. I built a CPO and recorded the groups on a cheapo battery powered tape recorder. I would wait a few days then play back and copy. I never thought I could get my speed up to 13 wpm. A lot of QSOs later I was able to upgrade to Advanced class. I decided I would operate cw exclusively until I made it to Extra class. Later that year, at the last Chicago FCC test session, I passed the Extra. I was elated and couldn't wait to hit the Extra class portion of the SSB phone bands. After one day of that silliness I went back to the cw portion of the bands. I found that contesting rapidly increased my comprehension at higher speeds. Probably 95% + of my HF operating has been cw. By choice of course! Hang in there and approach Morse as a fun way to communicate.
    K8PG and WN1MB like this.
  9. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    "To each his own".

    The reason why I believe in the Koch method is because I have seen it work.
    In the cases I witnessed, people without any pre-knowledge of Morse went from zero to a reliable 10 WPM or more in just two weeks or so.

    Compared to when I myself learned Morse the "hard and inefficient way" which took almost 6 months of daily training sessions on my own
    to get to 12 WPM as a 13-year old in 1969. The breakthrough came when the characters quite suddenly became individual sounds.

    You have just described a "sure-fire" way to destroy the ability to copy plain-text on paper. It is a "cardinal sin" for any professional or military Morse operator to predict or anticipate anything.

    I may be a "Morse Taliban", but in my world "copying" is to accurately transcribe received Morse on paper or on a typewriter, and "reading" is receiving in your head without any presumptions of accuracy.

    One thing does not exclude the other, but as soon as anticipation enters the game, it is one path to disaster for accuracy.

    N2OTG, N4UP, W5BIB and 2 others like this.
  10. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Clearly it works for some, but it took me more than a month using Koch on LCWO to get past the third character. Then another month to get past the fourth. It was still taking a month or more for each step when I finally took a step back, looked back at what was happening, and realised it really was not working for me at all. To be honest, I had almost enough information to realise that by the time I moved to the fourth character, and I should have pulled the plug on Koch and tried something else far far sooner, and not wasted over a year on it.

    Sure, once you're copying plain text then anticipation does have to take a back seat, but even there it plays some sort of part in word recognition. In the early stages, however, I found that knowing which charater was coming next helped me to connect the sound with the character far better than the random groups Koch was throwing at me.
    PU2OZT likes this.

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