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Author Topic: Listening to fast CW  (Read 1111 times)
AE6RF
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« on: April 12, 2006, 10:09:51 AM »

Greetings,

Several sources seem to say that just listening to fast CW, say 5 WPM faster than you can comfortably copy, will increase your code speed.

How well has this worked for people?
If it worked for you, how long did it take?

I've been doing it during my commutes, and it seems that all that is happening is my head hears it and says "that's too fast to copy" and takes the "CW decoder" off line.

73 de Donald
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NI0C
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2006, 10:23:09 AM »

Listening and trying to understand code at slightly higher speeds than one is comfortable with most definitely will help.  The key (pardon the pun) here is the choice of speed.  A five WPM increment is fine if you are already capable of copying 50 WPM and trying to get to 55 WPM proficiency.  However, if your code speed is 15, then 20 WPM is 33% faster-- perhaps too big an increment.  So I'd suggest trying to pick a speed that is 5-10% faster than your normal speed.

73,
Chuck  NI0C
 
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2006, 11:14:33 AM »

I never found that listening to CW during commutes or any other time helped anyone improve their code proficiency.  Maybe it has, but not for anyone I've ever met or spoken with.

What does work is using CW to make contacts on the air, and operating way over your head (trying to complete contacts at a higher speed than you can really "copy") absolutely works for that.  

Tricks are:

1.  Don't write anything down, just let the code flow and grab what you can from it.

2.  Don't put pressure on yourself to copy 100%, since that really doesn't matter and there's no reward for doing so.

3.  Definitely SEND code, and make contacts; don't just listen to it.  A large part of getting more proficient, and faster, is sending.

4.  Make contacts.  Interactive code, where you send and then the other party sends back to you, and you actually exchange information, works way better than passive learning by only listening.

The advice I've given my code students for 25 years is to use the code on the air to make contacts, however sluggish a process that might be.  Log 500 CW contacts, and be sure to log them all.

For QSO number 501, you'll be going 20 words per minute, probably faster.  

It never fails.

If you make three CW contacts a day, it takes only 14 weeks to make 500 contacts.

WB2WIK/6
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NI0C
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2006, 11:42:53 AM »

I'm astonished by Steve's statement: " I've never found that listening to CW during commutes or any other time helped anyone improve their code proficiency. Maybe it has, but not for anyone I've ever met or spoken with."

So what are the W1AW code proficiency sessions all about?  Has ARRL just been spinning its wheels all these years?  I think not.  

The only way to improve one's code reception ability is to listen to code.  The only way to make progress in speed is to listen to code at speeds that make us uncomfortable.  Granted, it's more fun and painless to practice by making on the air QSO's; however that's not the only way.  Most people (myself included) prefer to conduct QSO's at speeds that they are comfortable with, and to practice by listening to others who are faster.  For instance, I enjoy listening to morning ragchews by W9FCX and W4BQF.

I see no reason why one's commute time could not be used productively for this purpose.  

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2006, 01:58:00 PM »

Hi Chuck,

I don't encourage any of my students (hundreds, over the years) to "listen" to code, other than maybe to see how perfectly sent code sounds, when computer generated as W1AW and most of the practice tapes and CDs are.

The reason I don't encourage this is because it takes a lot of time, and more concentration power than many people have; so, it can be almost immediately frustrating for probably half the students.

I shoot for a 100% success rate, so I'd rather not suggest something that achieves 50%.

Having interactive code sessions in the classroom (for unlicensed students), practicing using hand keys and code practice oscillators, gets them from "zero" to 5 wpm in just a few classes.  Once licensed, they can get on the air and practice making real contacts, which gets them from 5 to 20 wpm by the time 500 contacts are completed.  Usually less, sometimes a lot less.  But 500's a good goal, and in more than twenty years of using this approach, I've never seen anybody who can make 500 CW contacts and isn't going at least 20 wpm -- without any off-air "listening" practice, at all.

73

Steve WB2WIK/6
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W5HTW
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2006, 02:13:17 PM »

I usually agree with Steve, but on this one I lean in another direction.  Now older, my CW copy speed has dropped considerably, and mostly from lack of use, though lately I have been back at it.

I find, though, that while I am working at the computer, doing real business, I tend to have a CW QSO in the background, or perhaps W1AW.  It's pleasant, without being too distracting from the work at hand, and I often find I am doing the work and simultaneously copying the CW in my head.  

Since I came from a background in which written-down 100 percent copy was a work requirement, my maximum page copy was roughly 35 wpm, and never got beyond that. (Not by hand, but on a mill.)  But doing the computer and with the CW in the background, I'm probably getting back up closer to 40.  Well, maybe.  At least 35 is coming into the old bean a lot better.  

He's definitely right about not writing things down!  That slows you quite a bit.  

I agree also with an earlier statement about going too far above your present good copy speed.  Nudge it a bit, but not a lot.

However!  Different things work for different folks, and if something doesn't work, don't keep trying it.  Do something else.  

Ed
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NI0C
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2006, 02:50:28 PM »

I can't argue with success, Steve-- you are to be commended for what you've been able to achieve with your ham radio classes.  Still, you'll have to agree that (approximately) half of each CW QSO involves listening!  And it's a sad state of affairs when simply listening "takes a lot of time, and more concentration power than many people have."  

Like Ed, if I'm not actively pursuing DX or involved in a QSO, I frequently have one of my radios tuned to a CW ragchew on 30 or 40 meters in the background while I'm answering e-mail or doing other computer work.

I guess I'm a little old-fashioned, too, when it comes to writing down CW copy.  This shouldn't be an issue at all at slow speeds-- one should be able to write everything down with ease-- there's plenty of time.  At high speeds, head copy is more natural-- conversational-- while actual paper copy is more difficult.  

If I'm in a very slow CW QSO, I copy everything just so I can remember what was said!

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2006, 03:24:23 PM »

"If I'm in a very slow CW QSO, I copy everything just so I can remember what was said!"

::I can sure relate to that one.  But, although I keep a log, I never write anything down beyond the typical "log stuff," like time-call-RST and then the other op's name and location.  Maybe jot a note in the "comments" section about something interesting the other op might say, but I try to just remember instead -- it's good brain exercise.

::Interestingly, some guys evidently leave code on as background music -- and I can understand that -- but, boy, I don't and never have.  If I'm not in QSO or intentionally wanting to copy what somebody sends, I don't listen to code at all.  Then again, I don't listen to "phone" operating, either...and not much of an SWL.  I always wondered why they added general coverage to ham band receivers.

73 de Steve WB2WIK/6
dit dit
 
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AE6RF
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2006, 10:39:30 PM »

> If you make three CW contacts a day, it takes only 14 weeks to make 500 contacts.

Chuckle.

With 2 kids, the normal 50 hr/week job and a working wife, my 1 hour each way commute is my best "study time." Although my 6 year old daughter can send her name in CW and both kids LOVE playing with the keyer.

I'd love to make three CW contacts a day. But given the life I've choosen, one a day is a challenging goal.

Thus listening to CW in the car during my commute.

When I get an HF rig in the car, (a couple of weeks tops) I'll listen to "on the air CW", but in the mean time, I'll stick to increasing in smaller than 5 WPM increments and see how that works.

Thanks!

73 de Donald
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2006, 09:23:23 AM »

Donald, I hear ya.

I've had kids, too (four of them) and it's been a busy life.

I make 3 CW QSOs a day, almost every single day, in just a matter of minutes of operating during whatever miniscule free time I can scramble together.

My current "operating schedule" (as if there really were one) is I come home from the office, greet they XYL and kids, lock myself in the hamshack for about 30 mins to unwind.  Family activities begin with dinner, maybe an hour later or so, and then never end...

During that 30 mins, I can fire up on 20CW or 40CW or anywhere I wish, and make a few contacts.  It is a great unwinding tool.  CW is really relaxing...kind of lulls me into the twilight zone, which is a good place to be after a work day.

Each needs to work by his own schedule, of course.  I found mine works for me.  But if you can get on even at midnight for 30 minutes, or whatever time you have, just make those 3 contacts.  I make it a goal, like running the treadmill for 20 mins every morning (I get up at 5:15 every day, to make sure that's possible), or taking out the garbage Monday nights!

73

And good luck!

Steve, WB2WIK/6
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KD8BVJ
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2006, 02:09:40 PM »

This has turned into another great post! These discussions have helped me a lot.

The one thing I have learned from you guys is that if your current method of learning Morse Code isn't working; Get off it fast and try something else!!

   Thanks Again

     KD8BVJ
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K8GU
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2006, 11:21:17 AM »

Listening to (and sending) fast CW helps me.  I've tried to listen to it while doing other things like reading or driving.  But, it just doesn't work.  I have trouble paying attention to people talking when I'm reading or driving, too.  I think it might just be the way I'm wired.

It took me forever to learn the code.  Mostly due to the fact that I wasn't committed rather than any particular study habits.  I made one CW QSO on the way from 0 to 20 wpm.  But, as soon as I discovered CW contesting, that changed.  You may learn better if you can tie learning the code to some activity that you already want to do.

Good luck and have fun!
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KW4N
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2006, 09:03:56 AM »

I was off the air for almost 13 years and had to relearn the code. For what it's worth, here was my experience:(I'm 65 now)
1. When I told some old timer's what I was going to do, they said it would come back to me in a couple of weeks. It didn't.

2. Initially I only had a receiver so I just listened ...head copy only. It seemed to take a long time to get from one increment in speed to another because the steps were too large. It was frustrating. Breaks of two to three days helped.

3. A friend then loaned me an AEA KT-2 c.1970's trainer where I could program the exact speed and implement the Farnsworth technique. The results were significant and got me quickly up to 18-20 w.p.m. Then I stalled out. Still no transmitter/transceiver.

4. Poking around the net one day I stumbled onto the  Koch Trainer. This helped a lot because I was now copying words instead of random letters and numbers.
This was a transition point for me cuz now I was starting to recognize syllables and words....and it was easier because I could anticipate some of the words without having to concentrate on each letter. For me, the Farnsworth method was far superior to the Koch method.

5. Then I found a trainer on line (can't remember the name) where I could paste common words and those that I found difficult. It also had a feature were I could vary the speed by only one word per minute.  This I found helped me more than anything because the speed change was so seamless that I got up to 25 w.p.m. in only about two weeks. I'm still not transmitting yet. I also discovered that I had trouble copying at slower speeds and refocusing only on random numbers and letters.

6. For X-mas I got a memory stick with MP3 player so I pasted letters, numbers, tricky words etc. and tried listening while in the car.  Not a good thing.  It takes concentration for me to learn the code; this marginalized my driving safety, so I stopped.

7. I found a keyer kit that would work with a keyboard that I wanted to try and it also had a 1 w.p.m speed change. It also had a CW trainer with an echo feature, something I have never heard of. Random groups of five random numbers and letters are sent that have to be "echoed" back. This feature wouldn't let me fool myself into thinking I was faster than I really was.  My speed dropped. Still not transmitting. A lot of time has passed. A lot!

8. So I bought a used rig, put up my favorite antenna, a center fed zepp with homebrew open wire feeders and connected it to my old Johnson Matchbox. The world told me I was a lid of the highest order!

I've made thousands of CW contacts since then. No one had called me a lid. Here's my advice:

Do what WB2WIK/6 advised.

73's, Dave, KW4N

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KW4N
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2006, 09:06:14 AM »

I was off the air for almost 13 years and had to relearn the code. For what it's worth, here was my experience:(I'm 65 now)
1. When I told some old timer's what I was going to do, they said it would come back to me in a couple of weeks. It didn't.

2. Initially I only had a receiver so I just listened ...head copy only. It seemed to take a long time to get from one increment in speed to another because the steps were too large. It was frustrating. Breaks of two to three days helped.

3. A friend then loaned me an AEA KT-2 c.1970's trainer where I could program the exact speed and implement the Farnsworth technique. The results were significant and got me quickly up to 18-20 w.p.m. Then I stalled out. Still no transmitter/transceiver.

4. Poking around the net one day I stumbled onto the  Koch Trainer. This helped a lot because I was now copying words instead of random letters and numbers.
This was a transition point for me cuz now I was starting to recognize syllables and words....and it was easier because I could anticipate some of the words without having to concentrate on each letter. For me, the Farnsworth method was far superior to the Koch method.

5. Then I found a trainer on line (can't remember the name) where I could paste common words and those that I found difficult. It also had a feature were I could vary the speed by only one word per minute.  This I found helped me more than anything because the speed change was so seamless that I got up to 25 w.p.m. in only about two weeks. I'm still not transmitting yet. I also discovered that I had trouble copying at slower speeds and refocusing only on random numbers and letters.

6. For X-mas I got a memory stick with MP3 player so I pasted letters, numbers, tricky words etc. and tried listening while in the car.  Not a good thing.  It takes concentration for me to learn the code; this marginalized my driving safety, so I stopped.

7. I found a keyer kit that would work with a keyboard that I wanted to try and it also had a 1 w.p.m speed change. It also had a CW trainer with an echo feature, something I have never heard of. Random groups of five random numbers and letters are sent that have to be "echoed" back. This feature wouldn't let me fool myself into thinking I was faster than I really was.  My speed dropped. Still not transmitting. A lot of time has passed. A lot!

8. So I bought a used rig, put up my favorite antenna, a center fed zepp with homebrew open wire feeders and connected it to my old Johnson Matchbox. The world told me I was a lid of the highest order!

I've made thousands of CW contacts since then. No one had called me a lid. Here's my advice:

Do what WB2WIK/6 advised.

73's, Dave, KW4N

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AE6RF
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2006, 07:45:11 AM »

> 8. So I bought a used rig, put up my favorite antenna,
> a center fed zepp with homebrew open wire feeders and
> connected it to my old Johnson Matchbox. The world told
> me I was a lid of the highest order!

I guess I'm a bit clueless. Why did they call you a lid when you actually got back on the air?

73 de Donald
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