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Author Topic: How to practically copy CW in your head - for beginners  (Read 13325 times)
AB7KT
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Posts: 155




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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2013, 07:34:37 PM »

K8AXW: go back and read my previous post. You somehow left all that out of the discussion.

I advocate learning to copy in your head by listening to plain text stuff (including on the air CW QSOs). Stuff just like they send on W1AW code practice which is typically text out of QST magazine articles. I chose to use the CNN Headline News simply because someone posted the link, and I could use my cell phone to listen to it in the car. It plays in an endless loop so you don't have to mess with your phone while you are on the road. You CAN listen to W1AW code practice from the ARRL website, however it plays the file and stops. I used to commute 70+ miles to work. I could spend 15 minutes or so listening to the news without ever touching my phone.

When I was listening to the news, I knew what the current news stories were. So, when a news story started, I knew bascially what was going to be said. This fact allowed me to miss letters, words, etc but I was able to sort of fill in/guess at words because I knew what was being talked about. I might get a letter or two out of a word, but was able to "guess" the word based on the letters I copied and because I knew what they were talking about.  Over time, I was able to copy more and more and miss less and less. After a few months I stopped writing down my ham radio QSOs word for word. I started taking notes. Sometimes I would get off track and have to pick up the pencil and revert back to copying on paper. At some point along the line, I quit even doing that.

If you can copy W1AW code practice in your head: not nessessarily with 100% copy but you are following what is being discussed, you can easily handle a CW QSO on the air. This isn't a "canned" QSO. This is being able to copy in your head.

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I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
K8AXW
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Posts: 3723




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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2013, 08:57:07 PM »

7KT:  I didn't mean to minimize your opinion OM so please try to get the knot out of your tail!

I've never heard of CNN being sent by CW and it's great that you have this resource.  Same with W1AW.  However, both must be used at a specific time.  On the air experience is usually at a different time and will be used much more than the other two examples you gave.

Consequently, I feel that the time on the air is the most important and "life like."  I'm always amazed at how so many of us want the easy way, the fastest way to learn a talent.  Most times this fast/easy way winds up complicating the process and probably discourages many. 

At one time people 'just did it.'  Now so much time is wasted looking for the fast/easy way that seldom actually works.  You found a method and I congratulate you.  As one old ham told me many times, "Whatever floats your boat."  Hardly original but truthful, never-the-less.
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M0LEP
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Posts: 200




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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2013, 11:16:09 PM »

I'm always amazed at how so many of us want the easy way, the fastest way to learn a talent.

That's just human nature. (Well, the smarter folks will be looking for "most efficient" rather than "easiest", but that's a subtle difference.) A few might be able to "just do it", but most folk will need some help along the way. A good teacher could adapt the training to match the pupil's needs, but in these post-Morse-test days there aren't so many teachers about (never mind good teachers). If you want to learn but you don't know where to start, and there's no teacher there, what else are you to do? Chances are you come to some likely place and ask...
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M0JHA
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« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2013, 01:30:21 AM »

Just reading the code in your head rather than copying it with a pen is so much more fun and feels more natural . I'm self taught and started reading as soon as i was making qso's just jotting bits and bobs down , name/call etc . I don't think it's any harder than writing down, in fact i find writing down harder as it's one more thing to do , like learning code itself it's just practice..

learning doesn't have to be boring , make some plain text mp3 files on subjects that interest you and listen whilst out and about , i have had loads of files on fishing etc .. I'm now listening to a case file on Jack the Ripper and i forget about code and concentrate on reading what's being said ..

one tip i would offer and some may disagree is make the files faster than you currently work at. i work at 21wpm at the moment on air but my files are at 25 and although i miss more than i would on air the bits i am getting come very naturally and i'm hardly aware i'm reading code and it's starting to feel like reading if that doesn't sound daft ..

Oh , i make no conciouse effort to do it , i listen with the view if i hear it, i hear it , if i don't ,i don't  , no pressureand i go about my business with the mp3 playing away ..

billy
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2013, 04:38:05 PM »

I think "whatever works for you" is the right way.

But since I taught code classes for 20 years to hundreds of people I didn't know, I think "most" found that really believing code is a language and learning to use it is the same as learning French (or whatever might be a new language) works well.  And that is, to think in code.  If you have to think in English (or whatever) and "translate" into code, that just makes it harder.

And I think literally every single student found that sending code helps with being able to receive it.  As such, "listening" is fun, and fine, but makes a longer and more difficult path to becoming good at it: It's faster and easier to be good if you also send it -- a lot.
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AB9NZ
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2013, 08:08:42 PM »

Quote
And I think literally every single student found that sending code helps with being able to receive it.  As such, "listening" is fun, and fine, but makes a longer and more difficult path to becoming good at it: It's faster and easier to be good if you also send it -- a lot.
  100% true Steve. I've been listening to music on the radio most of my life, using the logic of the Koch method, I should be a rock star now.
               Tom, ab9nz, Mount Prospect, Illinois
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K7JBQ
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Posts: 80




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« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2013, 10:42:51 PM »

"Head copy," or whatever you want to call it, is more a matter of attitude than technique.

If you convince yourself that's it's OK to miss the occasional character, you're part way there.

If you decide to "have a conversation," instead of sweating "copying code," you're most of the way there.

The rest is simply doing it, as Steve suggested, until it's second nature.

73,
Bill
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LB3KB
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Posts: 224


WWW

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« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2013, 05:42:22 AM »

I've been listening to music on the radio most of my life, using the logic of the Koch method, I should be a rock star now.
That's just stupid, Tom.

If you applied Koch to playing the guitar, you would learn one note or chord at a time at the speed you want to play it at.  Whenever you could hit that one note or chord most of the time, you would add another one.

While that may not make you a rock star, it sure would make you a better guitarist than just sitting around bitching about it.


LB3KB Sigurd
justlearnmorsecode.com
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AB9NZ
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2013, 06:58:50 AM »

Good point Sig. Probably not a fair comparison, but I do believe the act of sending has a huge impact on imprinting the sounds in your brain. Don't you believe sending helps in learning the characters faster? Tom, ab9nz
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AD0AE
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Posts: 78




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« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2013, 02:57:12 PM »

Hi All-

I just want to thank you all for the awesome suggestions and the input.  I will say that my time on the air is pretty limited, so that is partially why I wanted to ask for a few other things I could do.  I also sit in front of a computer most of the day, so something online makes a lot of sense.  I was mainly asking this for suggestions on how to take things to the next level.

I plan to put some of these ideas into practice, along with trying to send some code in my spare time.  Maybe there is some sort of software package that will help you send code...

Thank you all for the suggestions!

73s,
Steve
AD0AE
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N3QE
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« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2013, 03:26:11 PM »

35 years ago, I would take notes in paper logbook of (beyond FCC required logging) ops name, QTH, rig, other interesting information. As a novice I pretty quickly learned that the typical novice QSO had a lot of repitition and while I could do letter-for-letter copy by handwriting at a speed of 5 or 10 WPM it got hard as I got faster. The typical RST, name, QTH exchange involved a lot of repitition and very quickly I think we all progressed from 100% copy, to just taking notes.

Fast forward to 2013. I have scraps of paper on the desk to take paper notes if necessary. The log information like name etc. now goes straight into my computer logger via keyboard. I do a lot of contesting but other stuff too.

As far as notes... The bandmap (partially filled in by skimmers if I'm running assisted, but always filled in and followed by keyboard and eye as I listen to the band) is important to many ham activities but is completely essential in contesting. The equivalent when I was a kid, was "ARRL Op Aid 7" aka the dupe sheet as annotated by band position (at least many of us, who weren't filling the whole dupe sheet, were annotating hand-drawn bandmaps). The computer bandmap is so much better. I haven't seen Op Aid 7 in decades. I don't know if there's a CW practice program that simulates tuning the band and letting you fill in the bandmap. If there were... that would be excellent practice. As it is, RufZXP is pretty good too (minus the actual "information value" in a bandmap).

If you wanted to use a computer program that is similar to my CW usage... I think RufZXP is pretty good. You don't have to key in the call letter-by-letter as it comes in, so it encourages thinking in bigger blocks than just letters. The computer UI is not identical to logging programs but is not too much different. If you miss something the first time, you just ask for a fill, in this way RufZXP is just like real life.

There's some slow CW on the bands... just tune it in and listen to it. Copy to paper or via keyboard if you feel it's necessary... but pretty soon you'll move beyond that. It's a natural progression if you are listening to real QSO's or contest exchanges, and not using "100% copy" training programs.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2013, 03:28:19 PM by N3QE » Logged
LB3KB
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Posts: 224


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« Reply #26 on: January 14, 2013, 03:29:26 AM »

Good point Sig. Probably not a fair comparison, but I do believe the act of sending has a huge impact on imprinting the sounds in your brain. Don't you believe sending helps in learning the characters faster? Tom, ab9nz
You have to learn the characters before you can send them.  Once you know the characters, both sending and receiving will reinforce your skills.  And practicing sending is a must.  Too many of us went on the air with great receiving skills and messed up utterly because we didn't know how to properly send at speed.

73
LB3KB Sigurd
justlearnmorsecode.com
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WA6MJE
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Posts: 71




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« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2013, 09:02:48 AM »

Thanks for all the great tips here.  After 55 years of hamming, one of my bucket list items it is actually get proficient at copying CW in my head before I kick the bucket.  I do not have forever to get this done at my age Smiley

First a question.  What is the goal here?  I had assumed that the most proficient CW op would actually copy every single word as would a person in a conversation in their native tongue.  But, the hints in these posts suggests that actually they just get the gist of it. I am not sure which is the goal I must shoot for.  Way back when I was a kid, one of my high school buddies became a whiz at CW, and when I stopped off at his house after school, he would whip out code that seemed like a blur to me, and he never used paper, and it seemed like he and the other party just chatted away without skipping a beat while I was clueless as to what was being said even though I had passed the FCC 13 WPM general test at the time. So I am setting my goal after all these years to do what he did.  Is that realistic?

Then a tip.  Suggestions here are to copy on the air rather than using practice devices. I have been doing that.  An easy way is to monitor one of the several SDR servers on websdr.org.  One of them has all of 160 through 20 meters showing in waterfalls all at once.  I can easily see a CW trace in the waterfall and click on it to listen in.  Also, I can tell which ones are at my speed by the spacing on the waterfall.  I can do this on my laptop while casually watching a boring TV show and get a few hours of practice at night.  I can do it from anywhere I have a computer and an internet connection, so I can practice copying a real QSO from a hotel room with no rig, no antenna.  My code speed is now back to 18 WPM working on 20.  But, I do not have the confidence yet to actually get on the air for a few more weeks.

Some day I will hook up with you guys at blazing speed and chat. Better late than never.

Rene - WA6MJE   
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2013, 01:39:17 PM »



First a question.  What is the goal here?  I had assumed that the most proficient CW op would actually copy every single word as would a person in a conversation in their native tongue.

Maybe, but when you converse with someone verbally, you don't write down what they say.  If you have a weak cellular telephone connection, or a noisy landline connection, or a fading signal on the radio (voice mode QSB), you can miss quite a lot of what the other person says and still have a perfectly good conversation.

I never thought "copying every single word" had anything to do with having QSOs via amateur radio. Wink
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KW6LA
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Posts: 91




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« Reply #29 on: January 16, 2013, 04:55:47 PM »

It blows my mind when people say just copy words when you’re just starting out to learn code. I have been listening to people speaking Spanish here in LA for decades
but have not learned to speak it… Crazy .  Know this up front, It is an acquired skill like riding a unicycle. You must practice, but practice doesn’t always make perfect and
can make it permanent if do it wrong. The human brain processes things very different, so what works for one may not for another. Just look at how men and women
think so differently. Lots of good advise here, but none would have worked for me. No silver bullet for most, but live sending and coping QSO’s have been the building
blocks for many Hams.

KW6LA / T2
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