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Author Topic: Moving away from Farnsworth: taper or cold turkey?  (Read 901 times)

Posts: 46

« on: July 04, 2017, 10:21:25 AM »

I started learning code about 5 months ago. I chose to use LCWO and set my character speed at 20 wpm from the start with a slower Farnsworth speed of about 5 wpm. So far I've learned all 40 of the Koch characters while gradually decreasing the Farnsworth adjustment to a current effective 12 wpm. My dilemma is that I now I have to make a decision about how to move to higher speeds. I'm enrolled in the CW Academy Level 2 course this autumn, so I'm trying to do whatever will help me use that course most effectively.

My starting goal was to be able to have QSOs at 20 wpm, so the original idea was to keep the characters at 20 and slowly taper the Farnsworth factor until there is no adjustment at 20/20. This turns out to be more difficult than I had anticipated due to the increasing difficulty in writing or typing to compare results with the program as my speed increases.

However, in addition to the Koch drills, I also started trying to build head copy skills. I've been using Ham Morse on my iPad listening to common word lists, call signs and news clips at 12 wpm. That's going well, so I now have an option about how to leave the Farnsworth adjustment as I progress further. Is it better to continue with a slow taper to increase speed by keeping my character speed at 20 and gradually adjusting down the Farnsworth adjustment, or should I move now to uncorrected 12 wpm and gradually advance at unadjusted speeds?  I've tried both 20/12 and 12/12 and they feel very different.

Most of the speed advancement software that I've seen and expect to use such as RufzXP and Morse Runner seem to require that you're no longer using any adjustment, so I expect that I'm going to be going cold turkey on the Farnsworth this summer.

Your wisdom and experience are most welcome - thank you in advance.

73, Ed AG7DT
« Last Edit: July 04, 2017, 10:24:29 AM by AG7DT » Logged

Posts: 1739

« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2017, 11:23:02 AM »

Your experience is interesting.

I learned code about 60 years ago as a kid when there were far fewer, if any, "methods" for learning or increasing speed "faster" or "more efficiently."

I have doubts about the "methods" because they are largely based not on established learning theory but rather on achieving selective performance benchmarks.

I think the "methods" essentially narrow the learning process so that real, comprehensive listening skills do not develop fully.

Remember that the old-time way to learn was based largely on military and commercial standards where ops had to perform under all sorts of adverse conditions, poor signal levels, noise, frequency drift.

Old-fashioned, long-term learning is richer and deeper. Whatever the word spacing or character speed I can copy comfortably at any speed up to 25 wpm, either in my head, writing by hand or using a typewriter or keyboard to copy. I've never made a big deal about using any method to learn--I've just made more QSOs.

At some point your skill-development will require just jumping in and letting yourself learn code in all its complexities. You may call it "cold turkey" but I would call it less-selective or richer learning.

It really doesn't take long to learn code in all its real-world variations. Getting anxious about the learning simply makes the learning much more difficult.

Relax and embrace that "turkey." And good luck. You will probably surprise yourself.


Posts: 14258

« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2017, 12:17:34 PM »

I'd say that since you started with Farnsworth I'd just stick with it and keep decreasing the spacing until you end up at 20WPM with the normal timing. To improve head copy, you might try some code drills of randomly selected short, common words at higher speeds. Once you get where you can recognize the complete sound of those words rather than copying the individual letters you'll find head copy much easier.

The military didn't use any of the "methods" because they had you copying code 8 hours per day, 5 days a week for months. Almost anyone can learn to copy code if they put that much time and effort into it.

Posts: 2900

« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2017, 12:46:33 PM »

I suggest listening to W1AW code practice sessions:
It is a great way to calibrate your ears for perfect code spacing at various speeds. 

73, Chuck  NI0C

Posts: 534

« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2017, 01:43:42 PM »

The ARRL code broadcasts are nice because they are perfect CW.  But as others before me have said, there is no substitute for getting on the air and making one to a few contacts per day.  This worked for me and you do get better as time goes on.

Posts: 386

« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2017, 05:20:48 AM »

That is what K8AXW on this website is used to mention "gimmick learning" that after finishing you have to learn off.

You learn a timing that is not the timing to be learned, and that should be because you may not count dits and dahs,
The result is that people that finish such a course are not able to copy Morse code at any speed.

Just as the counting of dits and dahs, I learned Morse code  70 years ago just like VK8EEE, when possibly the gimmick designers were not born already.

Does  often happen that  a guy like you  on the ham bands  asks for QRS and they still can't copy. That is NOT because of my fist, because I grab my keyboard that is published on my website as MKB, but because they want a special QRS that is mentioned on LCWO 20/5 or 20/10 which means that the character speed is 20 wpm but the gap between characters is 2 or 4 times too long. (Really a pain in the ear and the neck).

In LCWO terminology: They are able to copy 20/10 or 20/5, BUT They are not able to copy 10/10 or 5/5.

Shame on DJ1YFK
« Last Edit: July 05, 2017, 05:33:18 AM by PA0WV » Logged


Posts: 292

« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2017, 07:39:26 AM »

lots of folk use that LCWO site & DJ1YFK has done a great job, with it.

but, to answer the OPs question:
- adjust the speed, so that as you get closer to 20WPM, the closet together they are
 ie: at 20WPM then both speeds are the same .. .

that is - - you taper off, in the huge gap that you started off, with.

at least - - that's what I'm aiming at.

Posts: 6098

« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2017, 08:24:37 AM »

Ed:  To use a crude analogy,  When walking across a cow pasture you step in "it" you can scrape it off with one swipe.  You have to keep wiping and scraping until your shoe is clean again.

By learning the code using a gimmick method, you now have to start scraping it off. It isn't going to happen over night.  Fortunately, unlearning a gimmick method isn't going to take as long as learning it.

PB:  You are indeed correct about the military teaching code 8 hours a day, 5 days a week....or in my case it was 5 1/2 days a week plus a couple weeks night school.

However, tens of thousands of civilians learned Morse code the very same way, only not as intensive.  This was the only way to get a ham ticket!

(The primary reason for the military "intensity" was because they had to turn out MANY operators that performed as close to perfection as one can expect and do it ASAP)

Good luck and hang tough.

Posts: 447

« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2017, 12:56:33 PM »

I've seen LCWO and other methods called a gimmick.  I haven't seen anyone explain the right way.  Tell us.
For me it is 50 too late to find a 15yo buddy to start at 5 wpm to get my novice license. Although I wish I had. Also the records and tape are getting hard to is all on the computer.

Learning 5 wpm for the novice test which is by counting, and then learning by sound to pass the general and extra is a 2 step process. Also the 1942 Army recording on this thread were great. But note; they introduced characters 5 at a time (modified Koch), and send them at 15 wpm, with a long space between each. The space was gradually shorten across the sessions, which is Farnsworth.  The difference is the recordings are fixed and you start learning the pattern, with LCWO it is random

I started after field day 2016 and after several attempts made progress with LCWO. I started at 18 wpm. When I moved on to groups, common words, and call signs it was at 17/10. I'm a K2K NH CW op. I can't handle 36 wpm pile ups so i'm working quiet bands so our more skilled ops can work the pile ups and I CQ at 13-15 wpm. Both avoid the main stream fast stations but you get more slow code, bad code, and those that are unaware of the 13 Colonies Special event.. As a result my Q rate is only 29 to 50 per hour. Many of which are at 18-24 wpm which is not a problem, I rarely send agn?

My advice to the op; stay at or above 15 wpm to stay with learning sounds even if you have to keep the rate lower. It takes daily practice over many weeks for the sound to become a reflex for a particular character.   Once it does higher speed and spacing down to the standard 3 dit space is fine. When the sound goes in your ears and you immediately picture the character you have arrived. It comes slowly for some, but it will come with practice.


Posts: 3438

« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2017, 02:51:20 PM »

Your experience is interesting.
I learned code about 60 years ago as a kid when there were far fewer, if any, "methods" for learning or increasing speed "faster" or "more efficiently."

We both did!  And that was the "method".  No expectations as to how long it would take us to be proficient, only the confidence that we WOULD eventually be so.  Come home from school, do homework, practice code by self-teaching until we "knew" all the letters and numbers, and some punctuation marks.

My electronics teacher, Mr. Chris Delzer ex-KØOEI, ex-K7LBQ, now SK, knew I was getting ready to ask him to proctor my Novice test in 1959 and he asked to hear me send a few letters.  Right away I knew I was in trouble.  My CQ sounded like:  DAH    DIT   DAH   DIT      DAH   DAH   DIT   DAH (or T E T E   T T E T).  He then sent CQ and my name, his name, etc., and told me to close the gaps.  Within 3 or 4 days I showed him my new fist - and he smiled and told me it was very good.  About a week later the paperwork from FCC showed up and he gave me the Novice test.  It seemed the easiest thing I'd ever done, and the fact that he said I had been sending and receiving well over the 5 WPM required ... closer to 12 WPM, he said. 


Posts: 2796

« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2017, 11:33:22 PM »

. . . .
Most of the speed advancement software that I've seen and expect to use such as RufzXP and Morse Runner seem to require that you're no longer using any adjustment, so I expect that I'm going to be going cold turkey on the Farnsworth this summer.
. . . .

More to the point:

. . . None of the _real signals_ you'll encounter on the air, will use Farnworth spacing!

So I would take off the "training wheels" completely.  Go back to the un-Farnsworth speed you can handle, and work up from there.

Another consideration (maybe not relevant):

If you get used to sending with Farnsworth spacing (and if you practice listening to it, that's how you will send!), you will find it difficult to use the "auto-character-space" and "auto-word-space" features of good keyers.   And compute decoders of CW will find your fist difficult to copy, and will spit out:


instead of:


"Wetware" decoders will have similar problems, but better error-correcting ability.

.   Charles

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