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Author Topic: Can't Head Copy!  (Read 7655 times)
KB4MB
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Posts: 295




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« on: July 17, 2010, 07:27:48 AM »

My goal is to be proficient at cw like all of you who can just copy in their head.  For nine months I have been practicing (never as much as I should), and i have used the k7 course and jerry ziliak's course.  I know the letters very well, however, once it gets over 5-7wpm, I can't head copy at all.  I was bored so I whipped out a note pad, and wouldn't you know it, I could hand copy 13wpm.  What am I doing wrong?  I don't feel comfortable on the air yet because I freeze up, and I hear nothing but tones once that happens.  Sending, that happens too, sometimes.

When I took my novice way back when, I learned by sight, so this has been a hard habit to break.  Also the habit of repeating the character after I have heard it and then figuring out the letter.  This is also a bad habit.

I'm keeping at it, even if it takes years - but a little progress would help Smiley

Thanks in advance.
--Kris, KB4MB
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N2EY
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2010, 07:53:52 AM »

Practice writing it down.

Practice listening to it and making notes.

Practice having it on while you do something else.

Do some contesting (because the exchange is short and predictable, and you have to write it down anyway).

Morse is a set of skills that comes with time and practice. (See "12 tips" article)

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W0STB
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2010, 08:04:09 AM »

Me neither! I've been trying and trying...
I had my wife "read" to me - one letter at a time - and guess what? I can't do that either! Not until I've heard all the letters,and then I go through some kind of inefficient mental process to finally get the word, if it was short enough that I didn't forget some letters. And by the time that has happened I'm now way behind copying the current word.

It's almost funny - I get the same uneasy semi-panic feeling "copying" words being spoken to me as letters as I do trying to copy CW in my head.

I was wondering if maybe the answer is to play back words fairly fast and try to get the sound of entire words to click in the mind and be recognized/understood? I don't know if there is a practice program or software that would let you build up sets of words and play them back repeatedly (repeating one word until you get it) that would give you a big space between words. Maybe wait until you press a key or something, then send the whole word again at whatever speed you want. I'm thinking that with a fairly fast speed maybe you'd skip the whole letter recognition and move straight on to whole words. That would work well in the real world other than copying call signs or maybe strange QTH names...

Maybe learning to hear words instead of letters is the key? For me the letter thing is definitely not working.
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N7DM
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2010, 08:04:48 AM »

My sympathies. I've often been asked the same thing...'how did you learn that'? In truth, I don't know. But this I *do* know. If I close my eyes, in my mind I 'see' the words and letters flow, like print on a page. Of course, at my present stage of the game, eyes open, it is just another conversation going on in the room... in a different language. 'A while ago', when I took my Extra test and had to both write down and send 'the 20', I had to practice and practice on W1AW to be able to 'get' most of the 25...to successfully pass. And I was used to normal operations [head copy] at 30 plus!

'Head copy' and Iambic... with QSK, makes Morse Conversations...'Live'... and for me is *THE* only way to go...

But I admit, you gotta somehow learn it!

VY Best of Luck... the gain is worth the pain...

dm
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NI0C
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2010, 08:24:37 AM »

Head copy is generally learned at much higher speeds than the 5-7 and 13 wpm that you mentioned.  Just keep at it, write down what you have to and build up your speed.  One day you will begin decoding common words instead of individual characters and you will learn to put the pencil down.  But that may not happen until you've become comfortable at 20-30 wpm.

73 & GL,
Chuck  NI0C
   
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N3QE
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2010, 08:25:54 AM »

IMHO: What you need to do, now that you know the basic code, is stop "trying to copy" so hard and instead just listen.

What you are experiencing is not unique to you. Most of us learned through hand-copy or type-copy.

Find some slowish CW ops on the bands, tune in, and just leave the radio on. Hear the patterns. Don't try so hard, at least not all the time. Just sort of let it soak in. The naturalness will eventually come but it takes a lot of time and is gradual.

Working the bands for real, either conversational or contest or traffic, is a lot more than just "copying". When the bands are busy (when it's the most fun!) and you are working with a reasonable bandwidth (a few kHz) you will discover that it's like walking around a conference room or cocktail party. You'll get the ability to know that there are other things going on but will be able to zone in to particular conversations at will. It will take time to get there but that's where you want to be.

Incidentally, your skill of copying to a pad or a keyboard is not a useless one. In conversational QSO's keeping notes or logs is a valuable tool. But it doesn't have to be everything. In contests hearing the exchange elements and copying them is vital; the rest of the stuff (calling, TU's, etc.) are kind of brief pleasantries that become framing elements.
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KB4MB
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2010, 08:34:14 AM »

Quote
Incidentally, your skill of copying to a pad or a keyboard is not a useless one. In conversational QSO's keeping notes or logs is a valuable tool. But it doesn't have to be everything. In contests hearing the exchange elements and copying them is vital; the rest of the stuff (calling, TU's, etc.) are kind of brief pleasantries that become framing elements.

Every CW Master I have read on this board and QRZ says learn without a pencil so you can just copy in your head, so that is the way I approached it this time, and while I can copy letters, even words, I can't climb above 7wpm (all code sent at 21-23wpm of course)...

So, your advice is copy with the pencil, and eventually it will come?  The advice I had followed was never use the pencil except for some key info, otherwise, just your head!
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N2EY
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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2010, 08:55:01 AM »

Read this article:

http://www.eham.net/articles/23837

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KB4MB
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« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2010, 10:00:18 AM »

I read that along time ago, along with the art and skill & zen and the art, but it never hurts to read it again and remind myself!  Thanks for the article and the reminder, Jim!
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KE4ILG
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« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2010, 10:39:42 AM »

My thoughts and personal experience is: GET ON THE AIR.  Copy with your feet and and fingers crossed while writting it down if that's what it takes.  Have fun.  Don't miss out on the fun "getting" good.  I swear if you never are able to "head copy" and you spend a life time writting down everything then you will need to invest in a pencil company.  Seriously, if you spend the next 12 months making two cw qso's a day you will be far closer to your goal and had fun for a year. Get over the fright and get on the air there are ops waiting to meet you.  Pay close attention to your spacing while you send.  If you send good cw someone WILL be happy to work you at your speed.  I like 7.050 myself so I hope to see you on the air, 73 Mike
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WX7G
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2010, 01:54:08 PM »

I don't see that copying in one's head should be a primary goal. During the days of FCC code tests one had to put it down on paper. Copying in one's head was not on our radar screen.

To increase speed, copy code that's a bit too fast. If you can copy 15 wpm set the program to 20 wpm. Later on you can learn to copy in your head if you wish. I find this most useful when working mobile CW.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2010, 03:09:53 PM »

"Trying" to "head copy" is silly.

It just comes naturally after about 10,000 or so CW contacts.

I guarantee it.

Use the code, don't "practice" with it or "study" it, that's silly.

I could study and practice flying an F-16 using all sorts of programs, but I'll never really fly one until I'm in the cockpit (which hasn't happened).

Kids study and practice driving to pass the test for a license, but they're all crappy drivers until they've been driving a few years.

Same with code.

Just use it, and before very long you'll find yourself not writing much down.
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N7DM
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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2010, 04:33:46 PM »

Once, when I was stationed on KW6, I ran phone patches with a KH6 in Hono. He was a RadioMan in rating. Occassionally we'd switch to CW. I'd send to him......there'd be a pause, then he'd send back to me. Immediately I replied to him....... the pause, etc.  Finally one day I asked him what was going on. To which he replied he had been trained to punch certain keys on his Mill, for the letters, and *could NOT* break away to read it in his head!  So he'd 'copy down' what I sent, then READ what he had typed!

Have fun...

dm
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2010, 05:11:47 PM »

Once, when I was stationed on KW6, I ran phone patches with a KH6 in Hono. He was a RadioMan in rating. Occassionally we'd switch to CW. I'd send to him......there'd be a pause, then he'd send back to me. Immediately I replied to him....... the pause, etc.  Finally one day I asked him what was going on. To which he replied he had been trained to punch certain keys on his Mill, for the letters, and *could NOT* break away to read it in his head!  So he'd 'copy down' what I sent, then READ what he had typed!

Have fun...

dm

The worst possible way to copy code.

Same as writing it down, then going back to read what you wrote!

In an emergency, this wouldn't fare well.

In general operating for fun, it's just a huge waste of time. Shocked
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K7KBN
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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2010, 06:03:22 PM »

That's the way I had to copy in Radioman school - with a mill.  However, I'd been a ham for about 3 years before the school, and I could copy in my head.  Accuracy had to come before speed, of course, and my typing wasn't as good as my head-copying, so I'd be 5 or 6 words behind what was being sent, just to keep myself honest.

73
Pat K7KBN/NZFF ZBM1 operator
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
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