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Author Topic: "CW by osmosis" (please read what I mean)  (Read 12462 times)
AD0AE
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« on: August 13, 2013, 01:55:52 PM »

I have been working on learning CW for the 1-2 years now at 12 WPM using the Koch Method (Just Learn Morse code program). For a while, I was only doing about 5-10 minutes a day, but I am going to try to amp things up in the near future. Months ago I posted a thread asking about practical ways to 'listen' to CW and try to do head copying.  This is related, but a slightly different question.  I was suggested by another ham to just listen to fast CW (20-30 wpm) as a means of helping to gain speed and comprehension, such as listening during a commute to/from work.  (NOTE: this would not be a REPLACEMENT for doing practice during the day)  I program a fair amount during the day, so I thought this could be straight forward to implement.

So the question: has this method worked for anyone?  I have to admit, I am a bit skeptical.  Then again, I am open to giving it a shot.

Just wondering what other have to say.

Thanks
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AC4RD
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2013, 02:16:16 PM »

If you ask 10 hams how to improve your CW, you'll get 12 opinions.  Smiley  What worked best for me, far and away, second place isn't even close, is just to get on the air and USE your CW.   By the time you've worked 100 QSOs on CW, you'll be MUCH faster.  And doing it that way will be FUN, not work.  Just MHO, of course.
73 GL!  --ken
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AD0AE
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2013, 02:23:58 PM »

I like that idea Smiley
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K8GU
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2013, 06:20:41 AM »

Steve, the thing that both Ken's method and the "listen to fast code" method have in common is to stretch your comfort zone.  In the end, though, the reason you're learning the code is to use it on the air, right?  You've just got to jump in and start doing it.

If you aren't able to get on the air as much as you'd like, but have time to listen to QRQ code on a commute or something, do that too.  But, there's no substitute for operating.
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N3DF
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« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2013, 07:54:12 AM »

Two years?  Wow.  Have you been making CW QSOs regularly on the air?  Do you copy W1AW CW practice transmissions? 
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Neil N3DF
KD8IIC
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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2013, 10:49:23 AM »

Two Years is Not uncommon! Some of you learned faster than us No-Code Hams. So Congrats to you all on that moot point.
Back to the case at hand, I found I needed to, and still do, listen to my G4FON and FISTS and Ameco CD's much more than once a day for 5 minutes. What we are trying to do is learn a language by hearing the sounds, repeatedly. It takes work, It is boring, yes. After I got over myself and started making CW contacts on the air, admittedly slow and choppy, messed up a lot-so what! I did it! And I did it again and again and then some. Guess what? I got better and it got easier.
 
 Back long before we had such fantastic training aids and computers and everything else one can imagine to help, men had to learn Morse the hard way so that they could provide for their families by working at a telegraph for a railroad or other concern. They had to learn anyway they could. Think about what that was like.. My advice to you my friend is simply this...Do It, It's not easy, It's work, nothing will cause you learn it, we have to do all that ourselves. 73
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M0LEP
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2013, 10:50:51 AM »

I've no trouble understanding how folks end up spending years trying to learn Morse with the Koch method. It's pushed in a way that it sets expectations too high. It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to get perfect copy on exercise N before moving on to N+1. Because it emphasises learning fast characters it also encourages folk to set the speed bar too high. Put those together, and it's easy to reduce actual progress to almost nothing.

A kind of "osmosis" approach did work for me, up to a point; I made a CD full of morse at 16wpm. No words, just single characters and pairs of characters in logical progressions (using all characters with as near as possible even distribution), played quietly so I could listen or ignore as necessary; the trick being to pick up where in the progression the track had reached at whatever point I started giving it attention again, and then follow it. 18wpm might have been better. 20wpm might have been too fast. However, with it I learned all the characters I'd included at once, and once I knew all the characters well enough I stood a chance on air, at least in short "rubber-stamp" QSOs.

W1AW's schedule and band choices make it not a lot of use this side of the Atlantic, but there are two reliable weekly GB2CW broadcasters I can hear. One of those is right on the edge of propagation for me (ground wave sometimes gets to me, but sky wave goes clean overhead). It's fifteen minutes of text, starting slow and increasing in steps, which can be a bit tedious to copy even if it is coming through better than 316 with QSB, which isn't often. I make a point of trying to catch the one I can hear well every week, though. It's mixed mode, with code in five minute chunks, and phone introductions and readings for checking in between, so it's the nearest thing to a Morse class I can get.

...and as I was typing that, another reply got in, so... Wink

They had to learn anyway they could. Think about what that was like..

Most of the old-timers at the clubs I attend learned Morse either in the military or through courses run by their amateur radio clubs (because back in the day when Morse was a requirement such courses pretty much went alongside the courses needed for passing the written exam).
« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 10:59:48 AM by M0LEP » Logged
LB3KB
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2013, 11:21:59 AM »

It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to get perfect copy on exercise N before moving on to N+1.

Only if you disregard the instructions.  The instructions state that you should add another character as soon as you score 90% or better.


Because it emphasises learning fast characters it also encourages folk to set the speed bar too high.

The instructions state that you should start out at the desired speed, i.e. the speed you want to operate at when you're done.


73
K4NL Sid
justlearnmorsecode.com
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AC4RD
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2013, 02:35:16 PM »

Two Years is Not uncommon! Some of you learned faster than us No-Code Hams. ... advice to you my friend is simply this...Do It, It's not easy, It's work, nothing will cause you learn it, we have to do all that ourselves. 73

I agree 100% on the "not uncommon."  I got my Tech-Plus license in 1991, worked CW only for around 18 months, and then barely TOUCHED a key for many many years.  Then a few years ago I decided to give it another shot--working some DX is *much* easier with CW than phone.  So I was off CW for 17 years or so. :-)  And I found that CW was still as much fun as I remembered!  

Except that my skills were sadly degraded.  I've got a little muscle tremor that makes it hard for me to send well at any decent speed (so I use memory buttons on my keyer as much as I can) and my receiving skills were pretty degraded, too.

Still, I got back on CW, and had a WORLD of fun building my skills back up a bit.  I'm not great at CW, but I can work some DX and do some light-duty contesting, and (as I have said a bunch) I'm having a lot of fun doing it.  :-)  

And that brings up my disagreement (no offense, KD8IIC!) with "Do It, It's not easy, It's work."    Just USING CW will--just in my opinion--help get your CW skills improved a bunch. And that way, again IMO, it's FUN and not work.  Give it a try--you'll have fun, honestly!    73 GL!  --ken
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KC8Y
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2013, 03:59:44 PM »

Regarding AC4RD's statement about CW:  I've been licensed over 40+ years, BUT have NOT been active these last 20 years (maybe 20 times) because of my handicap.  I also have a problem with receiving & transmitting in CW.

I use a keyer that accepts my keyboard as input and use my pc for receiving the CW (enjoy machine software).

Am kinda slow (8-15wpm) and still enjoy CW at any speed. Plan to get faster, again (hope)

Ken
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M0LEP
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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2013, 03:17:47 AM »

Only if you disregard the instructions.  The instructions state that you should add another character as soon as you score 90% or better.

Some places, yes, but other places give other advice, and I have heard 100% pushed vigorously in some of them. You probably don't want to move up when, most of the time, you're still down near (say) 60-70%, but one attempt somehow scores more than 90%. I've heard rules like "better than 95% five times in a row" pushed too. What's the pupil to beleive? It might be better for the program to move them on automatically when it thinks they're ready (and make them set the lesson back manually if they really don't want to move up)?

The instructions state that you should start out at the desired speed, i.e. the speed you want to operate at when you're done.

That, in my opinon, is not particularly good advice, because folks will be tempted to set the bar too high. They want to work at (say) 30wpm, so they try to get there in one go, and chances are it doesn't happen. I made that mistake. Somewhere between 15 and 18wpm would have been a much better starting speed for me, because that's about as fast as I can comfortably write (or type) random characters, and Koch training requires you to write (or type) the random characters you hear. Sure, set the character speed a little bit higher than the word speed, but if the difference is too great (another mistake I made) then it encourages the listener to deconstruct the characters in the gaps (and I can now count dots and dashes in 30wpm characters, however much I don't want to)...
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LB3KB
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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2013, 05:48:40 AM »

Only if you disregard the instructions.  The instructions state that you should add another character as soon as you score 90% or better.

Some places, yes, but other places give other advice, and I have heard 100% pushed vigorously in some of them. You probably don't want to move up when, most of the time, you're still down near (say) 60-70%, but one attempt somehow scores more than 90%. I've heard rules like "better than 95% five times in a row" pushed too. What's the pupil to beleive? It might be better for the program to move them on automatically when it thinks they're ready (and make them set the lesson back manually if they really don't want to move up)?

The instructions state that you should start out at the desired speed, i.e. the speed you want to operate at when you're done.

That, in my opinon, is not particularly good advice, because folks will be tempted to set the bar too high. They want to work at (say) 30wpm, so they try to get there in one go, and chances are it doesn't happen. I made that mistake. Somewhere between 15 and 18wpm would have been a much better starting speed for me, because that's about as fast as I can comfortably write (or type) random characters, and Koch training requires you to write (or type) the random characters you hear. Sure, set the character speed a little bit higher than the word speed, but if the difference is too great (another mistake I made) then it encourages the listener to deconstruct the characters in the gaps (and I can now count dots and dashes in 30wpm characters, however much I don't want to)...

Some people tell you to disregard Koch's instructions, okay - but that simply means that they are not recommending Koch's method.  On the contrary, they think they are improving Koch's proven method, and you have seen how much that "helped".

The instructions are quite clear, as soon as you score 90% or better you should add another character.  You may not want to follow the instructions, but in that case you are not using Koch's method.  If you do follow the instructions, your progress will adjust itself.  It is not possible to progress too fast.

If you want to operate at 30 WPM, you should learn at 30 WPM.  It is probably going to be harder than learning at 20 WPM, but since 20 WPM is not your goal that doesn't matter.

It is common to use Farnsworth to slow the transmission down to where you can record your performance.  I have suggested it myself.  However, it is not a part of Koch's method.  As even Koch must have been restricted to speeds where his students were able to record their performances, it would be a valid interpretation of Koch's method that your desired speed should be restricted by how fast you are able to record your performance.  Maybe adding Farnsworth timing is not such a good idea after all, at least not for everybody.

Either way, if you slow things down to such an extent that you have time to count dots and dashes when listening to 30 WPM code, you have clearly slowed it down a lot more than needed to be able to record your performance.

It is not correct that you have to type or write when you use Koch's method.  Your performance have to be recorded in order to be graded (preferably in real time), but there are other ways to record.  One such option is to use voice recognition - that's like having a personal secretary take down everything you copy and hand you the grade immediately when you're done.


73
K4NL Sid
justlearnmorsecode.com
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N3QE
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« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2013, 06:11:31 AM »

I would suggest that you start listening in CW contests. Most of them are going to be going at the 20-30WPM range, which is exactly your target range. In the big CW tests up in the CW section of the band, there are often several callers going at 13-20WPM. The CQ'ers will be repeating their calls over and over again, so your brain will "fall into the pattern" pretty quick. Listen till you understand the pattern, then drop in your call, and make the QSO :-).

RufZXP is a way to practice in this style, outside of actual contests.
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IZ2UUF
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2013, 07:09:56 AM »

Some people tell you to disregard Koch's instructions, okay - but that simply means that they are not recommending Koch's method.  On the contrary, they think they are improving Koch's proven method, and you have seen how much that "helped".

I would like to put some emphasis on the fact that everyone of us is slightly different and should understand and adapt on himself these techniques.
A few months ago I was at my son's school, during one of the periodic parent-teacher conferences. One of the parents was complaining with one of the teachers because when her son was writing his history summary at home, they didn't know what the teacher wanted to read. She was completely focused on satisfying the teacher instead of pursuing the real goal of writing summaries, which is exercising to catch key-points among a bunch of secondary details.
I suspect that some people tend to blindly "satisfy" the teaching program they are using, like it was a dumb penitence after which redemption will come by magic.

Instead I believe that everyone should understand what the current state of art is: and today this is very easy, given the huge amount information the internet gives us. I would like to underline "understand", because each technique, although might be explained as a series of steps to be followed blindly, it is based on some principles that should be well understood.
Then we should experiment on ourselves and keep track of expectations and result, actively tuning our learning experience.

I am one of the lucky ones, because having written my own software, I am able to try any possible exercise I can think of, while the others have to rely on what the available softwares do. However, many softwares are full of options that can be set and widely tuned.

I started with the plain vanilla Koch method, with the 90%. Soon I discovered that some letters were easy to me, while others were quite hostile.
I tried to exercise them alone, but I discovered that I could easily recognize them when in small sets, but back in the full set this exercise was useless.
So I tried to increase their frequency within the full set... et voilĂ , in a few sessions the error count for those letters dropped to the average of the other.
There has been something that did not work on me and something else that worked very well.

Then I tried simply to listen to words at high speed, starting from the most common ones ("my", "qso", "ur", "hr", "rig", etc.), but I discovered that without a feedback, I was systematically associating some sounds to the wrong words: counterproductive for me.
I tried this further exercise: 3/4 letters, 2" pause, recorded voice that repeats these letters. During the letters and the short pause I have to spell the letters.
After a few hours with this exercise I found that my score with RufzXP suddenly doubled.
This exercise was training my brain to:
- understand characters at high speed
- memorize a few of them
- leave back those I didn't understand to "rethink" them during the pause
...all features very useful when catching callsigns.

I do believe that specific training can greatly improve our performances and reduce the learning time: after all this is true for mostly everything.
However I also believe that it is fundamental that who is training for something must have a complete comprehension of the effects that this training have on himself in relationship to the goals he wants to attain. We have to understand that a specific training produces intense but unbalanced strengths: there's no point to be able to catch callsigns at 40wpm if we don't understand the rest of the QSO if faster than 10wpm.
So we have to continuosly monitor our progress and our weakness, trying always to find a way to reinforce our weakest aspects.
Following blindly a whatever method without a complete understandment of it and of ourselves is a very good route to failure.

73 de Davide IZ2UUF
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 07:19:53 AM by IZ2UUF » Logged

Davide IZ2UUF - FISTS #16285 - SKCC #9531 - JN45nk
M0LEP
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« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2013, 07:19:59 AM »

On the contrary, they think they are improving Koch's proven method, and you have seen how much that "helped".

Indeed. Unfortunately, as a beginner diving into LCWO.net (because that was the only thing that worked on the computer I had) that's the kind of advice I found. How's a beginner with no knowledge of the system going to spot the numerous mis-representations, or the bad advice?

The instructions are quite clear, as soon as you score 90% or better you should add another character.

The programs could (and probably should, if it's that important) do that automatically.

It is not correct that you have to type or write when you use Koch's method.

It's by far the most likely scenario, and I know I did not have any practical alternatives available.

I would suggest that you start listening in CW contests.

I prefer slightly less frenetic situations with similarly predictable exchanges, but the idea's the same.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 07:25:46 AM by M0LEP » Logged
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