Trying to break through the wall

Just starting out or wanting to learn about something new. Need help setting up your first station. Want to meet others just starting out. This category is for you.

Moderators: W5ALT, AC2C

Trying to break through the wall

Postby VA7LAS » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:42 pm

I'm trying to learn CW (technically, have been since I was about 12!). I'm at the stage now when I know most letters, and figure out numbers, and a few punctuations (? and .). So I'm now trying to pick up actual CW calls.

I'm using Farnsworth timing which I think is one of my problems. I'm used to hearing the letters at 12 wpm so at, say, 7wpm they sound strange. But 12wpm is too fast for me - I get too far behind. Do people actually broadcast at, say, 7/12 wpm much?

The second problem is that I overthink. I hear a letter I ALMOST know, and start thinking..."what is that one? dit-dah-dah-dit... Oh, yeah: P!". But by then a dozen more characters have gone by, and I have to start picking it up again. Or, sometimes my mind just wanders and I miss a bunch.

Any advice? Or should I just keep picking away at it? Should I now concentrate on listening to messages (either lines generated by the computer or on-air stuff) or go back to learning letters one at a time? Should I turn off my Farnsworth and learn at, say, 7wpm?

I'm not too bad at transmitting (if I want to send a word that has a letter I don't know, I just use another word instead! hihi) but I don't want to key anything until I can receive properly.

Lloyd
"Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?"
VA7LAS
Member
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:53 pm
Location: Delta, BC CANADA

Postby PA1FOX » Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:37 pm

Hi Lloyd,

Maybe I could help you with some advice, although I do not regard myself as being a "crack" in CW. In fact I restarted to learn about 1,5 year ago from scratch again using LCWO.NET. But then I talk from very recent experience.

I think your character speed (12wpm) is too slow, which results in taking the time to remember how the sound really sounded like and then translating it into the character. This takes time and a lot of energy. What you are looking for is an instant character recognition. In your example you should really feel like hearing a 'P'.

What I would recommend to do is speed up the character speed to 18 or 20 wpm and even drop back the spacing to 5wpm if you like. You will learn to hear the character in one go without thinking about it.

You could follow Koch in starting with two characters only and adding one when your reception rate is over 90%. But if you've had all the characters already you might start with all of them.

In practice a lot of contacts are made from 12/12 wpm and upwards. Your ultimate goal will be to speed up the spacing to the same level as the character speed. This will be a hard time, but then you will follow QSO's far more easily.

I started with the first two characters in the Koch method in august 2010, and am now reasonable comfortable at copying at 25wpm. Daily practice (still ongoing) does the job.

Good luck and please inform us about your progress. We can support during hard times!

73,
Alex PA1FOX
PA1FOX
Member
 
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:33 pm

Postby VA7LAS » Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:32 pm

Thanks for the reply! Often someone who's just gone through it is better suited to give advice than the ones that have been doing it for 20 years hihi.

I understand about the GOAL of "instant recognition" but that's why I'm calling it a wall: I can read SOME characters pretty much instantly, but others I have to think about - and I am trying to learn the SOUND, not the individual dits and dahs (for instance, I think of L as hitting a dip in the road).

So should I go to 12/12, or 5/20? I'd think that 5/20 would add to my first problem (that REAL code doesn't have the long spaces between characters). I've been speeding up the first speed (I was at 5/12, now I'm leaning towards 8/12). And should I concentrate more on "Real" code (like online, or listening to text lines rather than random characters), or more on random characters until I'm at the "instant recognition" stage for all the characters?

And I think the mind-wandering problem cannot be solved - it's just my old, tired brain taking a nap...

I'm ALMOST at the stage where I'd ask one of the Elmers here to try to help me online. But I think I should know all the characters first?

Lloyd
VA7LAS
"Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?"
VA7LAS
Member
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:53 pm
Location: Delta, BC CANADA

Postby PA1FOX » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:05 am

Hi Lloyd,

First of all it is very brave to start learning CW at higher ages. For children it seems simply to float in, but for us elderly people it is hard work. I might have had some advantage of heaving to do CW exam back in 1987 for 12wpm but I quickly dropped any use of it after the exam.

About your question concerning 5/20 (5 wpm spacing, 20 wpm character speed) it is important to recognize the several stages of learning CW, at least as how I encountered it. First you will need to know the characters at real speed. Knowing them at 12 wpm, but sometimes recalling them in mind (hey what sound was that again?) will make it very hard when going to 14wpm. You will hit the wall and find no feeling of progress.

That is the reason to start with high character speed. I just checked my traiinng history on LCWO.NET and found out that I started with just two characters at 10wpm spacing, 20wpm character speed. You might feel that 10/20 is very fast if you think about it, but then, there's only two characters to recognize. It is one or the other.

You are right, very few people will send out real text in qso's at 5/20 but the first step one needs to take is recognizing characters at that speed.

My learning phases were as follows:

1. Relearn characters following KOCH (including Farnsworth spacing) starting at 10/20 ending at 20/20 all characters. Took me 4 months.

2. Training random character groups. Have done this far too long, better to use real text

3. Copy real text sent at 14/14. Since the characters are much slower than you learned previously it feels comfortable. But now the text has real meaning, and 'thinking along' made this a hard time for me.

4. Start making qso's. Very hard time, was very nervous.

5. Stopped writing everything down and started with mp3 files of simple children stories (short words!) at speeds around 22wpm during bike ride to qrl. Now you start listening to real meaning of the text, it becomes a communication language. I am still in this stage now, but have advanced to 25wpm with bursts at 30 and 40 wpm

So returning to your main question. I should prefer to go to 5/20 rather than 8/12. It will help the automatich character recognition process. Train extra on those characters which trouble you. Once you feel comfortable in getting seperate characters at 20, advance the spacing to 8/20, 10/20 and further upwards. As you see in my list above, do not spend too much in random character groups. Once you've got the characters in well go to real texts. I've lost quite a few months training character groups, I should have moved forward ealier.

Of course you can contact one of the elmers, they have a lot of experience and have seen lot's of people struggling with the same issues.
Never mind if you don't know all the characters yet. That's also where they can help.

I am not an elmer, my CW skills are not good enough yet. (Still too much conscious CW decoding). Still I feel good helping people which are going through something I've just gone through myself. Sharing the experience may help.

Good luck, keep the motivation up!

73,
Alex - PA1FOX
SKCC 8265
Last edited by PA1FOX on Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
PA1FOX
Member
 
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:33 pm

Postby KB7GL » Fri Dec 09, 2011 6:12 pm

Excellent post, Alex. Your advice is spot-on!
73, Vic - KB7GL
SKCC #3636C
KB7GL
Member
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2008 10:23 pm
Location: Kirkland, WA

Postby VA7LAS » Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:00 am

I guess the reluctance I have to going 8/20 is that I'd REALLY like to get on the air - even if it's at 7 wpm. And I think I'd probably be happy at 12 or so - I have no interest in going like 40 wpm (especially since I want to use a straight key!). If I get used to characters at 20, I'll have even more trouble than I do now at 5 or 8 - they just sound wrong. So if I go 8/20, I'm afraid I won't be able to get on the air until I'm proficient at 20, which will be a LONG time!

I did try 8/20 and I didn't have much more trouble than I do at 8/12, but I am concerned about how 8 wpm is gonna sound, and the long spaces between characters kinda threw me.

Guess I'll just keep plunking away... btw: can someone recommend a good training app for my Android phone?

Lloyd
VA7LAS
"Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?"
VA7LAS
Member
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:53 pm
Location: Delta, BC CANADA


Return to Beginners Corner

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest