Posted: 2018-06-13 16:05
My first koch lesson was 2/2017, 16 months ago. I practiced almost daily except 3 month off last fall due to work. Learning code was hard for me, while good at advanced math and engineering it is hard to copy spoken 7 digit phone numbers, picture verbally spelled words, and remembering names. i.e. terrible short term memory and poor non visual retention.
Finally, over the past several months I can solid copy 17 wpm, it even feels like there is a large gap between characters, yes, effective speed is also 17 wpm. In hindsight here is what I learned.
1.) I spent too much time at a character speed of 10 wpm. Faster was frustrating because I couldn't decern the dot and dashes to figure out the character. To hear rhythms 15 wpm is the minimum character speed. Below this you are wasting time. Using a slower effective speed is fine, but learn the characters by sound, forget dots and dashes. To do this 17 wpm or over is required.
I polled the CW experts in my club and in forums and all agreed code below 13 wpm was hard to copy because the rhythm was gone and they had to revert to deciphering dots and dashes.
2.) I use an iPad and got good at hearing a character and hitting a key, the ear to finger connection was working. But I wasn't hearing letters in my brain, code was a jumble of dots and dashes. Once I started listening for letters and only then typing the letter I started hearing letters in place of dots and dashes.
3.) If I practiced too long or was having a bad code day it all sounded like mush. When I put it down and picked it up hours or a day later I was back to normal.
4.) During some exercises I used the repeat to listen to a word or phase over and over picking out the characters one by one. It made my stats better with higher speed and fewer errors but the progress graphs didn't reflect my real progress. Once I stopped repeating I could see the characters that needed more work and found the real effective rate I could copy at.
5.) "was that two or three dots?" If it matters you are trying to decode dits and dahs, and not the unique sound of a character. I took me a while to figure this out. Also once you focus on character sounds word sounds start appearing.
6.) Slow code QSOs are not beneficial. Between ARRL Field Day, being a "13 Colonies" op and other contests I made over 600 QSOs at around 10wpm. It reinforces counting. Getting on the air early is recommended, but I suggest waiting wait until your through the koch lessons at 17 wpm and can get 50% of the call signs without a repeat. Lately I have found if I send 20 wpm with a space between characters most answering station match it. If they don't at first after I send agn or ?? a few times they figure it out.
There will be days when it seems like you are going backwards but with perseverance and time it will all cross over from short term memory to reflex memory.
For me, I wish I had followed the advice here and from others and started my first koch lesson at a faster speed, I like 17 wpm. It would have taken longer to get through it but would have made word groups, call signs, etc much easier.
One size doesn't fit all, this is only my experience.