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Thread: Any tips for not counting dah dits?

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Posted: 2023-08-17 07:24
I had gotten through the whole alphabet on a Android app called Morse Machine, a stint on some other site that generated QSO-based practice text, and now I've been practicing at least a little bit every night about six days a week here for iirc about a year. Gimme one more session and I'll be past 35K "points" in this site's Morse Machine!

I'd like to pass the FCC telegrapher's exam before they discontinue it and/or the local examiner retires. But I'm still only on lesson 22 here. And wouldn't bother trying a QSO at **any** speed in the real world.

I can set my WPM to 45 and catch 36% of the letters, or to 25 and catch 42% of the letters, or to ?? and catch ?? percent -- I'm not going to bother with a linear regression because I don't even want to know :-D

There's only a couple letters that actually "click". N sounds like, well, an "n" to me. And usually K clicks as a "k". Pretty much everything else STILL sounds kind of like everything else. I'm *always* second guessing -- was that an "M" or an "O" or did I brainfart again and it could have been any letter!

The only way I think I've gotten this far is just getting really good at counting dits and dahs. Even at 45-50wpm I just have to grab one letter, slow it down to used to be 5wpm then 10wpm and now up to maybe (unreliably) 15wpm or so in my head (while of course missing other letters) and think "dah dah di dit... yeah okay, that *is* a Z then..."

Any advice? Is it ridiculous to think I'd ever be able to copy a perfect minute (out of 5 minutes) of 16 "code groups" and 20 "words", when after a couple years of daily drilling I'd still be lucky to copy down a single whole callsign correctly on the third or fourth repeat? How can I make more letters "click"?

Posted: 2023-08-17 07:42
Oh, make that **three** letters -- the "." also clicks in my brain or at least by the time its whole reversed-"yadda yadda yadda" is finally over and I'm done yawning, it's like, "definitely yeah that punctuation one again" without having to think what else it could be.

(This confidence will probably screw me as soon as all the real-world prosigns enter the mix :-P)

Posted: 2023-08-17 20:54


Whilst you are learning the characters, you need to be able to distinguish one from another so you can make the connection:-

morse - > letter pops into your head as if from nowhere.

The issue is caused if you keep counting and don't wait for the letters to appear in your mind from 'wherever' . . which won't be as quick a process.

So - the fix for counting is to stop doing it all the time, and see if a letter appears in your mind somehow.

I think this is a by-product of trying to get through the exercises - it's tempting to keep moving on if you are getting 90% - but you are actually moving on before you should.

Try listening without counting and see how many you get. The longer characters are more musical, so you should be able to get F L Q Y C B Z X H without counting. Same for the punctuation.

D U G W should be do-able also.

You may get mixed up with I S H and 5 - ignore this for the moment. You will improve and it will become less of an issue.

You have N and K already - so you know exactly what it will be like and what you need to be happening.

You need to decode lots of morse - so you need a speed which gives you time to do this.

Then it's a case of repeat repeat repeat until it sinks in properly.

If you are getting 36% at 45wpm then that's about 15 wpm - with decode time for your brain taken into account.

Try that speed 15/15 and if you can't decode them all - just make sure that you can distinguish them.

If you repeat the morse to yourself then you know it has entered your brain. You may find you are not so far away.

When you get better at decoding, you will see it feels as if the morse has somehow got slower. This isn't going to be instantaneous.

YMMV as ever.

Good luck with it.

Let us know how you get on.


Posted: 2023-08-17 22:21
Chris is describing it very well...

And just to add my experience, I will say that the same thing happened to me for a looong time. I was also getting better and better at counting dits and dahs, and found myself struggling, and getting very tired in QSO's.

But if you just keep on going, and stop worrying about counting, then suddenly you will have more and more words just popping up in your head, as if from nowhere. I actually found out just when I was getting tired in a QSO, where my mind just automaticaly stopped countingn because of fatigue, but I realized I was still getting the words somehow.

I think that the mind just needs to experience and actually see the shortcut, where it decodes without counting. From then on, your mind will choose the easy way more often, and finally you just get what you want, even without trying...

Enjoy it. It really is the most facinating moment of your journey. Everything, for the first time, suddenly becomes easier and easier. Its like magic...

Posted: 2023-08-26 22:00
Forget about counting! Each character has a unique sound; it is that unique sound that you are after. Hence at 100wpm, it still is the same unique sound (compressed).

Posted: 2023-08-26 22:33
You would think that s, h and 5 would be one of the most difficult combinations to copy as you gain speed BUT to this day copying calls @ 200wpm; that combination is one of the easiest to copy. I have never missed the call of S55he as I reach to the heavens.

Posted: 2023-09-08 20:52
I have a morse key by the computer. I often try to to emulate what I just heard..... Just then the character appears. It all sound never counting! I work 20 wpm. My target.

Posted: 2023-09-08 23:02

We all perceive different. Some similar, but not the same... For instance, when I hear a word like "international" or "experirienced" even at speeds above 30 wpm, I simply can't hear it as one sound, and identify the word by it. I count dits and dahs. Or more accurately, I recognize the sound of the beginning of the words, and my brain starts guessing.
I doubt that so many people can recognize the sound of an entire word at 20 wpm. Maybe starting at 36-40 wpm. Thats in my case at least...

Posted: 2023-09-12 08:41
Thanks Chris and others… same here, sometimes I pick H and 5 (also J and 1) up without counting but sometimes…grrrr but for now I don’t care about it. I never thought I made it so far learning CW and everytime I go a step back, the next day I go 2 steps forward. And that motivates and reminds me that you will get there some day.

Posted: 2023-09-24 16:19
People with a musical background may have issues stopping to count, force yourself to stop counting and/or make it more difficult to do it.
e.g. set speed to 25/20 or even 25/25, set words to 5 chars, increase word spacing to 6 or 8 or so and force yourself to listen to all 5 characters before writing/typing them down/in. Make sure you have no time to count.
Also only use the morse machine to catch back up a little if you need to and use the Koch lessons instead. If you want to use the morse machine, force yourself to type in the character as quickly as possible, again to make sure you don't have time to think.
It must become a reflex (or appearing from thin air as some here call it), just like you understand somebody speaking to you but now in rhythmic beeps of different lengths and combinations.

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