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Thread: trouble with copying

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Posted: 2023-10-05 17:56
Hi all. new user here.

I have been looking at different ways to learn MC for a week or so, I have learned quite a lot of the alphabet, but not quick enough to interpret/translate at a decent rate. I have replayed the lesson 1 test a fair few times and can now get the M and K copy at 100% at 20/20.

My question is this, does it just 'snap' at some point and become much easier to hear without thinking about it? I have watched many youtube videos of people using morse (not training, just QSO etc), and I barely manage to copy one or two letters of the whole thing, even when trying to follow along with what they are typing.

I am hoping that if i just keep listening and carrying on with the lessons it will become easier to hear without trying to work out each character, by that time they are 6 characters further along.

Its not like I am missing the odd one, rather only catching the odd one.

To be fair to myself, i did only start trying to learn it about a week ago, but i hate not picking things up quickly haha. I dont expect to be fluent within a few hours of course, I am just wondering if this is anormal experience, thinking that I have absolutely no chance of being able to decypher what is sent.

Thanks, aspiring HAM and CW op,
Tony.

PS. I don't have a licence yet so listening is fine for me, I have a RTL-SDR stick that I am going to set up in my shed, but for now the odd bit of websdr has to do as my house is very noisy with kids etc.


Posted: 2023-10-05 19:27
It's difficult unfortunately. I'm still learning abs it's often difficult, however you talking about lesson 1 again has made me realise just how far I've come on this journey.

Keep picking out the odd one, then you'll be picking out the odd two, etc. Before you know it you'll be copying it all.



Posted: 2023-10-07 01:25
Thank you for your reply.

I have spent some time this evening trying to work on lesson 2 (U + KM). I seem to find that all the letters sound the same and struggle to tell the difference at 20/15 so I have dropped to 20/10 where I have got 100% twice in a row. Is this the right way to go about it? I would rather learn at 20/? as I have read in a few places that you shouldn't slow the word speed down, rather just the gap between the words.


Posted: 2023-10-07 11:48

Hi


It's not as easy to learn morse - for most people, so you are experiencing what most people go through.

Other people may have a high aptitude for morse and learn 25/25 in a few weeks. Some struggle with 20/20 after a few years.


Options.

You can give up - maybe 90% do this, sometimes after quite some time and effort have been expended to no avail.
You can slow down. You might not be happy at this . . . but worth considering if the alternative is failure and giving up etc.
You can keep going and hope that you soon start decoding ok. This should work in time - but the time can be considerable, and not much fun.



If you can learn ok at 30/30 25/25 etc down to 15/15 or even 10/10 then you are probable better choosing one of these options.

But take into consideration how fast your progress will be - because:-

Gotcha no. 1 - you need to be making progress else you almost certainly will get fed up and give up.

Fix No.1 Make progress however much you need to slow down 10/2 - whatever - you can't go faster then your max speed. Get through the exercises before you loose heart or decide it isn't worth the effort. Then worry about speed.




You need to decide how much you want to learn morse and how long you are prepared to work for.
Will you be happy taking months to get through all 40 at 10/2 and then to spend more time speeding up if that's Is whats needed?

My answer would be "yes" - but it may be beyond what it's worth to you.




You need to work out how long each strategy will take you and how much effort it will be.

We can't help with this because we only know what you tell us.



Most people report some difficult in learning morse - despite the literature and various anecdotes, so you are not different compared to most people who start.


Stick with it and you will get through.



Also

Gotcha No.2 is about needing a keyboard because you make a link between morse->keypress.
You probably want to decode as you hear it - generally referred to as head-copy, as opposed to writing it down ad then reading what you wrote.


Gotcha No.3 Not enough time spent/ too much time spent.
Try two sessions of 10 mins a day, but only do 30 seconds(-ish) stints and then have a rest between for a minute(-is) - so your 10 mins will last a bit longer than 10 mins - but you get time between to put the laundry in etc.


Gotcha No.4 Fatigue; not concentrating; concentrating too much; not really listening because you are tired or day-dreaming.
You are not muscle building, so forget no-pain-no-gain ideas. It's just repeat-repeat-repeat, like picking up song lyrics or learning to drive.


Gotcha No.5 Not letting it sink in. You can learn morse into short term memory - but you need to build an automatic reaction as:- hear-morse-code->the-character-pops-into-your-head-as-if-from-no-where-with-no-effort-expended.

This is what takes the time - did I mention the only way is repeat-repeat-repeat until you have done it so many times you brain now has it built-in.

Some people move on quickly to exercises 10 or so but then stall because it didn't sink in properly and they have to go through it again.

This is a horrid experience and probably what prompts most of the give-ups.



Possible gotcha no.6 is that you can't hear the morse properly somehow - audio-frequency/ear-response; bad headphones; too loud/quiet. If you can't hear it easily you won't decode it. I think this is important, but no one else seems to . . .



If you can distinguish the morse characters at 20/20 then try this speed first - but don't move on too quickly.

It's a whole new thing for your ears and brain to get used to.


If you aren't making progress in three weeks of 10 mins ( of actual exercising - not counting breaks ) twice a day then consider other options - but ONLY you can decide, we don't know anything about you.


Good luck with it.

Enjoy.

Let us know how you are getting on . . .

cb


Posted: 2023-10-07 19:10
Hey, thanks for the reply.

My only concern is "am i finding it harder than everyone else". I don't know anyone else on the same journey locally to me so i cant talk to someone and practice with them etc.

I have no problem with it taking months, just as long as I am doing the right thing.

Most places that I have read for advice and stuff suggest you shouldn't go below 15 wpm character speed as it gets harder to relearn the sound pattern at higher speeds. But others, including yourself if i didn't misunderstand, suggest it doesn't matter as long as you finish the course and start again.

I'm wondering if my best approach might to be stick at it as long as needed to learn everything at either 15 or 20/15. I have been listening to 15 mostly, but then i flick up to 20 and it actually doesn't sound too unreasonable, just not enough time at th emoment to work out each character etc.

I'm thinking with practice I can get used to the tones.

I agree entirely with the keyboard issue though. I have already realised from reading another post on the forum that I hade simply gotten used to pressing a certain key when i heard the sound. I guess it's better to write the letter instead of typing it? My concern is either say, you're not getting used to doing it in your head first.

I do have a tendency to over think things and want to be 'over read' on the subject before trying to learn something, perhaps i should just get on with it and keep going. maybe spend 1 week on each lesson and consistantly get 100% at 20/15 before moving on to the next one? I dont want be one of the people that fall short once lesson 12 or 13 comes along and I can no longer remember them.

For a tiny amount of context, I'm 37 from England.


Posted: 2023-10-07 20:51
Keep it at 20wpm if you can, you can drop the effective if you need to. This way your learn the sounds of the letters not the individual dits and dahs. You can go to the next lesson (or increase effective speed) once you hit 90% on a few exercises. Keep going till you get to lesson 9. Once you get to lesson 9 you can use the word training (stick that to 20wpm constant and maybe 5 letter word max at first).

Just don't advance too fast. In the first few lessons you may not necessarily be learning a new letter, but rather hearing it's simply not the other 2 or 3 you have already learnt.

It takes time. You're 37 though, you've got plenty of time to learn, no rush.


Posted: 2023-10-07 21:20
Thanks for the reply Oliver. Yeah im still young and not actually licenced yet!! That's another minefield, what to buy, how to set it up etc. Ill be happy if I can copy it first before i worry about trying to send.

Yeah i'm gonna do what you suggest i think, although I did excercise 1 easily enough, i soon realised that i had, indeed, learned that 'it wasnt the other sound' rather than learning what it actually sounded like. I guess its just a case of repeating and repeating it over and over again getting 100%, until i dont really have to think about it any more. That's my theory anyway..

the main problem is, if you ask 25 people, you'll get 25 different opinions, so always hard to know the best way to go about learning anything, dont suppose this is an exception to that rule.


Posted: 2023-10-08 23:58
Tonyboyleedsuk:
Hey, thanks for the reply.

My only concern is "am i finding it harder than everyone else". I don't know anyone else on the same journey locally to me so i cant talk to someone and practice with them etc.


No you aren't. Some people learn in a few weeks to 25/25 but most don't.

Aptitude is the main factor - though a rather broad and indeterminate entity . .

Tonyboyleedsuk:


I have no problem with it taking months, just as long as I am doing the right thing.



Probably you will appreciate your new skill much more - if you have worked for it . . .

Tonyboyleedsuk:


Most places that I have read for advice and stuff suggest you shouldn't go below 15 wpm character speed as it gets harder to relearn the sound pattern at higher speeds. But others, including yourself if i didn't misunderstand, suggest it doesn't matter as long as you finish the course and start again.



You are better ( i.e quicker to get there ) learning at the speed you want to work at - say 25/25 or 20/20 typically

BUT

It doesn't always work out. If you can't decode at 25/25 now - then you can't practice decoding at 25/25

No practice means no progress.

No progress means give up due to feeling its a waste of time.

Unrealistic expectations derived from reading about how easy it is to learn to decode morse in your head ( for some people ) cause disillusionment among the rest of us, due to equally unrealistic impressions of failure.

You need to make progress.
This means you need to decode - repeat repeat repeat etc.
You can only decode at your maximum speed - practice is probably best at a bit less than this speed.
So if you can't manage at your target speed than you need to slow down to get through the exercises - then practice some more to speed up.

This takes longer i.e you need more practice to hit 20/20 r 25/25 than does someone with high aptitude

But the trade off is ( probably - YMMV ) more time spent, or no progress at all and give up . . .

The 15 cpm thing is so you learn by hearing each character as an entity eg. di-di-dah-di not dit dit dah dit

The worst thing is counting the dits and dahs - then trying to remember what 2 dits a dah and then another dit means - that's far to slow.

You need it to be an automatic reaction - like when you drive a car or walk etc.

NOTE - "no gain without pain" does not apply to learning to drive - just repeat at your learning speed and after abit you don't think about it.

Tonyboyleedsuk:

I'm wondering if my best approach might to be stick at it as long as needed to learn everything at either 15 or 20/15. I have been listening to 15 mostly, but then i flick up to 20 and it actually doesn't sound too unreasonable, just not enough time at th emoment to work out each character etc.


Try it. YOU need to work out what level of aptitude you have . . . we can't tell you.


Tonyboyleedsuk:

I'm thinking with practice I can get used to the tones.


Possibly . .

Tonyboyleedsuk:

I agree entirely with the keyboard issue though. I have already realised from reading another post on the forum that I hade simply gotten used to pressing a certain key when i heard the sound. I guess it's better to write the letter instead of typing it? My concern is either say, you're not getting used to doing it in your head first.


yup - hear morse - letter pops into your head as if from no-where.


Write and then type.


Also spend time just listening, so your hearing gets used to the new task and you aren't bothering even with writing.

Relax and listen - see if any letters start popping up.

Anecdotals

Some people find that when they are tired and the brain is switching off - the "automatics" get a free go and suddenly they decode a stretch of morse without even trying.

Other find that starting with a minute of morse that's too fast makes the normal learning speed sound somehow slower.

There are NO speed up tricks - but those two are worth trying because they involve your hearing which I think is often under emphasised as an issue



Tonyboyleedsuk:

I do have a tendency to over think things and want to be 'over read' on the subject before trying to learn something, perhaps i should just get on with it and keep going.


yup - no brain needed - in a manner of speaking . .

Tonyboyleedsuk:

maybe spend 1 week on each lesson and consistantly get 100% at 20/15 before moving on to the next one? I don't want be one of the people that fall short once lesson 12 or 13 comes along and I can no longer remember them.

For a tiny amount of context, I'm 37 from England.


I wouldn't worry about aging, even if you are old.

You'll get there. Do the 10 mins ( of actual ) decoding twice a day and you will be fine.

Just pretend you are enjoying it ;-)

YMMV as ever

cb

oh and . .


The issue about getting high marks straight off, by detecting the new character in a new lesson just because it is different from the ones you know already, and hitting it by default only really works for one lesson.

and

If you ask 25 people you will get 25 answers of what worked for each of them.

Some of these may apply to you, but you won't know until it's you turn to tell other people.

Keep decoding morse at a steady rate, relax, repeat repeat repeat, but you must decode.



Posted: 2023-10-16 14:58
Hi again guys. Thanks to all for taking the time to comment and try to help all the newbies that are around.

So, I have been putting in a fair bit more time since last i commented. I find it hard to stick to only about 20 minutes per day, it seems counter intuitive to me to restrict my learning time, but i understand the reasons so I am doing so.

In the time I have been going around and around, I still seem to be on lesson 3, KMU(R).

I would definitely have failed the aptitude test, but i am hoping persistence will get me through. I dont seem to be able to tell them apart quick enough. I have listened to each character over and over and over again, writing them down, typing them, thinking them etc, but when doing the 'test' my brain just wont seem to go quick enough.

The speed I seem to have found I can keep up with is 20/10, which is a bit disappointing for me, but like Chris said before, its best to go a bit slower and still make progress than to aim for the stars and end up giving up.

So my question for now... Should I just carry on at this speed and hope everything sinks in? I consitently get 90+% on 20/10 on lesson 3, but i just dont feel like I would be able to pick them out in a string of other letters. It feels like im still stuck in the 'its not that letter it must be the other' phase.

For some reason, the only letter that I know instantly by sound is L, when i first started learning, my ears heard "Le-Mar-did-it". Absolutely no idea why whatsoever, but regardless, whenever i hear L, i dont think about it at all, it just pops into my head. I know this is where it needs to be for all the letters, but non of them seem to be doing this for me.

Is it just a case of keep going over the test in lesson 3 until i feel like im not trying to work out which letter ive heard, it simply pops into my head? I dont want to stay here longer than needed, but dont want to go ahead too quickly and end up failing.

Thanks again for your continued patience and understanding in my brains time of need.


Posted: 2023-10-17 10:28
I don't see any reason against practicing more than 20 minutes per day.
What you have to keep in mind:
1. Doing 140 minutes once per week is of course nowhere nearly as effective as 20 minutes every day.
2. Spreading your practice time to several short sessions over the day is more effective than one session of several hours.
3. Take short breaks within each session when you loose focus.
4. There are individual differences as to which time of the day is most productive for you. Practice at those times if possible.
5. It is super important to get enough high quality sleep in order to get stuff into your long term memory.

Disclaimer:
I'm not an expert on learning CW, but these are standard tips for learning musical instruments which is a very similar task in many regards.




Posted: 2023-10-18 00:05
Jan2023:
I don't see any reason against practicing more than 20 minutes per day.




I didn't mean 20 mins tops per day - I meant at LEAST 2 x 10 mins of practice - with rest periods in between.

20 x 30 second stints with 1 min of rest in between. More like 60 mins of time per day.

That's quite a lot of telly time gone for someone who thought it would be like learning a poem.


Overdoing it at first is easy, but I think a problem is people not even doing the 10 mins once a day and wondering why it doesn't sink in.


After a few weeks you can probably do more without getting fatigued, but better watch what you are doing.

YMMV as ever - we don't know how you are doing . . .


Military operators went on all day - plus practice with street signs and car plates in between.

That was a full time job though . . .

cb




Posted: 2023-10-18 17:11
Thanks for the replies again.

I do believe i misunderstood! I will endevour to do more practice now. Just getting frustrated that it doesn't seem to be 'clicking' with the sounds for most of the letters.

I will keep working at the same excersise until i dont get any errors and i dont need to think about the sounds, just write them down instinctively..im guessing this is the correct way to go about things? I dont mind it taking long, i just dont want to have to start again because i cocked everything up and went too quickly.


Posted: 2023-10-19 11:53
Tonyboyleedsuk:
Just getting frustrated that it doesn't seem to be 'clicking' with the sounds for most of the letters.


Don't worry, you'll get there eventually if you keep on with the training.

Also there is a lot of advice out there telling you "Don't count dits, don't learn dots and dashes, dont't go too fast through the lessons etc.". This might all be correct, but in fact people don't fail learning CW because they train in the wrong way. They fail because they loose motivation.

I recommend starting to listen to CW on amateur radio bands very soon in your learning process. Use web SDR if you don't have your own rig yet. This will keep up your motivation and help you make the connection between "clinical" training lessons and the real world - e.g. distortions, no spacing between letters, building a memory cache, etc.
CQ calls have a very distinct rhythm, so your first task could be listening for "CQ CQ CQ DE ..." and then trying to understand just the first letter of the following call sign.

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