Last time we spoke I had missed session 5 class because of a skype problem and left everyone with a cliff hanger. Skype can be frustrating at times but we work with what we have. After the class the instructor called me on Skype and we went over the session one-on-one. I got half of what he sent and mixed up simple letters. As he was talking he figured out I was not going back to review the previous lessons and highly recommends that we do the reviews. I was not reviewing past lessons because I was worried more about the next lesson and getting further behind.
Session 5 day and practice: I spent the next hour after class going over lesson 1 at 20 WPM and 10 Farnsworth.
I am one of those guys that needs to write down what I hear. I can write it down correctly and say it in my head wrong. I don’t know how that happens, but for me, it does. If the word ATE is sent I may write it down correctly but in my head I say NTE. Another problem I am having is that I anticipate the letters. For example, we have a bunch of words that start with a W and then words will start with a M. There may be 5 or 6 words sent that start with a W and then all of a sudden they send the next word and it starts with a M. I’m still thinking the next word will start with a W and that is what I write down. Alan, AD6E, the instructor even says to write it down if you have to, especially the call signs. He has a lot of patience and is full of knowledge.
Side Note: We had a discussion in class one day about which hand to use to key because there are about 3 of us who are left handed. The consensus was to do what is comfortable. I am left handed and key with my right because that is what feels natural for me, an added benefit is I can write with my left and don’t have to worry about moving the paper out of the way when I’m ready to key.
TIP: Go back and repeat the past lessons until you have them down and do not miss any letters or numbers.
We have 5 days between session 5 and session 6 with the fifth day being the class day.
Practice day 1 (Thursday): After spending an hour on session 1 I spent another hour on session 2 in the morning. I have not even looked at session 6 yet. One of my problems, like I only have one, is that if I miss a letter it is hard to concentrate on the next one as I’m still thinking about the last one and I end of missing the entire word. I find the word NEAT difficult because I’m thinking is that an N or and A and then I hear the E and T and I’m lost. I spent 45 minutes on lesson 3 and completed it before calling it a day. I did pretty good today with decoding and feel better. I think tomorrow I am going to try to finish lessons 4 and 5 and then start on 6. The plan is to practice lesson 6 on the weekend and then review on the day of the class. All in all I spent about 3 hours or so on practicing today, mainly listening but also with a little sending thrown in.
Practice day 2 (Friday) after session 5
I spent 90 minutes on lesson 4 today and i was getting 80% of the words at 20 WPM and 10 Farnsworth. On the words that I had a hard time with I would move the Farnsworth to 5 and then I would get it. Once I got it I put the Farnsworth back at 10 and played it over and over until I felt comfortable with. Guess what? It was like someone turned on a light bulb! I even got the U and R but still had some problems with the D and sometimes the W.
On to lesson 5 and I am excited and hope the light bulb stays on. I spent 90 minutes on this one as well. It seems 90 minutes is how long it is taking me on my new way of doing the lesson. I go with 20 WPM and 10 Farnsworth to see if I can get it. If not I changed the Farnsworth to 5 and I would figure out the word. This session has 53 sending pieces in it. I missed 9, mostly simple mistakes with the A and N, and I had to slow 5 of the words down to 5. I am pleased with that try. One thing that helped me is to wear headphones hooked into my computer. It sounds better and also blocks out other noises that the computer can cause. It seems to have helped me and this was actually mention by my instructor and it was in the instructions, which I didn’t read like most guys. I am getting the R, and U now most of the time. The W and D are getting better but I need more practice. The problem I had with the A and N seems to have come back because on the nine that I missed that was the issue except one time I anticipated a word. The word was MOW and I wrote down MOM. I also believe that now that I seem to be getting better I am not thinking about what the letter are if I miss them and then miss the rest. I believe that is because I am identifying the letters quicker and this all comes with practice. The Light bulb is still on!
TIP: Wear a computer headphone when practicing.
Practice day 3 (Saturday) after session 5. This is the day I planned to just work on the next session for class, session 6. I reviewed lessons 1 through 5 since the last class and spent about 6 and a half hours practicing over the last two days. Session 6 adds the letters F and Y and reviews letters from previous lessons. We are now up to 17 letters and 6 numbers and the question mark.
I started the day out with sending the F and Y letters to myself and then progressed over to the on line lesson. I spent the next 75 minutes going over the lesson. There were 44 letters and words and my first practice I missed 15 and had to slow down from Farnsworth 10 to 5 nine times. I felt good on these and did OK I think for my time. The thing about this lesson was that only 3 times did words start with the same letters back to back. That helps with not anticipating the letters like earlier lessons. Also, if I could not get the word at 10 Farnsworth then I would slow it down to 5 Farnsworth, keeping the WPM at 20, and most of the time I would figure it out. I then moved the Farnsworth back to 10 and listened to it a few more times before moving on. The system sent me HH5H again. That thing is impossible for me as it all sounds the same. If I had a call sign like that I would not blame anyone for not answering me. I am getting more call signs and numbers now, it takes me to replay them a few times but I am at least getting them. At the end of this practice session I went back and played the F and Y letters a few times by themselves to get better at indenting them.
After a 4 hour break I did the lesson over again and this time it took me 50 minutes to complete. I got the words better this time and went through it faster. I missed 11 and slowed the Farnsworth down 7 times. I have problems when 3 or 4 words are sent at a time, and of the 11 that I missed this accounted for 4 of them. Listening to “IS THIS FAIR” and “YES IT IS” and “SHE IS SHY”is a lot of …….. I need to go back and listen to C, L, and W.
Side note: I was contacted by a HAM in Canada John, VE7JBX, who read the blog post and wanted to try to make a contact because as he said, “it’s reassuring to find other people find it a challenge, too. I’m probably about the same level you’re at – if there isn’t too much QSB/QRM/QRN I can generally copy about 7 wpm. On a really good day I can even copy 10 wpm for a few sentences before things derail and I’m left waiting for “,” “.” “BT” or the like to try to resynchronize. I find it helpful to practice actual QSO / rag chewing and prefer to work folks at my skill level – it’s not that many more skilled CW operators aren’t polite and QRS for me, but I get frustrated knowing they’re having to do that.”
The bad news is the only letter I know in his call so far is the E, but I figured we could try. So I fired up the radio and set the frequency. I could hear him but it was really a lot of QRM, noise, and he could hear me but I was in the noise on his end as well. Maybe that was the CW Gods telling me I am not ready to make a contact yet but I appreciated the effort. I would avoid making contacts because I was afraid I would slow someone down or make them mad. I used to do the same thing in Golf. I was so bad at first that I would let a lot of people play through so I would not hold them up. Thanks for the offer John, I do appreciate it and I am looking forward to that first contact.
Practice day 4 (Sunday) after session 5.
Side note: John, VE7JBX and I tried a contact again this morning and he heard me and I heard him call my call sign. He was faint on my end so I didn’t get anything else except a few letter, but I heard my call a few times. Exciting stuff!
Session day and practice day 5. The plan was to spend most of the day on lesson 6 and reviewing the past lessons, letters and words that I have had problems with so far. Life happens and a lot of things had my attention today to include two football gams so I spent about 50 minutes going over the lesson. I missed 9 and had to slow down 5 times. I even changed to 15 WPM on 2 of the words and still missed them. A little discouraged to say the least! H and S, A and N are kicking my butt good. The H and S sounds so close to each other that I get them mixed up a lot. I also spent about 20 minutes sending words and letters during the day as well, so about 70 total minutes today. Not enough but I think I need a break from so much time put in over the last few days.
Practice day 5 (Sunday) and class day. I spent one hour and 15 minutes in the morning practicing. You will not believe this, I set the WPM at 20 and the Farnsworth at 20. Yes, I know, call me crazy! I missed 7 this time and slowed down 9 times to 20/10 or even 15/10. I would say some of this is memorization but I was getting the letters and numbers. The HH5H at 20/20 is a machine gun firing! Three of the 7 that I missed were the sentences and I slowed those down and got some but missed 3 of them. When I slowed down to 15 WPM I could count the dits and dahs so I would not suggest counting and recommend keeping the speed up to where you can’t count. That will slow you down big time.
I’m getting a lot of feedback and encouragement form others going through the same things as I am and that helps me know that I am not the only one having these problems. I’ve also gotten quite a few tips and they are all helpful. Some with programs to use, some with different ways of doing it that has helped them and I am experimenting with all those programs and tips. Some suggestion to try the Koch method was sent in and I wanted to let you know that I have tried that in the past with tapes and someone sent me the LCWO net website which uses that method and is a neat little program that is free to sign up to use. (Use the Morse Machine part to practice). The difference between the two methods are described in Wikipedia.
“People learning Morse code using the Farnsworth method are taught to send and receive letters and other symbols at their full target speed, that is with normal relative timing of the dots, dashes, and spaces within each symbol for that speed. The Farnsworth method is named for Donald R. “Russ” Farnsworth, also known by his call sign, W6TTB. However, initially exaggerated spaces between symbols and words are used, to give “thinking time” to make the sound “shape” of the letters and symbols easier to learn. The spacing can then be reduced with practice and familiarity.
Another popular teaching method is the Koch method, named after German psychologist Ludwig Koch, which uses the full target speed from the outset but begins with just two characters. Once strings containing those two characters can be copied with 90% accuracy, an additional character is added, and so on until the full character set is mastered.”
No class tonight, must have been a Skype issue again.
Until next time, keep practicing and stay at it. You can do it!
Aloha and 73!
Darren Stacy Holbrook