Learning CW is not a sprint
I am in the 9th month of my CW / Morse Code journey and I will readily admit that in my case it has been slow, steady progress rather than a sprint. Some weeks I think I'm doing well while at others I seem to be stuck or losing my copy skills, even with daily practice and QSOs.
During my off-air training I had raised my copy speed of news stories sent in CW to about 23wpm with 80% comprehension but as that happened I somehow reduced my ability to copy slower speeds. This was especially noticeable in on-air qsos. So I have gone back a bit to practice slower speeds. It's difficult to explain to myself how that happened. I guess I'd become accustomed to the higher speed characters and lost recognition at slower speeds.
As my copy speed has increased, my on-air sending speed has gone up which of course results in the other side of the qso being sent at a higher speed as well. I'm still very limited when I work an unusual FIST or someone who doesn't leave space between their words. I'm normally starting more of my qsos with a paddle/keyer than straight key now at around 17-19wpm resulting in the responding stations generally working me a couple wpm faster than I send. I'm working fewer straight key operators as I work outside the SKCC frequencies although I still seem to encounter lots of bug operators. I happy to work a bug op because I switch to my bug for the qso. I still enjoy the SKCC group and ops but I can't send well above 16wpm on a straight key so that is limiting me working faster ops. I generally can work the bug around 19-20 wpm on the SKCC frequencies but then I get bug operators coming back at me with 27wpm dits which I have great difficulty copying.
I began the habit of spending some time most mornings before work just listening to higher speed ops chat with each other at speeds around 25wpm on 80m and 40m. There's almost always a couple of CW qsos going on at that speed between 6-7 AM Eastern time. I miss much of what they are saying but it's a good supplement to the machine generated copy study that I do at lunchtime and gets me used to real FISTS at my target speed of 25wpm. All this listening is of course followed up with actual qsos in the evenings and weekends as time allows at 17-20wpm.
Stuck at 20wpm
|Stuck and need help from friends
20wpm seems to be a wall of sorts. I have difficulty reliably having real qsos at and above 20wpm. I've been stuck at this speed for a couple months now and would appreciate suggestions at moving beyond the wall as I find myself still having to ask stations sending above 20wpm with tight spacing to slow down. Some days it seems to click, but when I think back I believe it has more to do with a good FIST of the other operator than my copy skill.
All I can reliably say is real people rarely sound like machine generated CW and all the off-air machine practice in the world doesn't reveal my real ability to copy, or not copy, like real qsos do.
So the journey continues. I plan to occasionally blog about my progress and copy speed as much for my own record as anything else but maybe it will be of some encouragement to others as well.
That's all for now
So lower your power and raise your expectations