speed = distance over time

plateau

Speed does = distance over time. In terms of CW my speed is currently around 12wpm with a character speed of around 20wpm. I have been at a distance from a qso for over a month now and I am experiencing what is called a plateau. Or is this my natural speed?

If I go for a run, I know I can run at a certain pace for a certain distance. Nowadays no amount of training will get me down to what I could once do when I was in my teens (back then I could do around 1 to 2 minutes quicker for a mile). This was the same back then. I have a capacity and I know it well. Is the same true for CW?

Can I only do a certain speed?

How do I find a natural speed and maintain it? (Overtraining is a crime!)

My normal excuse is I need a new pair of trainers. Surely I need a new morse key, right?

Alex Hill, G7KSE, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, UK. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “speed = distance over time”

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    This may sound like a strange question, but how old are you and more importantly how good is your hearing? The reason I asked is simple. If your hearing is getting as bad as mine,and many others, hearing a fast flying tone, such as a dot, might easily be missed or a dash might sound like a dot. I have been analyzing my own speed challenges and that is what I have observed…Add to that ringing in both ears mixing with the CW tones also seems to make some days worst then others… Just something to consider and play with… Good luck

    73

  • Richard N4PBQ:

    Alex, Just like any exercise of the body or there will always be plateaus. Often we can move beyond them by stretching or pushing a bit. I’ve been learning the code over the past 9 months and I have plateaued a number of times but gone beyond it by spending time listening to much faster code (like 5-7wpm faster than I normally could copy).

    I think we all have different limits we reach as well but I would expect you to keep incrementally improving your copy speed if you maintain a steady practice. But it’s just a hobby so have qso’s at whatever speed you are comfortable.

    This morning I worked some DX stations that were sending over 30wpm but they slowed down to my 20wpm when I sent my call at that speed. After that I slowed down from 20wpm to between 13wpm and 17wpm for a number of ragchews with operators that answered my call at slower speeds. So just make contacts with whatever speed you’re comfortable at but keep stretching yourself. Other ops will slow down if you need them to and you will find yourself slowing down for others. If they don’t slow down just keep sending QRS until they do or find someone else to talk to.

    As FISTS motto goes “Accuracy transcends speed”.. and so it does.

  • Alex, g7kse:

    Apparently, according to my XYL I’m old. She’s a couple of years younger than me and hitting 40 this year. In ham terms I’m very wet behind the ears. Hearing is pretty good apart from the selective deafness I have when she’s after some chores being done.

    I’ve sped up the practice software to >20wpm (20wpm is my target) an I can still copy most of the characters. Its the numbers in the callsign’s that really kill me off.

    I’m sure that some are very good and pick it up quickly and a have a theory that its the more muscially minded. Rhythm and timing are all part of that skill so I’m guessing they go together well. I struggle playing the triangle!

    The main pint is that I didn’t expect to get this far so I’m pretty chuffed. Target is 20wpm by Christmas…..no saying which year though

  • Richard KW0U:

    For years I’ve been practicing and slowly increasing my speed. Sometimes going back to a slightly slower speed helps. That way your copy is solid and you can start building up. And I also find that listening to code in my head without trying to copy it down (again, at a slightly slower speed) can be a good builder. But no matter what you do suddenly with practice you do get to the next level. Don’t give up.

  • Jim--KD0QV:

    G7KSE–ALEX, I THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO SPEED UP TOO FAST ! JUST GO WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO, & KEEP AT IT AT A STEADY PACE. AFTER RUNNING A MORSE CODE CLASS FOR SEVERAL YEARS AT OUR CLUB, HERE ARE MY OBSERVATIONS: YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THE CODE SENT AT A COMFORTABLE VOLUME LEVEL. YES, MANY HAVE HEARING PROBLEMS, & WILL MISS DITS & DAHS. TURN UP THE VOLUME SO YOU HEAR EACH LETTER OR NUMBER, SO YOU CAN COPY IT. YOU MIGHT SWITCH TO SOME GOOD EARPHONES, & HAVE THOSE DITS & DAHS RIGHT AT YOUR EARS, SO YOU CAN HEAR THEM O.K. THE XYL WILL ALSO BE HAPPY WITH THE HOUSE QUIET. RULE #1: IS THERE IS NO SPEED LIMIT ON MORSE CODE ! RULE #2 MORSE CODE IS SENT IN PLAIN ENGLISH ! WE DO NOT HAVE TO LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE & CONVERT THE MORSE CODE TO ENGLISH ! WE ARE SO LUCKY, AND ALL WE HAVE TO LEARN IS ABOUT 50 CHARACTORS, NUMBERS, & PRO-SIGNS !
    IN ALL MY CW WORK OVER THE YEARS, I’VE NEVER RAN INTO ANY HAM WHO WOULD NOT QRS TO THE SPEED I WAS SENDING AT. HAMS THE WORLD OVER WILL TRY TO HELP MAKE THE QSO A GOOD CONTACT ! GETTING ON THE AIR ON A REGULAR BASIS, & MAKING QSO’S WILL GET YOUR SPEED, SENDING & RECIEVING, UP TO WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE. FOR ABOUT 25 TO 30 YEARS IN MY HAMMING, 13 WPM WAS THE F.C.C.TESTING SPEED, & THEY ALSO HAD THE EXTRA 20 WPM TEST. SO ACTUALLY WHERE YOUR AT NOW, IS PRETTY DARN GOOD ! CONGRATULATIONS ! SURE, DURING CONTESTS, THEY SEND CW FAST, BUT ALL THAT IS REQUIRED FOR AN HONEST QSO CONTACT, IS BOTH CALLS, & BOTH RST REPORTS. NOT MUCH TO GET THAT GOOD DX CONTACT ! BOTH HAMS IN A QSO WILL STRIVE TO MAKE A GOOD CONTACT, SO IF YOU MISS ANYTHING, SIMPLY SEND “BK QRS RST? BK”. THE HAM WILL REPEAT WHAT YOU HAVE MISSED. MY CONGRATULATIONS TO HAMS ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR THE MANY DX QSO’S I’VE HAD, & THE GREAT HARD WORK THEY PUT FORTH TO MAKE CONTACTS ! ABOVE ALL, THIS IS A FUN HOBBY, SO GET ON & WORK CW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, & YOUR SPEED WILL GET WHERE YOU ARE CONFORTABLE WITH IT ! GOOD LUCK & DX ALEX ! 73 DE, KD0QV–JIM
    ============================================================================

  • Dan HK4DEI:

    Hey Alex, I’m about your age and began learning CW with my first ham license on 2013. Now I can copy and send comfortably at about 25WPM, I can copy and send faster, like in a contest or when chasing a DX, but I’m not able to ragchew and copy everything at those higher speeds. One thing that helped a lot is that I downloaded the ARRL CW practice MP3 files to my iPod and played then on earbuds when going to sleep (sometimes at 40WPM), so I fell asleep hearing morse code for a few days… I did noticed a great improvement when doing that, sometimes I wasn’t even trying to copy anything, just getting used to the sound of higher speed CW, suddenly some letters and then words began to pop here and there. Now I’m not trying to improve my speed but also learned that you don’t *need* to copy everything letter by letter, just like when doing phone modes you just need to “get the message” and copy the important bits carefully, like name and so on. One important thing to master is to be able to skip missing letters and continue copying right away, you just don’t have time to think too much about any missing character, just keep copying. Hope it helps, 73, Dan.

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