When it comes to head copying CW.
This post is directed at the relatively new to CW folks out there. I HOPE there are some relatively new to CW people out there, reading this right now. And for those of you who are new to CW or maybe new to faster CW, I know how easy it is to become discouraged with copying CW in your head. I've been there myself ...... I know.
I started out in my Novice days copying EVERYTHING down on paper, word for word. Looking back on it, that was a ridiculously easy thing to do at 5 WPM. But when you are new and wet behind the ears, that was a Herculean task. Eventually, over time as my speed increased and I upgraded to General, I changed to just writing down just the "important stuff" - you know ... Name, QTH, RST, age ..... that kind of thing.
When I became an Extra after mastering 20 WPM, I still kept at that practice. But as I tried to ever increase my speed, I realized that I had to leave writing behind if I wanted to continue to make progress. I had to break the habit of writing stuff down and get into the habit of just copying stuff n my head, because writing stuff down does two things:
1) It takes time
2) It is distracting.
I have no idea how the military and professional radio guys used a typewriter to copy! I have a hard time chewing gum and walking at the same time. Copying AND typing - no way, that's not for me! It's all I can do to just keep things right in my head.
I think the biggest fear of relying solely on head copy is missing something and getting all bolluxed up. Personally, that caused me to freeze up from time to time and start missing a whole bunch of stuff. You miss one word, then two, then three, then whole sentences and the next thing you know is you feel like Charlie Brown from "Peanuts"!
The key ...... and I think is the hardest part to master, is to just relax and copy the best you can. Miss a word? Don't panic! Miss two words? Again - don't panic. Forget about what you missed and get yourself concentrating on what's coming at you in the moment. Panicking only makes you miss more and more.
As an example - last night I saw my friend Bob W3BBO spotted calling CQ on RBN. I ran down to the shack in an attempt to start up a QSO with him, only to find I had been beaten to the punch. By the time, I got downstairs, got the radio tuned to 3.560 MHZ and the earbuds in my ears, Bob was already in QSO with Ernie AA2YK. Instead of shutting down, I decided to "copy the mail" and I did it all without writing a single thing down!
Did I miss a few words here and there? You betcha! But I didn't let that bother me. In very quick order I had to mentally force myself to stop and re-start copying again. I had to break the cycle of worrying about what I had missed, ignore it and just go on from where I had left off. And once you can do that, you'll find that it works, every time! I listened in on their almost 30 minute rag chew and enjoyed listening to two good Morse Code fists.
If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have started relying on head copy a lot sooner than I actually did. I still write the necessary details down for logging - time, name, call - but that's about it. The rest I just copy in my head and now it seems as natural as falling off a log. It makes the entire CW experience a lot more enjoyable.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!