Qrq Training Tips


Please share with us your QRQcw training methods that have worked best for you

Comment by Brett Miller on June 25, 2011 at 2:08am


Well...I was yapping about some of my thoughts to Chuck in a letter I sent him the other day, and I think he was inspired to start this tab in order to have a special place to collect tips from QRQ operators, about what methods seem to be working out in their training sessions.  I hate to say anything that sounds definitive here, because honestly I cannot in good conscience, give any sort of even slight guarantee that I know what I'm talking about.  To be even more honest, I went about learning CW, and advancing in speed at such a breakneck pace, that it couldn't have been healthy.  Any tips I give are highly unlikely to be universally applicable or useful in any kind of broad sense.


Having said that, I will lay out a few condensed pieces of common sense, which someone might get some entertainment from reading:


1.) I tend to think, in most cases...that the most useful form of practice is having QSOs with a real person.

2.) If it's at all possible, operate full break-in (QSK) during that QSO and really use it.  This is something I am just beginning to tap into, and it's already really helpful, plus a real confidence booster.  ...and please break the cycle of the "traditional CW template"...you don't have to ID every time you switch to the other person.  You don't even have to do it at the beginning.  You are required to ID every 10 minutes and at the end of the QSO.  QSK doesn't work if you ID at every comment..hihi.

3.) If you can't get on the air, and are forced to listen to canned, pre-recorded QRQ, then use actual QSO's you recorded off of the air, round tables or one on one sessions.  When you can listen to your recordings and no longer need to concentrate on the CW to know what is said, then you have memorized them and they are now stale.  Time for new recordings.

4.) Many people swear by word lists, of the 100 common English words, 1000 or 5000 most common English words.  That's fine, and I've used them before to the tune of slight improvement.  Yet to me, it's just faster to listen to real QSOs at the speeds you are aiming for, and those you want to maintain.  After all, during conversational morse QRQ, those common words will all get used, and naturally in language precedence, just like you'll be hearing them when you converse with these same friends.  I prefer to use recordings of people I talk to in skeds, round tables, or might talk to in the future (when I get fast enough....FOG, etc.).  QSK will really help catalyze the use of fast code in natural conversational exchange.  I've barely tapped into it and I can tell its advantage, especially to confidence, which is tantamount to relaxed comprehension -- the goal.

5.) This one's likely going to be controversial to people who've been around a while, but progress through comprehension of the CW by ear is not always going to be linear...at least not to every brain type.  For me, sometimes the key to help if I'm missing too much is to jump up (faster) by 10 wpm or so.  This is especially true around the region of speed where I tend to start noticing whole word envelopes ("word envelopes" is a term I heard via K0JVX).  Sometimes putting letters together fatigues my ears and brain, so I want to take a break and jump up to a speed where I can just hear whole word sounds.  It helps.  Even if you are a 35 wpm operator, listen to some 45 wpm for a change.  There's no reason to put an artificial ceiling or limitation on your skills.  At the same time, all speeds (even what you consider slow) should be given some practice time.  And most of us have bugs, straight keys, and paddles with which to enjoy <QRQ  speeds while we are giving the keyboard a break.

6.) Sleep learning doesn't work.  You have to be following the conversation and preferably struggling a bit to increase speed.  There's no work-free way to do it, but you can make the work mostly fun by enjoying your qsos.  Oh, and if you can be ki

Comment by Brett Miller on June 25, 2011 at 12:12pm

Well...every time I try and post here I run into the character limit.  But I guess I've probably said enough anyway.  I don't pretend to speak authoritatively or with any kind of expertise, but merely would like to share a few of the ideas that seem to be working for me.  In doing that, perhaps I might help someone someday, who could possibly be around in the upcoming decades and still be interested in working QRQ CW on the HF bands and/or the internet.  For the most part, it's important to find your own methods of learning, which work best for you, and take advice from others with a sizable grain of salt.


73 de KI4DBK

Comment by Brett Miller on June 25, 2011 at 12:29pm

Ok, here's an addendum to #5:  I think some of the reason people get stuck at some specific speed and think they are in a "plateau" is because they expect "solid copy" at some speed before they should move on.  I'm not sure what solid copy is.  No one gets solid copy all the time at some QRQ speed...you're always going to be prone to missing strange context or unfamiliar words.  That's no reason to halt experimentation with faster speeds.  When you drop back down you'll see you've improved.  Many ops say that if you can get even 50% at some wpm you are learning.  I agree.  I think plateaus are just a fancy way of explaining improper practice techniques or other manifestations of getting in a rut with training.  I think some people who spent half of their life copying by the letter and then later became interested in QRQ had to overcome a real challenge in learning to take in entire words and thoughts in one thought.  If you have just learned the code relatively recently, you won't have to overcome one reflex (listening for letters) in favor of another (hearing the audio envelope of entire words) for QRQ...it should come rather naturally as you go past a certain speed, which varies from person to person.  I have found though, much to my chagrin, that if I practice QRQ for a contiguous block of time, I get rusty on my QRS.  So you have to keep using all your skills if you want them to be sharp.  You need your QRS letter assembly skills in certain cases during high speed activity, especially when you encounter a word you've never heard before.  I know some amazing cw operators who can actually figure out words they've never heard before at speeds I find mind boggling.  I have some ideas about how this is happening, but I think I've tried to more or less enumerate them here. 


Again, aside from what is working for me, this is speculation.  I've refrained from mentioning a lot of numbers here because they aren't set in stone.  As a wise friend recently told me, "We are often aiming for a moving target here."


-Brett  de KI4DBK

Comment by Brett Miller on July 12, 2011 at 2:43pm

I got John Zimmerman - K0JVX's permission to share some of his thoughts on improving one's CW proficiency:



"No need to push real hard.  Code is a really funny thing.  Familiarity is the key.   You should not be hesitant to listen at speeds well above 50 wpm and just pick out a few words and just enjoy the fact that you are now familiar with these words at ANY speed - and give yourself a pat on the back.    Don't even try to get the whole sentence.  Don't over concentrate but try to keep the mind open and clear for the code.  Just let the words slide by.  Try to be familiar with the 2,000 most common words used in English (Chambers Dictionary has them).  Being relaxed is very important."


A couple months ago, John and I had an interesting conversation about moving from comprehending mostly letters, to hearing primarily word envelopes....John said:

"I was just thinking to myself today that you are receiving better at 40 than at 30.  I begin to think that was in my imagination.  So glad you confirmed it. 

I can believe what you are saying about the words coming together at 40.  It's hard to aspire to 40 when you are receiving at 30.  What you are saying is a good thing because I know you are starting to hear the entire envelope of a word.  I don't now at what speed an operator moves from letters to envelopes but I think for you it is between 30 and 40.  That is pretty consistent with my own experience.   This is the most encouraging thing you have told me yet.  Don't worry about perfect copy.  Just get into the swing of higher speed even if you have to miss 50% or more.  This is not a test of your ability.

When you said you relaxed I recalled when I first learned to drive and I was always tense and stuff was coming at me from all directions (people talking in the car, the speedometer, the radio, traffic, signs, rules of driving etc.).  And then with experience it all changed.  You remember when you allowed these things to slip just below the level of consciousness but still to be accessible.  When you allow yourself, in some relaxed state state as you say, to let the words slide by (because you catch the envelope) but yet have sufficient consciousness to comprehend (not apprehend or latch onto) them, then you are moving to QRQ."

Comment by Brett Miller on July 12, 2011 at 2:50pm

This isn't exactly a training tip, but a QRQ anecdote that I nonetheless want to share.  It was told to me by K0JVX after a discussion regarding the use (and lack of restraint) of vocabulary in QRQ:


"I remember about 30 years ago W9TO, Jim Ricks who started CFO in 1980 and now SK, was in a QRQ QSO roundtable and the subject turned to heart disease.  We were going at a good clip (60+) and I used the word fibrulation [SIC] without ever slowing down and Jim breaks in "NO, NO, NO, fibrillation!"  He nailed me.  I was so proud that I had properly placed the letter "r" even though I had botched the rest of the word."


...this shows that that the action of reading the code by the whole word is still not exempt from the exception that the receiving op can still be sensitive of spelling errors of 1 or 2 characters.  Quite extraordinary.

Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 13, 2011 at 10:13am

FROM W4BQF: http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php?topic=17428.0                                       


Posts: 71

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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2002, 02:43:42 PM »

I hate to bust these 'bubbles' popping up here. I have two brain cells, I dont read fast, I am not musically inclined, and I didnt use any self-professed method of learning to copy code. I used to copy in excess of 100 wpm, and can now probably copy 80-90 wpm comfortably. There is no 'magic' way or method of copying QRQ, you just have to decide it's a part of this hobby that you want to do and then go do it. You will be embarrassed and intimidated at first, but if you JOIN in QSO's with QRQ operators, you will find they will be the most helpful hams on the air. You will get a lot of ribbing from them while you get your speed up, but then most QRQ operators have a sharp sense of humor. It's just a tremendous amount of fun to QSO at 80+ wpm running full QSK.
There is a natural 'speed hump' around 50 to 55 wpm that most people have problems with. When I hit that speed hump (some 25 years ago), I used a code reader. Once over the speed hump, the code reader became useless as most of them can not copy on-the-air code much over 65 wpm. But it certainly helped me get over the hump.
The other thing I found very helpful (altho not absolutely necessary) was to change my keyboard. Initially I could type about 45 wpm on a QWERTY (standard) keyboard. I eventually changed to a Dvorak keyboard key placement and my speed, after about a year, was up over 100 wpm. 
Just look at high speed operation as only another fascinating part of this hobby and enjoy it!


Comment by Brett Miller on July 13, 2011 at 1:10pm


Thanks for posting/contributing the fruits of your immense expertise to this section of the page....


Many of the things that have helped me increase my enjoyment of the code, especially in my attempts at QRQ, have come from things you said to me in email as well as one time on the air you just told me:  "relax", as you could tell I was stressing every word that came in, worring about missing it, and in so doing, I missed almost everything in that QSO.


I agree that QRQ cw doesn't require massive brain acuity, and I don't know about being musically inclined, but if getting some ribbing and feeling embarrassed and intimidated is a prerequisite, then I am on my way to becoming an inveterate QRQ operator.


Some people in history have reported that "speed hump" being faster than 55 (like 60 or 65) and some  have even claimed not to notice one at all.  I think it is clear that anticipating such a hump prior to its arrival is a bit negative to the practitioner of say, 45 wpm.  Also, for me, it will be years before I would risk using a "reader" or "software" that reads the code as a fix for the "hump", since I am still working hard to get solid copy right up to the hump.


Tips from others (like Tom) have helped me greatly, but when it gets to the nitty gritty, it's hard work, frequent skeds, and practice that gets the job done.


I look at QRQ as another fun subset of the ham radio hobby, and enjoy it even when I am copying 50% or much less.  Like Tom, I am a bit smaller version of the proverbial "big fish" in the small CW pond.


hihi...my bubbles of fun and CW dreams remain un-popped.  They are big enough to drive a Corvette through.



Comment by Brett Miller on July 13, 2011 at 8:55pm

Earlier, I had not seen that Chuck had quoted BQF's words from Tom's own web site, but I thought they sounded familiar.  People probably should be advised to think of my words about QRQ as more of a journal of progress, that may one day be useful to some newcomer to the sport, who finds it useful to avoid the things I did, or perhaps pick and choose anything they feel might work for them.  I have found the same kind of material from other ops very useful, of course only if I can remember them while working actual stations on the air, which is where the mainstay of proficiency comes from.


On the sending issue.  I had many discussions with Fred Ryan 4 or 5 years ago, and also some correspondance with W4BQF on the same.  At the outset, both of them and others suggested that I learn DVORAK in order to max out my typing speed.  Problem is, I was already well over 80 wpm via QWERTY and could type into and tend to stay in the buffer, sending smoothly at those speeds and when I was in regular practice, working out my typing and QRQ sending, I could send a little over 100 wpm as long as my thoughts were collected.  After this Fred recommended sticking with QWERTY, since my time would be better spent on CW than on relearning a keyboard layout.  So in my case, the cost/benefit analysis seemed to indicate that the change would not be very economic.


Nevertheless, DVORAK is much more efficient, as it was designed that way, while QWERTY was made to actually slow down typing to avoid jamming in a mechanical type writer.  If my typing were not so close to the eventual likely destination of my copy, then I would switch to DVORAK in a heart beat, and still might do it eventually.


Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 14, 2011 at 9:55am

Excellent points Brett !

On the matter of ultimate keyboard qrq cw sending...

I have been taking a close look at these two options, which enable most practitioners to type up and over

200wpm !   One is a unique design from Denmark - called VEYBOARD

  Veyboard Zilver



The other is an open source project to allow COURT REPORTING - LIKE -  TYPING,

on a cheap gaming keyboard.  The project can be found here:



Comment by Brett Miller on July 14, 2011 at 11:41am




All the alternate layouts, and project PLOVER look quite interesting.  I'll be ready to get serious with it as soon as my receiving speed rivals yours.  A few days ago I was sending at 90 wpm on iCW and I was staying 2 or 3 characters into the buffer.  I am a bit rusty but not too bad.  Obviously it's my copy that must catch up before taking any of this too seriously.



Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 15, 2011 at 8:06am

Here are a couple of video examples of PLOVER - LIKE TYPING at around 200 wpm using professional steno keyboards.  I believe the ability to communicate morse code at typical voice qso speeds(@150wpm) will be greatly advanced by using this type of keyboard.  


Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 11:57am

Here is the 50 buck Microsoft X4 keyboard that you can use with PLOVER's free software to type steno style

modified using FELT PADS to mimic a professional steno keyboard:

Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 11:59am

Here is a several thousand dollar steno keyboard alongside the 50 buck MS X4 keyboard:

Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 12:04pm

from the PLOVER BLOG

Qwerty to Steno Key Map

File this one under painfully obvious. In all the excitement of the Plover release, I had forgotten that the actual description of the qwerty-to-steno layout that Plover uses was buried way back in the archives, and that new people trying to figure out how to position their fingers would most likely be totally lost. Sorry about that! By way of apology, I whipped up a new image that should be a little more helpful, and after I finish posting this I'm going to put it on the Plover FAQ Page as well.

The dark blue letters correspond to the letters of the qwerty keyboard. The light blue letters correspond to the letters on the steno keyboard that they produce when Plover is connected. Basically you move your hands half an inch up so that your left thumb is resting between the C and V keys and your right thumb is resting between the N and M keys. The rest should fall into place.
Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 12:05pm
Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 12:22pm



Comment by Chuck aa0hw on July 16, 2011 at 12:27pm

Here is a good example of typing on a regular qwerty keyboard vs  typing with PLOVER

on a modified keyboard for typing PLOVER STENO:

Comment by Chuck aa0hw on October 5, 2011 at 8:30am

The creator of PLOVER talks herself about her project and emphasizes how

fantastic STENO is in general for typing in REAL TIME, speech to text, or thoughts to text...

at speeds over 120wpm within 6 months of practice - average time for most people...and with

more diligent practice, over 200 wpm is reachable for many students of STENO.


Comment by Brett Miller on May 8, 2012 at 11:26am

Well, at least AA0HW and I shared our tips in this section.  I see it's been a year since I visited this part of the page and 0 activity.  Oh well...we'll just keep trying, right Chuck?

Comment by Brett Miller on May 8, 2012 at 11:29am

If you want to work on your paddle fist in style...purchase one of W5UXH's new ATmega keyers.  Then plug in your paddle of choice.  You can send with your TX off or into a dummy load while reading your code on the nice backlit blue LCD.  You get to see how well you are doing with your spacing.  A perfect practice tool for your paddle fist.           de  KI4DBK


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