I got interested in head copying Morse some months ago and have been working with other local amateurs here in south Cumbria who are also learning to head copy. We’re making fair to good progress so far but I would like to hear from SOTA expert head-copiers for their experiences and advice about the effectiveness of different techniques or methods.
My motivation: since I my passed the Morse test about 25 years ago and got my ‘A’ licence (M0ALC) I’ve been transcripting everything to paper. I unconsciously write it down and then quickly look back at what I’ve written. This has limited me to about 20wpm because I can’t write faster [not to mention blunting the pencil lead quickly]. As most of my operating is as a SOTA activator, I would like to get to the point where the only info I’m writing in my little notebook at the summit is what I need for my SOTA log.
I’ve been head copying GB2CW on-air and listening to ARRL’s W1AW slow Morse archives, the Ham Morse app plus the 4-way QRS 2m CW QSOs our head-copying group have from time to time.
Currently, I’m using two methods:
- Word sound recognition - you recognize the unique sound of the word, e.g. standard abbreviations CQ, 73, DE, RST and common short words. Most or all of us know some words like this and many more are added over time simply by constantly hearing them.
- ‘Blackboard’ or ‘back of the eyelid’ - where you assemble the incoming letters in your mind until you predict the word correctly or have all the letters. For me, most less-common and long words fall into this camp. But I’m finding some have already transferred into the first method.
- ‘Phonic copy’ [I am not using this method] - treating the successive letters of a word like a slowly pronounced spoken word. This is described in Head Copy CW, An Alternative Method: 'Phonic Copy' - N6EV's Amateur Radio Blog
I’m interested to hear from anyone who has used this method. I can see that it might work with languages like Italian, which [I’m told] is highly phonetic, so in most cases you can predict the pronunciation of the word from the letter sounds. However, with English, we all know, the spelling is a mess, it’s a highly unphonetic language, so I can’t see how this method would work.
I see no alternative, for those words that you haven’t yet memorized as a unique sound [e.g. CQ] than to use method 2.
There may well be other methods. I’m curious to hear from any expert head-copier on how you achieved your skill you now have.