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?


  • Steve Brown, WD5HCY

    It’s not unusual to plateau as you are describing. This generally occurs at the point where one has reached all he/she can do by “reading in” the dots and dashes and saying “That’s a “C.” One gets past the plateau when on starts hearing whole words rather than dots and dashes.

    • Alex

      Thanks for the comment Steve. I’ve sort of started to do it with familiar words. The numbers are still letting me down though.

      Still got a lot further than I thought I would though.

  • Colin GM4JPZ

    Alex, what you’re describing is comparable to what happens when people learn foreign languages. The initial stages (right up to Intermediate level and above) frustrate learners because they don’t feel fluent enough, and absolutely everyone asks for the ‘magic bullet’ that will take them through the fluency barrier. I’ve been teaching languages for a long time, and the only answer I can find for most people is to advise them to spend enough time in the country for immersion in the language to work its magic. Nobody is happy with that answer, but I know from personal experience that it’s true for most of us. So, the only way to break through the 12 wpm barrier you are experiencing IMHO is to listen to CW, use it, and be patient that the time will come when you are listening to 20s or above and find you suddenly know what is going on. This doesn’t happen gradually, but seems to take forever, and then it’s there. It’s like slowly focusing a lens that is getting nearer and nearer to focus, but is still blurred, before all of a sudden jumping into focus. Trust yourself, be patient, and you’ll get there! 73, and I look forward to working you on CW soon.

    • Alex

      I was curious really Colin. I’m sort of happy with my progress and not really in any hurry. I’ve started noticing that I am listening to short words rather than letters which is positive.

      Looking forward to a weekend when there are fewer contest stations and more rag chewers to practice. Do they exist ;-)?

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