Talent in music could be a necessary condition for a proficient CW operator?

Talents in music are often emphasized as a condition to be a good CW operator. It's a rule of experience. I could recall quite a few CW operators of proficience who are also good musical instrument player. Gary, W0CGR, who unfortunately was gone SK recently, had been a great guitarist. Jim, W5JAW, is a good guitarist as well. Jim used to send me a file of his performance attached to a mail, which astonished me a lot. Dave, K6XG, plays great baroque recorder, which we have enjoyed at W7 FOC Event last summer. I should add Kemp, K7UQH, a great trombonist in a big band to those people. Jerry, K4JKL, plays clarinet at a professional orchestra. Mike, W3MC, used to be a professional trombonist as well. Maybe, as in the other fields of human abilities, there could be exceptions from time to time like myself. I have been playing cello since med school days. I still have so many things to brush up in CW operation. 

There have been no scientific research as for this theme so far as I know. The following paper, which a good friend of mine, Mike, JH1OOD, has found in Pub Med, might relate the talent with the ability to learn language. I am surprised to know psychologists have been interested in such a theme, even though Morse code could be an iteresting topic in epistemology or in brain science of recognition. CW could be a symbol system closely related with a language, in case of usual Morse code, English so that the music capability may enhance or may be closely involved in Morse code learning ability. It could be just a necessary condition but not sufficient one yet. So don't start practising an instrument to be a competent CW operator.


Musical experience influences statistical learning of a novel language.
Shook A, Marian V, Bartolotti J, Schroeder SR.
Am J Psychol. 2013 Spring;126(1):95-104.


Musical experience may benefit learning of a new language by increasing the fidelity with which the auditory system encodes sound. In the current study, participants with varying degrees of musical experience were exposed to two statistically defined languages consisting of auditory Morse code sequences that varied in difficulty. We found an advantage for highly skilled musicians, relative to lower-skilled musicians, in learning novel Morse code-based words. Furthermore, in the more difficult learning condition, performance of lower-skilled musicians was mediated by their general cognitive abilities. We suggest that musical experience may improve processing of statistical information and that musicians' enhanced ability to learn statistical probabilities in a novel Morse code language may extend to natural language learning.


  1. Hi Shin, My friend Marilyn is a music teacher, and she tells me that cw makes no sense to her at all. I think she does not like corn whiskey. I have not lost my copy speed at all, I can copy you when you talk to Harry, with my arms up to my elbows in dish water and not miss a beat. I am going to visit with you one day soon when I can control the keyer. Love Darlene

    1. Hi Darlene,

      Like your music teacher friend, I could not get happy with corn whisky either! But I have loved CW for so many years. I still remember talking to you on this mode in '80s. I hope you to take over the operating desk from Harry sometime in morning hours there. Harry often tells me you are listening to us from the kitchen there. Let him enjoy do the kitchen works for you. Are you settled down at the new house? See you soon.


  2. Hi Shin,

    I believe you are correct. I don't play any instruments well but I know I could if I applied myself.Tthe problem is purely financial. The cheapest kit-built American harpsichord is USD24,000. The one I really want is a 17th century Ruckers. It would cost me about USD 500,000 plus I would require a new QTH to house it properly. All these are just excuses to make you smile. The only thing I can play with any degree of assurance is the Morse key. But as Darlene says, whisky can sometimes play a part in that equation as well.

    Now I am a CW Freemason, but still with no membership number.

    My thanks to you and Atsu san for this. It is very special for me.



    1. John,

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you would get a house with big garden somewhere in the future. You should do gardening as well as practising harpsichord. Maybe some tune by Couperin. Then I am afraid you won't have time for radio.

      Congratulations to you on being a member of the CW Freemason. I don't know if you like the membership or not. At least, I could say you deserve it.

      This morning, I have run across with an ex US Coast Guard R/O, Fred, K7LF. He operated at NMC those days. A 70 year old great operator. You may share something with him for sure.

      I should have replied to you for your last mail. I have been wondering what I should answer to your inquiry.

      So, isn't it the time you are getting aboard again? Enjoy the last moment of your vacation there. See you on the air or in the internet.


  3. Shin,

    I will look out for Fred K7LF on the bands ( RBN :-)

    Yes I am off to Saudi Arabia for a long trip this Sunday.

    I can't remember exactly what my email was about. I don't think I expected a reply. It was something to do with blogs and Facebook etc being an attempt for humans to attain immortality of some kind... all too deep and philosophical and not important.

    Enjoy the spring and coming summer Shin san, and I hope to see you on the air again soon.


  4. Shin San,

    I guess I am not that good at CW, but I am worse at Music. However to me the main thing that CW requires is Rhythm, and I do not equate that
    to being musically inclined! You can have Rhythm without reading music or being able to play an instrument, or sing on key! Perhaps you can explain that one to me, because I do not see how being musical is a requirement for good CW abilities. I am sure it helps, but I suspect there are other factors involved.

    PS: My Dad was not musical either!

    Bob Gates

    1. Bob,

      This observation this article has made must be only a part of the fact. The talent in music is not a sufficient condition, I believe. There could be many exceptions, even if this rule holds true. I am sure you as well as the former W7AYN are such exceptions.

      yes, rhythm is an important factor in sending code. A sense of rhythm is necessary for a good sender for sure. It may not be necessarily related with the ability in music. There should be various ways we could approach to the technique of CW operation.

      I will go on collecting any medical or psychological study papers regarding this topic. I would summarize and review those studies and publish it somewhere later. It is amazing some researchers take this old fashioned mode of communication as their theme of research. It may be valuable for studying recognition process in brain due to the simpleness of the stimuli.

      I just wonder if I could do that before SK hi.

      See you. Give my best regards to Lolita.