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Author Topic: Some questions to help me learn morse code.  (Read 616 times)
KB1HMG
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« on: February 18, 2002, 08:26:18 PM »

I know this has probably been asked many times, but I thought I'd run it by everyone again.  

I just got my ticket lat November and would like to learn morse code to upgrade.

Here is my dilema.  There seems to be two schools of thought.  Learn it at a very high speed of say 25WPM with an overall of say 5WPM  and the other thought is to just learn it at 15WPM with an overall of 5WPM.  To me, I think either way would have the same difficulty because its just about "sounds".  What seems to screw me up is the speed at which each letter comes at me.  At 5WPM it seems managable.

Should I practice at a high letter speed or more like the ARRL method with a slow letter speed.  I fear that if I learn it at a high speed then I will have trouble in the test because the individual letters will sound different than I had learned.  Some say to just learn it at a fast speed so you don't "hit a wall" later on after leaning it at such a slow speed.

I have training software which lets me adjust any parameters so any ideas are welcome.

Any thoughts..............Joe

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AC5E
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2002, 09:00:15 PM »

Hi Joe: There's two issues. One is passing a VE exam for Morse proficency. That takes practicing what you will hear at the test, 13 WPM characters sent at 5 WPM or just a little faster than five. And lots of practice writing what you hear down.

The other issue is learning code well enough to enjoy using it. If you do it right, you can kill two birds with one stone. But you must start like the cat that set out to eat the grindstone. A little bite at a time.

I start my students off with just three letters. A, N, and S. When they have those down, I add O, then 1 and then the period. Then they get "word practice," with lots of ANN, SON, SOON. All very boring, and all very necessary. And I insist that my students learn to write down what they hear so they will be able to take the test.

When they have the first six characters down, I add another letter pair, and another, and another, and the word practice gets more complex. After a few more lessons they get more word practice. Lots more word practice - and call practice - and number practice.

About that time they start getting sentences "Abraham Lincoln gave his farewell address the night before he died," "Did you hear about the big fight at the candy store? Two suckers got licked."  And so on, writing all the way.

After all the characters have been well learned they get simulated QSO's, lots of word practice, surprise callsigns, and lots of practice. Does it work? More than 100 students have taken the test. Only a handful had to make a second attempt. And most of them do work CW.

Now, from your call it does not seem that I can seat you in my next class. Drat! So my next best suggestion is two fold. First, get a copy of Morse Tutor Gold. Set it to Farnsworth, 13 WPM letter speed, 7 WPM word speed. So the test will sound right but a little slow, and the "test session jitters" won't get to you.

Second, watch the Hattiesburg Amateur Radio Club website. www.geocities.com/w5cjr. I am making a set of code practice files that will be posted in the near future; along with a full set of directions, tips, and hints. You will be able to "play" these ASCII files on almost any computer morse program. Including MTG. If you do your part they will do theirs.

73  Pete Allen  AC5E
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AG4DG
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2002, 11:04:31 PM »

Two suggestions:

1.  Code Quick (http://www.cq2k.net): It's Morse Code with ATTITUDE!  Instead of plowing through the drudgery of memorizing dits and dahs or listening to CW and waiting for divine inspiration to strike, you learn the rhythm of the code through sound-alikes.  For example, C is "CATCH it CATCH it" and L is "a LIGHT is lit".  It's cutesy, silly, and over-the-top, and THAT IS WHY IT WORKS.

2.  Morse Code Academy: The price is right, because it is FREEWARE.  I found the practice exams to be indispensable.

The method AC5E suggested is called the Koch method.  It's not compatible with Code Quick.  However, you will find on this forum, other forums, and USENET that almost everyone who tried Code Quick is quite satisfied.  (I'm one of them.)  You can't say the same about the Koch method, Gordon West tapes, or other methods.

You'll also notice that everyone thinks that his/her pet method is superior and that the others stink.  
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AC5E
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2002, 08:00:32 AM »

Chuckle: Another case of everybody's bird dog, car, girl friend, rig, and way to learn code is "best."

However, I not only teach code, I'm a VE. And I have a lot of people on this-that-and-the other methods who fail. And fail. And fail. And fail again. I have not had that with the people I teach; whether it's hands on in class or hand 'em a disk with more'n a hundred 30-45 minute practice files and let them work it on it on their code program.

There's no royal road to code proficency; and proficency should be the goal. I have had several go completely through the practice files and who can copy in their head at 35/45 WPM. And I have had quite a few who can copy well enough to enjoy the odd QSO. But I have had no one give it up in disgust.

But - everyone to their own taste, as the good man said that kissed the pig. After all, everybody's bird dog is best.

73  Pete Allen AC5E


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KC5JK
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2002, 12:13:10 PM »

I still don't see KB1HMG's initial question getting answered here.  Fancy program names mean nothing to someone who hasn't used them, unless they identify the teaching technique that is being applied.

There are simply two, and they can be called the "old" and the "new" method.  When word got around that the new method (none predated Farnsworth, that I am aware of) eliminated the speed increase plateaus that students always encountered if they had learned by the old method, virtually everyone marketing code tapes except Ameco switched over to the new method.

Your answer:  Learn by the old method, and get old problems.  With every attempt to increase speed, you will be relearning the code over and over, because the old method requires that character segments keep getting squeezed ever-shorter to make room for more characters in available time space.

Learn by the new method (sometimes called "high speed" character segements), and you learn only once.  The characters remain the same and become familiar as you squeeze out empty spaces, not characters, to make room for more characters when you increase speed.
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KB1HJW
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2002, 02:30:18 PM »

From our call signs, it looks like we're about the same age in HAM years! Some one mentioned CodeQuick to pass the test, absolutely. Someone else mentioned learning so that you'll not only pass the test, but also be able work code, again, absolutely. CodeQuick will do both. It has a many different settings for this reason.

I passed my Tech test in November, started on CodeQuick after getting nowhere with the various freewares out there. I passed the code test with my General in December, I was already up to 7wpm at that point. This past weekend I worked the ARRL DX CW contest, and made a couple hundred Qs.

Practice an hour a day until the test, and keep practicing after the test.

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KB1HMG
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2002, 07:57:31 PM »

I have just tried the Koch method and it seems very fast but I do hear the letters!!!.  My problem is writing fast enough!  Any tips with this? Some have said to use cursive writing and down write it as you hear it but remember a few letters then write them down.

Any comments..............Joe
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AG4DG
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2002, 08:07:25 PM »

I have heard that the 20+ wpm crowd doesn't write everything down word-for-word.  Instead, these people "copy in their head" in the same manner that you "copy in your head" voice conversations.  Naturally, this requires QSOs instead of random characters.  Unfortunately, you cannot copy QSOs with the Koch method, because you have not mastered all those characters.  This is why I think Koch is for the birds.  (I'm a Code Quick proponent.)

Then again, the Koch method has worked for some people, and you may turn out to be one of them.  Again, everyone who has a General class or higher license thinks his/her pet method is the best and that the rest are garbage.  That's because different things work for different people.  But I challenge you to find people who say, "I gave Code Quick everything I had, but it failed miserably."  
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AC5E
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2002, 10:55:13 PM »

Who can say "I gave code quick everything I had and failed?" AD5HG for one. My wife picked up so many bad habits trying to make "Kang A Roo" into K that I had to literally invent a system for her to learn code by.

The system I will post on the HARC website as soon as I get the instructions finished. By the way, she's a "13 WPM Extra," but she was copying 20 on paper when she took her general.

I could name a half dozen others - but in fairness I could name as many who have had success with Code Quick. Basicly it seems that ANY system that a student has faith in and will stick to, and that gives the student an adequate amount of widely varied copying practice will at least get past the VE exam.  

73  Pete Allen  AC5E

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N6VUJ
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2002, 10:35:27 AM »

The best way that I have found is to just listen and learn it by sound ONLY!!!

Don't learn it by sight, or by dot dash, or worst yet by using sound alike word patterns i.e."to L with it" for  "L".

That is a Bad Way To remember the code and it will actually slow you down because you brain has to convert it twice. and it will trip you up later (you will have to un-learn them later to go up in speed).

The best way is by sound ONLY (and I really mean ONLY by Sound).

After all that's how we learn to communicate naturally.

50% of learning the code is the decision to do so with a good attitude, and the other 50% is by doing it.

Good Luck!
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W4PQK
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« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2002, 11:49:44 AM »

In all the discussion, I have not seen any mention of SENDING the code.  When learning about 50 years ago, I quickly found I could send code faster than I could receive and that seems true with today's students as well.  Since I could send it, I knew I knew the code.  That is important as a confidence builder.  Then its a matter of practice to copy at a desired speed - and I suffered the plateau problems that newer methods should overcome.  

I would like to see other comments on the importance of sending code as part of the learning process.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2002, 01:27:54 PM »

W4PQK: Excellent comment, and you're right on, I think.  If you can SEND code correctly, you obviously know the code.  Now, it's just a matter of practicing to copy it.

When starting out, I think almost anyone can send faster/better than they can copy; it's the obvious advantage of anticipation, e.g., when you're sending, you know what you want to say and when you're receiving, you don't know what's coming.

However, with experience and increasing speed, I find most, including myself, can copy much faster than they can send.  My own physical dexterity limits me to about 50wpm sending speed error-free, without a lot of fatigue.  But I can easily copy much faster than that, since there's no "moving parts" involved in copying code.

Also, I think that the way code is learned should be based on the goal of that study.  If one wishes to pass the FCC exam, just once, and then never use code again as long as they live...geesh, this seems awfully easy.  It's only 5 wpm, now.  25 lousy characters a minute.  I don't believe _anyone_ could possibly have a problem with that.  You can use CodeQuick and their crazy method of remembering the letters using catchy phrases...and although this would seem a really bad way to learn code WELL, to copy 5 wpm, you don't need to learn code well, you just need to copy it for a few minutes at a very slow speed and be done with it.

For those, on the other hand, who desire to really _learn_ the code, with an eye towards using it for communications, better methods prevail.  I always taught code classes without allowing anyone in the class to have a pencil or paper.  They had to use their ears and their brains, only.  No substitutes.  After a few weeks, everyone could copy 15 wpm in their heads, and -- wow -- it's amazing, what you copy in your head actually sticks, and you can answer questions about what you heard.  

Remember that when you have a casual conversation with another human being, in person or on the telephone, you aren't writing down what he says.  Yet, you understand it just fine, and could answer questions about the conversation hours, days, maybe even weeks later.

WB2WIK/6
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W4PQK
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« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2002, 03:49:24 PM »

WB2WIK - you are way ahead of me CW wise and I have to disagree about head copy.  I sometimes go into another room to get something and when I get there I stop and try to remember what I came for.  You are a bit younger than me so your time will come too.  I can also head copy faster than I can pencil copy - never learned to mill copy.

I think that head copy for learning is an interesting approach after one knows the alphabet and can copy thoughts (words).  As you introduce new characters how do you practice and check that students are actually learning the characters if they never put anything on paper.  I'm interested in the mechanics of how you conduct such a class.  Thanks, Jess
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