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Author Topic: Tips needed for learning CW!  (Read 9029 times)

Posts: 9

« on: June 30, 2000, 08:04:29 PM »

Does anyone have any usefull tips for learning CW? I'm a tech now, but I want to first pass my Element 1 test, then progress into speeds necessary for decent communications.

BTW, I don't have an HF radio at the moment, and don't have access to a SW receiver. What do you think of the ARRL CD's, and various computer programs?

Any tips for how many characters to practice at a time, how often, when to move on to new characters, etc? Help a relatively new ham move into the world of CW!


Posts: 8


« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2000, 12:05:39 PM »

     I would recommend the CodeQuick software.  You can buy it at: I used this software and within 2 months of using it, I passed my 20 WPM test.  Some people will tell you the method it uses won't allow you to go very fast, but I am approaching speeds of 35 WPM in just 4 months on the air.  I still "hear" the sound-alikes used in CodeQuick, but don't really think about them.  The code just translates to letters and words automatically in my brain.  I believe CodeQuick is about 35 dollars.  I think you should give it a try.

Andrew AC7CF

Posts: 12


« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2000, 06:47:18 PM »

I highly reconmend CodeQuick 2000.  Within 10 days of studying I went from knowing very little code to almost solid copy at 5wpm.  Within a month I was copying 13wpm.  A month after passing my 13wpm test I passed my 20wpm exam for extra.


Posts: 7

« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2000, 10:43:08 PM »

I like the ARRL CDs for learning the characters and increasing my speed.  They use the Farnsworth method of 18 WPM character speed and exaggerated character spacing for speeds below 20 WPM.  The following URL is the site for W1AW code practice files for use with Real Player.  Once you've learned the characters, start practice your sending preferably with a dual lever paddle and iambic keyer.  When you're comfortable at the conversational speed of 15 WPM (sending and receiving) it's time for the ultimate thrill of on-the-air CW.  Another useful tool although pricey ($80 new) is the MFJ 418 Code Tutor which is loaded with features.


Posts: 9

« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2000, 08:56:14 PM »

Hi -  Although a long time ago, and times have changed for learning methods, I used to practice code by reading billboards to myself in code as my folks drove down the highways of West Texas.  Tried to spell the entire message before the car passed the sign.  Not too safe when driving yourself, but I still do it on occasion!  I am sure the new tapes, etc., all will work with the proper dosage of patience and desire.  Good luck to you in this venture, and I assure you that it is worth the effort for all the fun you will have.  73 es dx.  Mike, W5EOZ

Posts: 2


« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2000, 02:46:31 AM »

Morse Training by the Koch Method:

Koch's method is a simple, direct way of building reflexes. However, it requires either a computer and Morse software or a personal trainer. That's why it was overlooked for so many years. Now that computers are commonplace, it should become the standard Morse training method. Here's how it works:

You start out by setting up your computer (or a microprocessor-based code tutor machine) to send you Morse characters at 20 wpm and at an overall sending speed of at least 15 wpm. You then get out your paper and pencil and have the machine start sending -- but only two characters. That's right, for your first sessions, you'll only have two choices. Copy on paper for five minutes, then stop the machine and compare what you copied with what the machine sent. Count characters and calculate your percentage of correct copy.

If your score is 90 percent or better -- congratulations! You just learned your first two characters, and, importantly, you learned them at full speed. You'll never have to learn them over again. If you didn't make 90 percent, practice some more. As soon as you can copy the first two characters with 90 percent accuracy, add a third character to your practice. Your accuracy will drop as you work on assimilating the new character, but it will rise again to 90 percent or better. Then you add the fourth character, and so on.

This method does not allow you to build that lookup table in your brain. To copy at full speed, you MUST build the reflexes in order to achieve 90 percent accuracy. And that's what you're spending your time doing -- building reflexes. Think of it as a parallel to perfecting a tennis swing or mastering a gymnastic routine; you're practicing until you get it right. The Koch method of building code proficiency character-by-character is similar to standard methods of teaching touch typing, another skill that must be reflexive.

This is a very individual method of training -- you progress at your own best speed, and spend only the time required to gain each new character. This means that you will waste no time in reaching your goal.

How much time is required? That will depend on the individual. Koch himself, with hand-picked students, got a group to master 12 wpm code in a mere 13.5 hours. You probably won't match that, but that's much faster than any other method in the psychological literature. You can get an idea of how long it's going to take after you've mastered a few characters. Keep track of your training sessions (some software will do this for you) and calculate your hours-per-character rate (or characters-per-hour if you're really fast!). That, multiplied by the 43 characters in the amateur Morse test, will give a rough idea of how long it's going to take.

While the Koch method is the fastest method of Morse training, speed alone is not its principal advantage. Its principal advantage, and a major difference from other methods, is that it provides you with constant positive reinforcement. This begins with your realization, after mastering the first two characters, that you CAN copy code at 15 or 20 wpm, because you just did it. After that, each new character mastered is further proof of your progress. Contrast that to slowly trying to build speed up from 4 or 5 wpm, then hitting the plateau at 10 wpm and seeing no progress for a long time. With the Koch method, frustration is at a minimum.

Constant testing is necessary to ensure that you maximize the effectiveness of the Koch method. You must copy on paper, so you can grade yourself. Remember, if you score 90 percent accuracy or better, add another character. If you score any less than that, try again. By constantly testing yourself on continuous copying of at least five minutes, you know exactly how you're doing and exactly when you should add another character. This results in the fastest progress possible.

Naturally, with the Koch method, you'll be copying random groups of characters, rather than words, until you've mastered the entire character set. If your software allows, make these groups of random length, rather than a constant stream of five-character groups. This will ease the transition from random groups to actual words. Yes, there is a difference in the rhythm and "feel" of words and random groups. Once you've become accustomed to copying words, you should start copying sample QSOs, which are the format of the amateur tests. Pay special attention to callsigns, locations, and numerals; these are the types of things that can form questions on the test.

As you proceed toward your goal, remember that some days are just going to be better than others and some characters will take longer to assimilate than others. You know, however, that you can reach your goal because you've already mastered some characters and proven that copying at full speed is something you can do. Keep in mind that what you're doing is building reflexes, and that takes time. The amount of time you require has nothing to do with your intellegence; it's just how long it takes for characters to "sink in" and become part of your reflexes.

With Morse code developed as a reflex, you may just find that you really enjoy using it on the air.

Hope this helps!
73, Clinton Herbert AB7RG Speak Out Manager


Posts: 17416

« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2000, 11:51:37 AM »

Once you get the basic 5 WPM, the best method I know is to use it.
If you aren't on HF, you can send CW on 2m simplex with a friend, using
a code practice oscillator feeding an HT.  Or make tape recordings and
trade them back and forth.  Telling jokes helps, because it increases the
incentive for good copy to understand it.

I also sounded out street signs and billboards to myself, especially when
I had been off the air for a while and wanted to keep in shape.

If it works for you, I recommend learning at speed.  My sister-in-law
decided to learn CW, and figured it was just a matter of learning the
connection between a sound and her fingers on the typewriter.  In a
week of spare-time practice, she had 10 characters solid at 20 WPM.

Good luck!

- Dale WB6BYU

Posts: 11

« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2000, 02:42:45 AM »

   Hi Dave, you gotta try "Code Quick". it is absolutely the best way to learn cw. I"ve recommended to several friends and they have all up graded. Good luck!!!
                           73, Ike

Posts: 42

« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2000, 03:05:33 AM »

First, don't send code.  Not for at least two weeks.  
Listen  -  but don't have a "friend" send you code.  Use a good quality tape or other
quality source and simply listen.  Try to identify the characters as they develop.
If you miss a character, don't dwell on it.  Forget it and identify the next character.
Listen for the entire character, not the dots and dashes.  For example, listen for
didah (A) not di  dah.  And think of the character as a whole (didah) not as assembled
pieces (di  dah)
I've had some success teaching code using flash cards.  Character written on one side,
code written on the other.  You're helper doesn't even have to know code to help you
using this method.  Helper shows you a card with "T" on it;  you say "dah".  Helper
shows you a card with "-" on it;  you say "T".  Don't guess.  If you don't know it say
so and lay the card aside for practice.  LIkewise, if you make a mistake, have your
helper just lay the card aside and move on to the next character.
When you listen to code, try to use an audio device that allows you to adjust the tone
of the output.  Most of us have an audio frequency or range that we find annoying.
It's a personal thing.  Make sure you're comfortable with the tone you're listening to.
Five characters at a time is plenty.  Learn five, add one or two a day.
Always practice at the same time of day for the same length of time.
Whether it's fifteen minutes or an hour, set a length of time that is comfortable for
you.  Don't overdo it.  And make certain that you're free of potential interruptions
or distractions (like the telephone) when you're practicing.
Read at least one line of text in code when you're reading your local paper or a
magazine.  You can do it silently (in your head) if need be.  But doing it aloud seems
to be more effective.  Of course, that's not real practical if you're in a coffee shop.
You will find that you will hit a wall (maybe a couple of walls) when moving from one
speed to another.  For example, you may run through 10 WPM pretty fast and find
that it takes a long time to achieve 12 WPM.  That's normal.  Keep practicing and
just let it happen.  It will happen.  I spent an eternity on 10WPM, then jumped from
12 to 18 WPM in three days.
A word about sending.  See if you can find an old military operator who knows how
to employ wrist motion in using a straight key.  And use a straight key.  Avoid
paddles, bugs, etc.  That's my opinion, of course.  I don't see much use for
bugs, electronic keyers, etc.  -  except perhaps for sending error signals.
Good luck.  There are few things more enjoyable than morse code.

Posts: 42

« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2000, 10:50:19 PM »

I found a web site that, in my opinion, does a very good job of providing code practice.  Rather than try to describe it here, I'll just enter the URL and you can determine for yourself if it's useful for your purposes.
I sometimes listen to it just to soothe my nerves.......

Posts: 11

« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2000, 03:54:28 AM »

Hi Dave,

I used the ARRL's "Your Introduction to Morse Code" CD's.  They were great.  I spent two 15 minute sessions listening to as many CD tracks as i could in the first 15 minute session.  Later in the day, I'd go over those tracks again.  I got through the CD's in 5 days, and spent one more day reviewing, and passed the test on the seventh day.  

The most important part is to put the damn CD into the CD player and press play.  It took me 6 months to do just that. Once you get going, it's not only so much easier than people say, it's actually fun.  People seem to hype how hard it is to learn CW, mostly businesses, so you'll buy their products, but it's so much easier and fun than they say.  

I'll bet when you get on HF, you'll continue to use CW.  And remember-- it took me SIX MONTHS to put the CD's in my CD player, and SIX DAYS to learn it CW.

73 and good luck-- and see you on HF hehe.

Posts: 16

« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2000, 10:45:23 PM »

Andrew, Drew, and Ike are right.  CodeQuick is the easiest, quickest, & best way
to learn code.  Unlike practicing from code tapes, the Code Quick "soundalikes"
stick in your head regardless of the speed.  The only question is how fast you can write.

Posts: 1

« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2000, 08:02:12 PM »

I've been a VE for 3 years. When I had to learn the code, some things worked and some did not. Here is what
Code quick AND
Listening was dandy, but if you don't write the code at least 15 minutes a day, you will not advance. I don't know
if you want to go to 20 wpm or not, but there is NO block before 5, so it should not take long to get there.
If you are not on a really tight budget (if you are you still need Code Quick) I used one of the MFJ little
pocket keyers and that really helped a lot. You cannot memorize it all.

Code Quick and write, write, write.

George AF4JH

Posts: 9

« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2000, 01:01:34 PM »

CodeQuick is the way to go!  I learned the code by just spending a couple hours practice a day for 2 weeks.  It was painless and I'm glad I finally learned the code and upgraded.  Be sure to read the instructions / directions on the CD liner and in the CD-Rom files -- they're also very helpful.  Good luck!

Posts: 19

« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2000, 12:29:01 PM »

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