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Author Topic: Trying to learn CW, some questions.  (Read 10505 times)

Posts: 113

« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2010, 06:05:00 PM »

Copying using block printing at 25 wpm can be a challenge.  If you can write in cursive, it should be no trouble at speeds up to 35 wpm or even faster.  If you can copy on a mill (typewriter), 25 wpm should not be a problem.

If you are just starting out, 25 wpm seems a tad fast.  Somewhere around 15 to 20 wpm, with greater than normal spacing between characters and between words, should be useful.

Try to copy a few characters behind.  That takes a lot of the stress out of copying.

Hope this helps, 73 de John/AD7WN

Posts: 15

« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2010, 05:27:14 AM »

Thank you everyone for the advice thus far.  The biggest thing was finding out its OK to listen with more space between the letters (farnsworth timing).  I have been working about an hour a night at both sending and receiving.  On receiving, I struggled to copy at an effective 3WPM (with a character speed of 25 WPM), but I have gotten good and that and moved up to an effective 6WPM speed and am almost ready to jump up to an effective speed of 9WPM.

I am starting to really know quite a few letters by sound, I don't feel myself listening to the dit's and dah's on quite a few of them I just hear them and know them, YAY!

Another question for you guys though, I have also been working on my sending at the same time, I am using an actual key through my radio and being translated by my computer using HamScope (I have the radio set not to actually transmit).  When I look at what HamScope is seeing it is showing I have horrible spacing, it shows a space between almost every letter.  I know that probably means I take too much time between letters, but in reality I am only leaving a split second between letters, I have them spaced pretty good I think.

Is there a better program to use to learn how to "send" morse?  Hamscope was not meant to be a trainer, and I think it is trying to pick me up at a higher speed than what I am actually sending (however looking at it, it doesn't have any trouble with reading what I am sending, it picks up with at least 90% accuracy, so my sending can't be all that bad).

I am very much wanting to learn correct spacing etc, since I hear that is much easier to learn at first than to correct later on.  As a sidenote, I am loving sending code, I have an old straight key I am using currently, and I look forward to my learning sessions each night.  I know at some point I will probably move on to some type of keyer, but I really enjoy the process of using a straight key.

Posts: 15

« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2010, 06:31:56 AM »

Oh, also, one other thing you guys might get a kick out of, I wrote a blog article about trying to learn morse code, I thought it was pretty funny, check it out if you wish:

Posts: 56

« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2010, 06:34:10 AM »

I once owned the AEA Morse Machine (MM3). It was a fantastic
invention, since you could actually have a qso with the thing!

Seriously, you call CQ using your call, and it responds sending you
your call back.... name, rig, etc are all used by it's computer to
engage in what sounds like an actual live QSO.

Using that device can be a great help, since any sending problem
will cause the device to ask the same question, or give the wrong
response.... look for one on Ebay, they're on there for $100+,
and worth it. It's also a memory keyer, and more.... quite a device!

Keep practicing both sending and receiving, it'll all fall into place
eventually. I had been away from all hamming for almost ten years,
and am now re-learning and speed-building. It takes time, but
using CW can be one of the most rewarding parts of this hobby.

It's addictive!


Posts: 5

« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2010, 06:57:36 PM »

I will tell you how not to learn code.  I started in boy scouts learning by sight about 1973 at age 14.  At 16 I learned again by sound at 5 wpm.  The combination of these two mistakes cost me many tries in getting my general . 

I finally did get there and even up to about 20 wpm after crossing the 12 wpm plato.  It has been years since I was active in radio but i have recently bought a rig and have started brushing up on the code as I rebuild antennas and set up my station.

 I am relearning code at 27 wpm using one of the programs i have found on this site.  The only problem with this is that I may have to type the code to receive it .  I have changed to hunt and peck with one finger to stop that bad habit.  I want to be fast and i want to hear words not letters like the old hams i grew up with. 

They learned to be fast at code while shooting machine guns over the south pacific in WW2 and could really go fast in a ham shack with a stiff mixed drink to calm their nerves Grin

I am no expert but if you learn at a fast character speed you only have one variable and that is character spacing.  If you learn by sight you have one more step in your brain to go through and if you learn at 5 wpm you have to relearn the code at every step of the way.

I only hope that at 50 I have enough hearing left to be good at the code.  Shooting, rock concerts  and compressor stations have taken their toll.  good luck.

Posts: 3541

« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2010, 04:58:19 PM »

I am no expert but if you learn at a fast character speed you only have one variable and that is character spacing.  If you learn by sight you have one more step in your brain to go through and if you learn at 5 wpm you have to relearn the code at every step of the way.

I didn't find that to be the case when I was in the Navy.  When I reported aboard my ship after Radioman School, I found that one of the Signalmen was a guy I'd graduated from high school with just 8 months before.  He showed me around the signal bridge and he was pretty startled when he saw me copying flashing light (at about 12 WPM!!) from some of the other ships.  There's no more "steps" to copying light; it's a visual pattern and not a sound pattern.  Flashing light takes longer to send with a searchlight because of the shutter mechanism; 15 WPM is considered a very good speed for sending and receiving.  If you're actually turning the light bulb on and off, the speed is limited by the time it takes the filament to reach full brightness.



Posts: 5

« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2010, 06:56:07 PM »

Learning the code by drawing dots and dashes on paper means that in your mind when you hear cw you first must visualize it and then decode it.  learning by sound means one less step for your mind to go through to decode it.   As far as from light flashes It may be closer but not the same as learning by sound.  Like i said before I am getting in it again and I do not intend to be pokeing around at 5- 15 wpm.  I think that the fun cw starts at 20 and  picks up from there.  That is where I hope to be.  I would hope that those starting out would not make the mistakes I made.

Posts: 3541

« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2010, 09:38:20 PM »

I misunderstood what you meant by "learn by sight".  Actually drawing the dots and dashes on paper is, I agree, a terrible way to try to learn code.


Posts: 94


« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2010, 10:04:41 PM »

WOW !!

I can’t believe the advice here. It’s like saying try 259 MPH for ur first drag race !@ !

Sure you can speak Spanish at 60 wpm to start out with …. Bologna. First of all know

that it is an acquired skill like riding a unicycle. No subliminal tape will help you here.

Try this

Great way to learn code and many swear by this program.  Good luck and hope to wk

U on the air one day OM.

KW6LA / T2

What? That's STUPID!!!

Sigurd and Carlo's advice is valid and works. If I can learn it, anyone can. I've mixed and tried different approaches to see what works for me instead of asking someone what they thought was the "best". I've figured it out on my own. It's the best way and more fun. Have fun doing it, and tell yourself you can. In fact know you can. If you tell yourself it's hard, it will be. For copy practice, I use G4FON, and Just learn morse code. Also listen to live QSO's, W1AW, make copies of CD's with common words and listen in my vehicle driving to work to practice head copy. It's coming together very well.

I started with character speed at 20wpm 10wpm spacing, gradually drew the spacing to 20. Got to 20/20 5min sessions, now at 25/21. Now copy speed is better than send speed, because I haven't been on the air sending as much. A month ago, it was the opposite.

In the beginning, I tried some of the Gordon West practice CD's, and threw that garbage away. It was as ridiculous as seeing that goofus in his elmer suit at a hamfest.

From the beginning, I listened to the sound and no dit/dah counting, or stupid code charts. I'm writing down less and less. IT seems like the faster the speed copy practice, the easier it's getting. Now words are starting to "jump out". I'm not saying it's been easy like "falling off a log", but it has not been incredibly hard at all.

They should shoot people for teaching at 5wpm. That's torture.

WB2WIK has some great advice too.

I love CW. I'm glad I stumbled into it.

I look forward to working you all on the air.

Listen for W9ZN late nights on the low bands. That guy is beautiful sounding. Sounds like music.

Posts: 164

« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2010, 09:42:45 AM »

I'm using the G4FON program to learn Morse code. I wanted to start out at 20wpm with the 20wpm character speed. My old slow hands couldn't write that fast.

I tried 15wpm at the 20wpm character speed. I got discouraged with my lack of progress, and was afraid that I wouldn't stick with the practice.

I kept the character speed at 20wpm, but started out at 10wpm. When I started getting in excess of 95% correct all the time, I speeded up to 15wpm, where I am now. I have no problems copying slower speed QSOs on the radio. I will be happy when I can get to 20wpm, since that's where the old Extras had to be to get their tickets. Not that I care about the opinions of those who decry the existence of "no-code" hams, I'm just being practical: I run QRP, so CW is my best bet for DX.

However, while I was practicing hearing, I neglected to practice sending, which I now see was a mistake. I do the receiving practice during my lunch hour, and a few minutes of sending practice at night when I get home (not actually on the air). My goal is to be able to have a QSO at even a slow speed by Field Day.

-- Tom

Posts: 11


« Reply #25 on: June 15, 2010, 01:55:14 AM »

There are many ideas on how to do this apparently. From personal experience as well as experience "in class" I would suggest the G4FON program and that you stick to the Koch method.

This works and is quite rapid:

Run at 15WPM no extra spaces between the individual chars. Just plain old 15 WPM. Above 15 WPM is difficult as it requires a better writing skill/speed than most of us have. Below 15 WPM it is far too easy to be lured into counting dits and dahs. Do not count! Do not visualize as dots and dashes! Listen to the sound of the character. It can be done.

I strongly recommend writing everything down. The trick - the single most useful trick, and the major key (pardon the pun) behind copying morse code - do not write the character until you hear the next character begin! Preferably delay the writing even more, always try to delay the write by 1-2 chars. For a start: Start writing when you hear the NEXT character start. That is enough for a beginner.

A learning rate of 2 chars per week is normally quite comfortable. You will notice a slight "confusion" after you have made  10-12 chars. (After this the "palette" of characters to choose from is getting large). Do not stop because of this. You may feel you need to repeat all these 12 chars for one week, but then, push on. You will notice how the first known characters ('K' and 'M') are really easy and that the last chars are quite a bit more "loose". This is normal. Just push on at the 2 chars/week rate. The last chars will always be a bit more "loose" but you will find how the earliest one are easier and easier.

Perseverance is the key!

Good luck!

Posts: 67

« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2010, 07:51:13 AM »

Nice discussion. I'm using justlearnmorsecode for a refresher too. Some questions, perhaps for Sigurd, LB3KB, but please jump in here:

  • Why not also have words at char speed with inter-word spacing?
  • Do top 25 words - in program - correlate with top 25 used in a QSO, i.e. ham speak?
  • What about grouping thoughts with correct syntax in short bursts. Our minds copy short sentences that include a subject - verb- object. It would seem that short sentences with correct grammer would aid in thought copying. Any research here?
  • DITDAT make sense DITDIT?

73s, Phil, W0XI  Roll Eyes

Posts: 875

« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2010, 08:06:26 PM »

The brain is an adaptive neural network which will try to find patterns in things all the time - see that bunny in the clouds!
If you expose yourself to enough morse, no matter what method or speed, and concentrate on it for that time, the brain
will attempt to categorise the input.
Morse reading by ear became commonplace because the machine sent and received morse of early days was recognised
by operators who could read the clicking of the machines.
I am absolutely sure if someone put their mind to it they could read RTTY or PSK31 by ear, difficult as it sounds.
So don't get too hung up on "methods" or speed learning, that sort of thing is an artifact of today's pre-occupation
with faster, faster.
If you see some of the methods used by various armed services in previous wartime training you will see that it is
pretty basic stuff. I was trained for Seagoing Radio Officer duties by an old bearded guy sitting at a key or an ancient
paper tape reading morse sender.
One thing I would caution however, is to not send too much until you can receive well enough to know what a good
character should sound like. Sending follows receiving aptitude.
Also only listen to perfect morse when learning, as the idea is to get your brain to lay down pathways for that, not some
crazy swinging all-run-together fist.
In any case, your session should stop when you are tired or losing concentration, as it has been shown many times,
that frequent short sessions are much better than a marathon session.
Welcome to the morse world, don't put too much emphasis on speed, beautiful sounding morse is much better than
raw speed. I rarely exceed 25WPM, mostly I am around 20WPM since contesting morse is not for me.
I can read up to 45WPM but that is purely a personal challenge, and I read ebooks in text format off the
site for fun in morse.
It really is another language, treat it as such and you will enjoy it and progress very well.
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