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Author Topic: Can't quite get CW...Need help  (Read 5048 times)

Posts: 2

« on: December 19, 2002, 12:03:23 PM »

Hello,  I recently got my technician license and I am now trying to learn morse code.  I have read some of the threads on this board and have downloaded the G4FON free morse trainer.

I have the trainer set up at 20 WPM character speed.

When the actual code speed is 10 WPM I do good with 2 letters and OK with 3 letters.  If I increase the actual speed to 15 WPM I get lost.  I read that you should start high with this method and I am wondering if staying at 10 WPM will hurt me?

The trainer started with K and M and then went to R.  I find it almost impossible to remember K, this is after five days of trying.  What is the problem?  Maybe I shouldn't attempt to learn this.  I don't remember having this much problem learning anything in the past.

I have considered trying the codequick program, but I read that it will hinder you later when trying to increase speed.

Any suggestions are appreciated.


Posts: 19

« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2002, 12:20:23 PM »

I use the same trainer and find it easier to use it as a combination farnsworth koch trainer. So go against what he recomended and run the character speed at 15 or 20 wpm but run the word speed at 5wpm. Then when you get it at that speed increase it a bit or better yet just start having a few qso's on the air. in the few days that I have been transmitting, my copy has gotten significantly better and a little bit faster

Posts: 218


« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2002, 02:39:09 PM »

Here is a little history on my use of CodeQuick, passing the code test, and getting beyond 10wpm. I used Code Quick for three weeks, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening (no more, no less they recommend) and I was comfortably at 7wpm when I took the test. I copied the entire test without error. I continued to use CodeQuick, and easily got to 10wpm. There I did bog down. I do virtually no rag chew CW. I do quite a bit of CW contesting. I can copy call signs and reports at about 25 wpm. I have started using Koch to try to get my "conversational" CW up.

So, from my perspective, yes, CodeQuick will limit you after around 10wpm. However, you don't have to "relearn" via Koch either. I am at 15 characters with Koch at 20wpm, and got there without much problem. I don't practice that often either.

The bottom line as I look at it, is it was worth the money to buy the CodeQuick for the test. The Koch software is free anyway. By the way, I tried many of the other freewares, and got nowhere before getting CodeQuick.

Posts: 78

« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2002, 04:59:49 PM »

What KD5SCG said... set the character speed higher but the word speed to 5 WPM. I find it much easier to copy code when the word space is increased. I find that this works for me. I am using the G4FON software in combination with the ARRL's CDs, I don't have any problems with mixing the two code formats myself (Farnsworth and Koch). I get lost if the code speed is faster than about 7 WPM, but then again I've only been studying this for a few weeks. I believe that speed will come with practice.

FWIW, MFJ puts out a book called "Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier" ( that is supposed to utilize the Koch method to increase speed. I think you could order it through B&N or too. I have not used it myself, so I cannot personally vouch for its effectiveness, but it's out there if you want to check it out.


Posts: 27


« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2002, 08:17:41 PM »


Going to 10wpm won't hurt you. Just keep plugging away at it and it will come in time. You can't expect a miracle over night. If you want to learn the code it will happen. Just don't give up. Don't train to hard either. Just do about 5 minute sessions and then take a break. Too much at one sitting will overload your brain housing group while you are learning.

I learned morse using Super Morse (about 10 yrs ago). This is a DOS program but I really liked it. It is supposed to sound through the speakers but I could only get it to sound through the PC speaker. Maybe you know more about computers than I do and could get it to work through the speakers on your computer. Anyhow I did enjoy using it. You can find this software at:

I have tried the software that you are using and like it but Super Morse has a whole bunch of neat options.

I also use an MFJ Pocket Tutor. They are kind of expensive but to me it was worth the money. I bought an adapter for it at Radio Shack that lets me play it through the casette player in my car. I take it everywhere with me and it is a great tool.

I have a copy of the book "Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier." Email me your address and I will send it to you.

My email:

If you can, join a local club and let them know that you are working on learning the code. Chances are there will be someone in the club who will be willing to work with you.

When I got my license I decided to learn the code just because it was different and it was a challenge. I had my doubts at first but I just told myself that I was going to learn the code no matter what.

Congratulations on the license. Remember, don't give up the ship!!


Posts: 2

« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2002, 07:29:42 AM »

Thanks.  I will try these suggestions and see how it goes.

Before getting on-line I tried a five minute session at 10WPM with 3 letters and got 96 percent.  I seem to get confused about halfway through the session though.

Hopefully it will start "clicking" soon.


Posts: 55


« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2002, 10:04:00 AM »

This still happens when I"m above my comfortable speed:

"I seem to get confused about halfway through the session though."

So don't let that worry you.

Do what KD5SCG said, that's how I learned (at age 14).  I went from nothing to learning the code in a week.   Had about 7 WPM at that point!   Getting to 15 wpm didn't take long (maybe a month with two W1AW sessions a day.)   Getting to 20 WPM took a lot longer, to this day I"m still at 18-20, but that's because of not doing CW often enough.  


Posts: 28

« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2002, 11:29:27 AM »

Jason:  Slow down!  Try at 5 wpm for the first few
weeks.  There's no rush.  Learn the basic letter
formation first.  When you feel frustrated give
yourself a five minute break.  And for fun try
copying at 10 wpm once in a while.  You won't copy
everything but who cares?  Copy what you can.  
Make this a winter project for yourself with the
aim of taking the CW test sometime in the spring.  
By the spring you'll be listening to the 15 wpm
tapes. And remember, you only have to pass 5 wpm
to get on HF.  That speed will seem slow after
using the 15 wpm tapes. By the way, all of us HF
operators struggled to learn Morse Code. Let us know
how you're doing with the CW a few months from now.
Keep us posted!  Keep at it!  Don't give up!

Steve Regan in Ottawa, Canada  

Posts: 1524

« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2002, 08:15:39 AM »

Please don't get discouraged and don't try to go too fast.  Ignore the people who said "I got it in a week."  That is the exception NOT the NORM.  According to the book "Morse Code, The Essential Language" it will take the average person about 30 hours to get to a reliable 5 wpm (regardless of character speed).  Some will take more time and some will take less time.  The biggest problem that I have seen people have in learning code is unrealistic expectations in the amount of time it should take to learn it.  They listen to these people who "got it in a week" and think that there is something wrong when then can't do the same.

So set your character speed to whatever you like (18 is good as that is used in many of the tests) and the word speed to 5.  It takes the brain awhile to get all this.  Once you've gotten to where you can get all the letters, numbers, etc. then increase the word speed.

Posts: 14

« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2002, 10:57:24 AM »

The answer is in your brains ability to instantly turn
the cw character you hear into the letter equivalent.
It is a process only continuing use and practise will solve. The same way you process language over years of hearing and responding does the richness of your native language become fully acclimated. In the beginning you must process all the information of hearing as a conscious effort to retain and process the code. As you become more familiar with it, through practice, the more you process this information at a deeper level of thought, where you put ideas and sentences together. Some folks have the capability of doing this subliminally. Most of us must torturously slowly acclimate our brains through repetition over time. The brain will acclimate and you will one day be able to copy code w/o having to write it down. If you practise. There are lots of practise tricks out there but they all involve sweat equity to get you there, and then one day, you wonder what all the fuss was about.

Posts: 32

« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2002, 07:25:28 PM »

I tried the Koch method using a free software program from G4FUN.  <href=""> or <href="">
It helped me break a 10wpm barrier that I thought I'd never get over.  Like learning a language or piano - its about reflex - not translating dits and dahs in the head.   Good Luck and 73, Ralph VE7AOP

Posts: 317

« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2003, 09:55:46 PM »

Don't give up. In my opinion, G4FON is the best CW trainer you can get.

Let me suggest something you might try in addition to G4FON. There are a bunch of CW beacons between 28.250 and 28.300 kHz.  They send short repetitive messages. Find one and try to copy the first character of the repetitive message. When you figure out what it is, after listening to the message a few times, then start listening for the second character, and so on...until you copy the entire message.

You may find this diversion enjoyable.  At least it is something different than G4FON.  

73 and good luck.
Jim W4YA

Posts: 12


« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2003, 09:54:40 PM »

Patience is a key.  Don't get frustrated and give up.

It is learning another language.  It took me months to learn conversational japanese and almost 1.5 years to learn russian.  Some people learn fast - some learn slow.  Make it a fun thing to do.  Don't make it seem like work, you'll hate it. Have fun with it.

Posts: 15


« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2003, 10:09:52 PM »

Good advice so far from everyone.  Basic method, as has been said, is characters sent at 15 to 20 wpm, but words (spece between letters) set to 5 wpm.

The other trick it to get a straight key and buzzer so you can practice sending.  Just open the newspaper and send from it.  By BOTH sending and receving you'll reall increase your learning speed.

Lastly, when you are running around town, sound back to yourself in "dits & dahs" any street signs, license plates, billboards, etc. that you see.

73 ES BCNU dit dit

Alan N5LF

Posts: 3

« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2003, 01:11:18 AM »

Listen to code on the radio and try to copy in your
head at slow speeds. You'll be surprised that after
a while you'll learn by words insted of letters. After
all you don't have a computer at the test site and if
your going to use the code you might as well learn it
by listening to it in it's native environment. Incidentally, I took the test for extra no less than
6 times. Sooo if at first you don't succeed.......
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