CW Academy: Learn now or wait?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KI7MDI, Oct 23, 2017.

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  1. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    No! Watch them in a big spotless whitewashed clapboard building with no central heat and no air conditioning of any kind, that had been built a few months or years earlier by guys wearing uniforms like yours who didn't want to be there, either. Trust me, it's what most of the men were sitting in when they saw these.

    Just remember, even Morse Academy is not s substitute for on-air practice! As soon as you know all the letters and numbers and a few of the more common prosigns, Q-signals, and abbreviations, get on the air and start listening to (and then having) real QSOs.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
    KI7MDI likes this.
  2. AA8TA

    AA8TA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I’m a Level 1 advisor for the CW Academy. If you want to get a jump on your class, do not attempt anything that uses visual aids or gimmicks. You should be able to close your eyes and learn. You must get used to the hearing a character and immediately knowing what it is. Get used to copying as much as you can in your head.

    I’ve had a couple of students who learned with gimmicks and it was a hindrance to them. Don’t do that.

    The order of the characters taught between the CW Academy and is different. Even so, the practice in class will help you even if you already know a lot of the characters.

    Just dedicate yourself to it and tell yourself that you’re going to learn. And you will. It isn’t hard.
    KI7MDI likes this.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't know anything about CW Academy.

    What sequence of characters does it teach?

    In teaching "live" Morse classes for years, I used the old E, I, T, M, S, O, A, N, U, D, V, B sequence and an advantage of that is I had students sending simple sentences to each other on the first day.

    What sequence do you use?
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  4. KB4QAA

    KB4QAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well, I'm a Level 1AAAAAA advisor to readers on The Zed and there is obviously only one correct way to learn morse code!!!! If you don't learn it the correct way you will warp your brain, and be unable to tune a crystal set.

    The most successful morse operators have themselves surgically blinded before beginning to study. This way they will never see any sequence of dots and dashes which might confuse them. Every hobby requires some sacrifice!

    Until you have your surgery, as a temporary measure, we recommend driving in the extreme right hand lane and squinting heavily to avoid seeing any stripes in the center of the road.


    For those erstwhile morse operators who no longer have ACA coverage we can recommend a home kit for DIY blinding. Just send payment via Friends and Family for $50 over the amount and we will remit the difference in cash, due to our poor mother being ill and not being able to get to the post office. p.s. A chart of morse characters suitable for framing will be included. Ooops, will NOT be included.

    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
  5. AA8TA

    AA8TA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It’s similar. The simpler characters are introduced early on. They are introduced to words and phrases, such as “eat at ten” right at the beginning.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, that's exactly what I've found works also.

    Students start recognizing "words" right away, instead of just letters, and don't try to "count" dits and dahs.
  7. N2UHC

    N2UHC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't agree more. If you learn Morse in terms of visual dots and dashes, every time you hear a character your mind will take that extra mental step to convert it to dots & dashes, and from that into a character. If you learn by equating the sound of each Morse character with a letter, number, punctuation mark or prosign, you'll be much better off.

    That being said I have a hard time reading visual Morse in dot/dash form because I have to sound it out, but in amateur radio we always do Morse by sound, not by sight.
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  8. N4SRN

    N4SRN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you have an iPhone/iPad, the Morse-It app has a CWOPs Add-On to buy that has all of the CWA-1 lessons - great practice!

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  9. K4YWZ

    K4YWZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here's the link to the (free) software you'll be using in your upcoming CW Academy class...

    Set it at 20wpm and have at it!

    I just completed the Level One class this week and will offer two thoughts... one, it's a very worthwhile class and you have every reason to eagerly look forward to it; and, two, nearly all the actual "learning" takes place during your daily self-study. The twice-per-week class sessions are an opportunity for the instructor to gauge progress, guide, encourage, answer questions, and target specific issue(s) he may see... but you don't actually learn the code during those hour-long sessions. Mostly, you're demonstrating what you have learned during the previous half-week. And so, since self-study lies at the heart of it all, as long as you stick to the basic advice already given above - learn the code audibly, not visually, keep your code speed at a sufficient speed (20wpm) so you don't count dits and dahs, and don't introduce any gimmicks (like soundalikes) to the process - getting an early jump on your class can only be helpful.

    One other piece of advice... if you don't already have one, go ahead and invest in a decent paddle. I started out thinking I'd use the KXPD3 that attaches to my Elecraft KX3. Now I suppose the KXPD3 is an okay paddle for hiking somewhere and enjoying a few QSO's, but I found its physical position on the bottom front of the radio to be less than ideal for extended sessions at the desk. I bit the bullet and bought a Bencher BY-1 and found the ergonomics of that paddle vastly superior. You can get either an iambic or single paddle - the class makes no distinction - but it needs to be a paddle. Straight keys are not used in the class.

    Last thing... since you're practicing sending by simply generating sidetone with your keyer (you're not on the air), I found it helpful to have something that told me how well I sent. My KX3 has a text decode that can display what it heard. That worked fine at the beginning. But since the display is only 8-9 characters long, as we got into longer words and sentences that didn't work as well - as you don't want to watch the display as you send; you want to glance at the display after you've finished. There are a number of phone apps that can do that decode for you - I used the Morse-It app that N4SRN recommended, as it includes a good decoder in addition to including the CWOps lessons.

    Good luck!
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  10. VE7PJR

    VE7PJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    More than a few years ago I taught CW as part of the Novice classes my local club offered. We used our own techniques and progression, but very similar to what others have put forward. I always started with E. Then T, A, N. Then start a few words: ANTENNA, EAT, AT, TEN, NET, TAN, TATE, NATE, NEAT etc. Copying one letter at a time is fine at first, but I think it's also important to start hearing the letters as they fit together into words. I typically sent each letter around 15 wpm, with spacing and pacing to fit a slower word speed.

    As we moved through the alphabet it was always that way: learn a few letters, then learn to hear them in words. I would also mix in words from earlier lessons. After we had the letters, numbers and common punctuation down, we'd start teaching common abbreviations and how a typical QSO goes. My main goal in that was to remove some of the fear factor from that first time. The students learned that when they heard RST, they should expect numbers.

    The most difficult problem I recall was that because a lot of what we send in a QSO is predictive, students would not copy every letter. I'd often throw in strange words to help them unlearn that -- we also taught them to "hear it, write it" and if they didn't recognize it, to just grab the next letter and not try to over think it. I didn't hammer on head copy too much -- my experience (and that of my students) was that trying to head copy at 5 wpm or less always made me lose my place. At 20 wpm and above, sure -- I used to "read" QST for free listening to the W6QIE code practice transmissions.

    Getting back to CW after time away, I use the HamMorse app. It blew me outta the water right at first, because it uses ALL the characters. Quite a bit of the punctuation isn't regularly used by hams beyond period, comma, question, dash, or slash. The app lets you turn off things you don't know yet, which is hugely useful.

    I will say that consistent 20 wpm copy is not too difficult to achieve with HamMorse. That will get you a solid 10 wpm copying on the air when it's a real human on the other end and you're nervy!

    How much time? My personal rule is 20 minutes a day to maintain skill, 20 minutes twice a day to build skill. A good 10 minutes may be all you can manage at the start, and that's totally fine. Go until you feel your concentration unravel. I also tell students not to give up the first time you tell yourself, "This is hard. I want to quit now." Wait until the THIRD time you tell yourself that.

    Like I say, though -- know when to take the training wheels off and wobble down the street on your own. You may run into a tree (HI) but you got there all on your own, which is worth a lot.


    Chuck VE7PJR
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