Learning CW

Discussion in 'Working Different Modes' started by WL7COL, Jan 19, 2011.

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  1. WL7COL

    WL7COL Ham Member QRZ Page

    So. There is a plethora of great information on this board about learning CW. And a lot of it is in conflict with each other until one realizes that learning CW is much like learning anything else; I've got to find what will work for me.

    When I was a boy, I rebelled from my father's instruction and learned the code visually. I could send like gang-busters but could not receive. A lot of that memorization was aided by counting the dits and dahs (dit 1 dit 2 dit 3 dit 4 - visualize 4 dits - H! --- wait, what three letters were just sent???). Discouraged, I quit trying.

    A few years ago, before the CW requirement was dropped, I purchased Code Quick - the memes for learning the Code seemed clever. Didn't get too far with that though after I read about a lot of hams using it to pass the CW requirement but being unable to break through 10-15wpm (because the translation from the meme to an actual letter took too long). Discouraged, I quit trying.

    Now, CW is something I want to learn and I'm flummoxed. I've had more false-starts than these two which will undoubtedly hinder my progress; the very bad habits are getting in my way. Ever try not counting the dits and dahs after that wire was laid in your head? Or not hearing the 'mo-wah-wah' meme?

    Most of the code-training materials I come across involve learning the letters, numbers, and prosigns one at a time but here lately, there has been a real effort to push learning CW as words, akin to the way we learned to speak before we learned to spell. Where would I find training materials like this?

    Another method I've recently read instructs one to immerse themselves in the Code, listening to the ARRL bulletins and practice broadcasts as well as actual QSOs. Whereas immersion seems to work exceptionally well for a spoken language, how can I learn the Code if I don't really know what the symbols sound like? In listening for a couple hours last night I think I figured out the sound of a period. Two hours for one symbol. Did I mention I was slow?

    I guess this is more of a really big sigh shared with folk who might understand the frustration of doing everything I'm not supposed to do and am now caught having to break through those bad habits so I can learn properly. Where do I start?
     
  2. AB9YP

    AB9YP Ham Member QRZ Page

    From what I have read, learning by hearing the sounds of a letter and going right to the letter are better for higher speed than thinking in dits and dahs. For that reason, I've started using a program on this page for learning:

    http://c2.com/~ward/morse/morse.html

    It starts out with a small amount and gives them to you if you keep missing, but moves on when you get it.

    I'm very much in the learning phase. I have never operated CW, and barely squeaked by my 5 wpm back when I was Novice and Tech in the late 80's. Back then it was something I HAD to do, to get licensed. Now it is something I WANT to do.

    I look forward to better answers from some of the old fists out there.
     
  3. KF5FEI

    KF5FEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Download the G4FON Koch trainer. It lets you set a high speed for the letters and a slower speed for the spacing until you get the sounds in your head. You start with a couple of letters and add them as you get proficient. It will also add QRM and sloppy keying if you want.
     
  4. W0BTU

    W0BTU Ham Member QRZ Page

    ABSOLUTELY! You are not going to get better advice than this. Don't let anyone convince you to try anything other than the Koch method. (pronounced "cook")

    http://www.g4fon.net/CW Trainer.htm
     
  5. KE4YGT

    KE4YGT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Code Quick didn't work very well for me either. In fact I think it may have hurt me, as I can't forget the "memes"
     
  6. KD2RJS

    KD2RJS Ham Member QRZ Page

    You say you stopped Code Quick because you were worried about breaking the 10/15wpm mark... Does that matter to you?

    I ask because I was in your same shoes. I had tried and failed a few times but then picked up Code Quick. I was able to learn letters, numbers and .,/ in a bit under 2 weeks (I rushed to try and make my first QSO 1 Jan) and get on the air.

    I'm not at 15wpm yet, about 80% copy of the daily quotes from morse resource at 12wpm (which I try to do daily), but I don't place too high an emphasis on speed. 10wpm is my "goal", but whenever/however I get there isn't too important. Learning and improving on the air is a lot more fun and fufilling than copying random letters.
     
  7. WA4OTD

    WA4OTD Ham Member QRZ Page

    The learning process is just to get you where you can get on the air because that is where the fun begins. I wouldn't be too hung up with the exact learning process. You know . _ is A, you hear . _ and you hear and write A. Do this 25 more times for the letters and 10 times for the numbers. It is 36 characters. This should take 2-4 weeks if you practice each night for ~30 minutes a night.

    Once you can copy all characters then you just need to learn the unique abbreviations and sayings used in CW. Then you are ready for on the air.

    Again for me the goal is to get on air ASAP! Good luck!
     
  8. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    The Morse Machine seemed quite helpful as a way of learning the letters, but its main drawback (at least in the implementations I've been able to try) is that it waits at least a short while for you to identify a code before giving you the next. On air this never happens...

    The programs that play you code in a steady stream are better training.

    It's that "add to them" bit that's given me the most trouble with learning the code. It got harder and slower the further I went. In the early lessons you only have a few codes to worry about, and they're all (well, mostly) as un-familiar as each other. Then, as you get further in, you hear the new un-familiar codes proportionally less and less of the time, so you learn the later letters less and less easily, and the whole process grinds slower and slower...

    Well, that's what I found, anyway, and it was thoroughly discouraging.

    Seems to me some sort of rolling approach might work better. Suppose the new codes always get a good proportion of the time, and the known codes get less, so that you're always getting drilled hardest on the two or three newest ones. Suppose the newest code was (somewhat randomly) 1 in 3 of the codes played, the next newest 1 in 4, the third newest 1 in 5, and all the rest got an even slice of the remainder. You'd hear the newest three codes quite a bit, and the newest most of all. You'd have a much better chance of learning each new code. A smart program might even pick the ones you get wrong most often in place of the second and third newest...
     
  9. N3UUX

    N3UUX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't agree with the idea that code quick will hold you back. I used code quick while studying for my novice exam. When I went for the exam, they ran the 20 wpm test for someone while I was doing the theory exam, and surprisingly, I could copy a lot of it in my head. So I took the 10 wmp test instead of the 5, and passed it easily. When I took the advanced exam, I went ahead and did the 20 wpm code test, then didn't do the extra class theory within the one year limit, so when I went to do that, I took the 20 wpm code test again, and it was a piece of cake. The more code I worked, the less I had to depend on the sounds I learned from code quick. I hear the sounds and the letters and words just pop into my head.
     
  10. AB9NZ

    AB9NZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Code Quick worked great for me too. You have to memorize all forty characters before you can do anything, and Code Quick is a great way to do it. I tried G4FON, but after a few characters got confused. CQ planted the characters in my brain, and then I used G4FON and Just Learn Morse, and of course on air work to bring my copy into the thirties. It cracks me up to think that the mnemonic "Dog Did It" is causing crippling irreparable brain damage. A whole lot of people that would be pounding brass today aren't because they tried a free program unsuccessfully and gave up, and THAT is a real shame.
    You have to want it, picture yourself as radiotelegrapher, buy that nice key or qrp kit that you like and then GET TO WORK.
     
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