Learning Method...?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KM4KWK, Aug 2, 2015.

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  1. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    The risk I found with typing was that I learned to associate sounds with key positions on the keyboard rather than with letters, numbers, etc..
  2. KB1CKT

    KB1CKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I tried copy with a keyboard a time or two, but for some reason it just doesn't work. At least not yet... I have the nasty habit of using backspace heavily while typing. When I see a typo I start heading back to fix it; and that will be deadly in copy. So I stick with pen and paper. But around 20wpm I find I'm at the end of my copy speed--I can copy for a stretch but then when I make a mistake it just keeps repeating--the urge to cross out and fix is overwhelming.
    KD0TFP likes this.
  3. N7DMA

    N7DMA Ham Member QRZ Page

    For what it's worth, here's my story.

    I had no CW elmer, just a fascination of the strange beeps coming from a borrowed shortwave receiver. This was in the early '70's. I was determined to learn what was going on, and from loaner books from the local library, I set out to learn the morse code. EISH5, TMO0... all you OT's will recall the drill!

    Well, I was fascinated. On my bike rides around the neighborhood, I started translating every street sign, label, words in books I read into morse in my head. Finally rigged a buzzer with a straight key from Radio Shack, and was able to actually send code.

    In '75, found a local ham who gave me my novice test. Passed it, and again, with borrowed equipment, got on 40 meters with a single xtal on 7.115 Mhz.

    After I graduated from High School, I went into the Navy, and attended Signalman School. I was proficient enough at the time that my instructor appointed me as his assistant to help my classmates learn morse code, but it was with flashing light.

    When I went to the fleet, I seemed to always be the one they went to to pass messages via flashing light. Most messages were routine traffic, and I won't bore you with the details of the protocol.

    A lot of time was spent just hanging around the signal shack while we were at sea. To kill the boredom, I'd jump on the searchlight, call another ship, and have a chat with a fellow SM. That's when my CW skills really sharpened. Since we were just shooting the bull, there was nobody there to record the conversations, so I had to learn to copy in my head.

    That's how I do it today. No need to write down every word, just the pertinent info.

    Not bragging. That's just how I learned. CW is my second language, and ya' know what? Just like any other language or skill, practice makes perfect! Just learn the basics, and practice, practice, practice!

    Anything worth having is worth working for.

    And FWIW, I'm most comfortable with my straight key, tooling along around 15 to 20 wpm. Don't care if everyone rips by me at a bazillion wpm. Have at it! It's about my joy.

    40 years on, and CW is still king in my shack!

    Take your time. Learn, and enjoy! Ain't no race, and there is no finish line.

    Just wanted to share.


    SKCC #8943
    KB0TT, KD0TFP, W5BIB and 1 other person like this.
  4. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Having taught courses for learning the International Morse code for over 55-years, I definitely have some very strong recommendations!

    First of all, treat learning the code as if you are learning a foreign language with around 50-words (alphabet, numbers, punctuation marks, and pro-signs). Listen to the "sound" of each letter and definitely do NOT get in the habit of "counting" the dits and dahs.

    Using the E, I, S, H, 5 and T, M, O, 0 method is certainly going to encourage "counting" the dits and dahs. That method should never even be considered if the student really wants to be able to copy the International Morse code at a speed of much over 5 words per minute, if that fast!

    Each letter/character needs to be sent at a speed of between 15 wpm and 18 wpm with the "speed" of the message being set by the interval between each letter. This forces the student to listen to the "sound" of each letter and NOT to "count" the dits and dahs. Using this method, when one hears "ditdah", the letter "A" is immediately recognized. When one hears dahditditdit, the letter "B" is immediately recognized, and so forth.

    What I do is to start with the letter "A", then "B", then "C", and so forth through the alphabet. Then, the numbers are added, in order. Next, the punctuation marks, and, finally, the pro-signs. This method starts out with some of the more "involved" letters and, again, forces the student to "listen" to the sound of the character and not to "count" the dits and dahs.

    Like getting to Carnegie Hall, the answer is to practice, practice, and practice some more. However, each practice session should be fairly short so that the student does not get fatigued. My sessions are twice a week with the individual practicing at home. Generally, I run between 10-minutes and 15-minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Each session is about an hour and a half long. At home, I suggest doing the same. That is, between 10-minutes and 15-minutes of practice and then a break. Any longer and the student almost always gets tired and any practice after that generally doesn't do much good, if any! The practice sessions, in total, don't have to be at one time. Taking a few minutes, during the day and/or evening, with several sessions each day, works fine and, for some students, much better results than sitting through a single, longer, session each day.

    In general, I have found that it takes about 6-weeks of classes before the "average" student is proficient in the International Morse code. Some students learn in about 4-weeks and a few students take up to about 8-weeks to learn the code. Of course, there is the occasional student that has a natural "knack" for the code. The fastest that I have ever had a student learn the code was in about an hour!

    One evening, a fraternity brother of mine came to my room and said that he wanted to get an amateur radio operator's license and wanted to learn the code. This person had absolutely no previous exposure to the code but had played a musical instrument in high school. Basically, he had a "photographic" memory where the code was concerned. Within an hour, he had learned all 26-letters, all numbers, all punctuation marks, and all pro-signs. Not only that, but his receiving, and sending, speed was at a rate of over 7 wpm! I "passed" him on the code examination and sent off for his Novice Class written examination which, when it came in, was passed without any problem.

    However, that person was definitely the exception. I have not had anyone even approach learning the International Morse code that fast since that particular evening.

    There are, unfortunately, those students who absolutely refuse to stop "counting" the dits and dahs. Those students, fortunately only a small number of persons fall into this group, do drop out of class somewhere around the 3rd, or 4th week. The other students, the ones who treat learning the code as if learning a foreign language, definitely get beyond the 5 wpm level before "graduating". When the code examinations were given by VE groups, every one of my students, who completed the course, passed the code examination the first time around. When the code examinations for Novice Class and Technician Class were required before sending off to the FCC for the written examination, all that was needed was certification, by me, that the person had acquired the ability to receive, and send, the International Morse code at a speed of 5 wpm.

    Glen, K9STH
    K4EI, KD8EDC, KD0TFP and 1 other person like this.
  5. KB1CKT

    KB1CKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been alternating what I copy. In the morning I try to copy a 20wpm mp3 arrl file for as long as I can; in the evening I do likewise on the 17wpm bulletin. Then tune the band for qso's I can copy. I try to start fast and then pick slower speeds as I tire. One thing I need to do is pull out my random code generator. I am finding that there are not enough 6's and Z's on air, and I often get tripped up on those. I think I tripped up too in some practice, as real qso's have short random pauses, and sometimes machine code... pauses for nothing.

    I can't believe I started at 5wpm, it sounds so painfully slow now.
  6. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

  7. VP9KS

    VP9KS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Mate, I think you may be surprised. It is never too late, after all, you have the rest of your life to learn it:):):)
    _ _ . . . . . . _ _ . . . _ . _ . . ;)
    KD0TFP likes this.
  8. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's been taking me twenty times (at least) longer than I'd ever expected...
    KD0TFP likes this.
  9. KB0TT

    KB0TT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Please learn to use your straight key in TANDEM while learning
    the code ...

    That way , you will learn the spacing and learn NOT to run your
    characters together ..... Spacing is IMPORTANT ! ! That is your
    first step to ' having a good fist ' .....

    You will make it .... It takes dedication , perseverance and LOTS
    of PRACTICE ....

    You see , there are many gumbys out there .... They did it ....
    You can do it as well ...

    Good luck ..... You will find it FUN once you really LEARN the mode ....

    KD0TFP likes this.
  10. KB0TT

    KB0TT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Glen , I think that you heard my story before ...

    It was an INTENSE practicing routine of W1AW ......

    I went from ~ 5 wpm to ~ 30 wpm in 3 months .... I
    force fed myself relentlessly .... The W1AW practice runs were the ONLY
    source for CW .....

    I would not recommend to anyone to learn it the way I did ....

    I was to travel to Kansas City to pass my advanced then extra ...

    The 20 wpm was a breeze ... Got the advanced but failed the extra by 2 ....

    There was a reason for my madness ....

    The code was a MUST as I would not drive 220 miles to K.C. to fail ...

    KD0TFP likes this.

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