Learning to talk CW

Almost 2 years ago, STN challenged everyone to start learning Morse Code when he introduced a new Android App called “Morse Machine” on his channel.

I picked up that challenge and fully expected to be having QSO’s online by the end of the year at 20WPM…  To say “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” is an understatement!

While I jumped in both feet first and started working the Morse Machine app and LCWO.net, I soon put it on the back burner.  I’m glad to say that I did come back and practice a little every few months, but the one thing lacking most in my approach was / is the most important factor in learning CW or any other language… Consistency!!!

I kept reading about this “break-over point” that I would soon reach and all of a sudden CW would be easy or I’d finally “get it” but to be honest, it didn’t happen that way.

I can look back now and see that there was a point in learning the alphabet that I learned how to “listen” properly which made learning it much easier.

So here’s what I know so far and hopefully I’ll be able to explain a bit better and you will get it better than I did reading the comments from online guru’s.

RULES YOU HAVE TO LIVE BY:

I’d read these rules but the sad part was I didn’t think I was violating some of them until it was almost too late.  Pay attention here.

  1.  Never look at charts with the dash-dots for each letter.  I mean don’t even glance at them!!!  
    • Every time you do, your mind is imprinting them.
    • I know it’s tempting, I know it makes you feel like you have accomplished something by memorizing a letter by “seeing” the dash-dot sequence, but it’s KILLING your future speed.
    • If you never look at one Morse character like “–..” or “z”, tell me you didn’t look? 😉  It will not be an issue AFTER you learn to receive and send.  Your mind can translate it from sound / send to the dash-dot which is OK, but going the other direction is not OK.
  2. Learn using the Farnsworth Method and set your initial speed to 30WPM.  “Are your CRAZY, you might ask?”
    • It sounds ridiculous, but it’s a huge point and one I didn’t do until I learned half the alphabet.  I worked up from 15WPM to 20WPM then tried 30WPM and while my Morse Machine correct percentage dropped from 90% to 75% initially, it did two things almost immediately.
      • It made me realize that your can actually listen to 20WPM and count the “dash-dots” or “dah-dits” at even that speed.  30WPM, not gonna happen.
      • It made listening to live QSO’s instantly easier because I was hearing the QSO’s at 20WPM now and they “jingle” of each letter is easier to detect at a slower speed if I learned it at a higher speed as opposed to the same or slower 20/15WPM.
  3. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!
    • Practice at least every other day on Morse Machine via the app or online at LCWO.net which has the same feature.
    • I try to do (2-3) 5min runs on my phone before I turn the lights out in bed each night.  Find a time and stick to it.
    • Long sessions only hurt you.  When you see your correct score going down by 20% after a few sessions… you are not able to concentrate, take a break!
  4. Put that spare time to use.
    • About the only thing positive about my 50min drive to work is it allows me time to practice code.  Using my Android phone through the car speakers I play characters via another great app CW Trainer that allows you to set CPM to 30 and WPM down to a comfortable 5WPM so you can hear the character and then say it and see it (set font to 42) for confirmation.  I average 400 characters each way to work.
  5. Don’t worry about how long it’s taking.
    • It’s not going to be a quickly learned skill for most of use and you truly have to “want it” to learn it.
    • Stick with it, and come back if you burn out on your slow progress.
  6. Speak clearly!
    • I’ve started to practice sending now that I have all the letters and some punctuation down.
    • I’ve been using Morse Trainer again in this area to feed me characters then repeat them back while monitoring in fldigi for accuracy.
    • I’m not sure if it’s correct, but it seems I’m faster and more accurate if I float my wrist a little and concentrate on the motion coming from the writ hinge, not finger or arm.  Still not natural though.
    • Below is a video of me using this technique for the first time.

That’s all I got for now, hope it helps and if you have been slacking or waiting to start…

No time like the present to get on the horse!

CW Resources:

  • My YouTube Playlist for copy practice.
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2 comments

  1. You are correct on all counts. There is some individual variation, but the point of CONSISTENCY is essential. CONCENTRATE ON RECEIVING (which you did),. People who say that they ‘can send really fast but cant receive very well’, it’s because they really don’t know the code and don’t know WHAT it is they do not know. Can a person speak Chinese “really well’, but not understand a word of it ? No ha ha You did the right thing to

    A. learn the code first
    B. send.
    C. Abbreviations, Q-signals and other brevity methods you’ve covered on another page help increase clarity and throughput in Morse.

    The second most helpful tool in learning Morse, is to get on the air maybe with a friend to USE MORSE IN CONVERSATION. Do this BEFORE you ‘feel comfortable. This ratchets-up your skill better than anything else. It’s how we learn languages in the natural world and this works for Morse.

    I believe that you mentioned it, but I will anyway – A message sent at 14 words per minute and copied perfectly is MUCH faster than when sent at twice the speed, but not understood.

    73 de Ray

    Like

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