Author Topic: Thoughts on learning Morse  (Read 9574 times)

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Offline apelly

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Thoughts on learning Morse
« on: January 30, 2016, 04:19:04 am »
Granted, this may be off-topic for eevblog, but the subforum does have HAM in the title...

So, I've been plugging away at morse for a couple of weeks. It's an interesting experience.

If I stop and think about the big picture it's too daunting to contemplate really. So much gibberish to get my head around. I've never been a rote learner, and in fact to this day do not have times tables stored in my head, despite hours of recital in primary school.

It appears that everyone agrees these days that the characters should be heard at full speed. I've been using 25wpm for this. Seems OK.

I started with Farnsworth spacing at 15wpm. This is too fast by far. I persevered for some days with this and made very slow progress. Sessions were frantic, panicked, stressful and progress was slow. I was reluctant to slow down on account of there being disagreement and little original content on the inter-tubes about what the best Farnsworth spacing is.

In the end I thought "to hell with it." I've been learning a new character at 11 wpm, which seems fine, and working my way up to 13 wpm as I reach 90% at slower speeds. 13wpm is manageable and doesn't cause excessive panic. My thinking is that at this stage I need to just know all the letters and numbers. I figure I'll get plenty of practice and be in a better position to speed up when I start copying words and callsigns. Hope I'm not wrong!

Anyway; why is it an interesting experience? It appears to be learning without thinking or reason or something. This is more like learning a trick, sort of like learning to juggle, or ride a unicycle, but this is a brain skill, not a physical one (if you see what I mean). Normally when I learn something I think it through and that process cements the information. This is like monkey hear monkey do. But it works. As I said earlier, if I think too hard about the task ahead it seems daunting and altogether unreasonable. On the other hand, a bit earlier on I never thought I'd get this far either.

It's also interesting that I already seem to be better at listening to and recalling the sounds as I copy. I was not expecting this! I'm not seeing letters in my head as it were, but I can remember the sounds and copy behind a couple of characters if I hit a hiccup.

So that's my story so far.

Is there anyone else here who learned just for the fun of it?

 

Offline AG6QR

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2016, 07:37:17 am »
I've been learning over the past few years, and can now comfortably get on the air and have a conversation at 18wpm or so.  Or I can do a contest-style short exchange at 25 wpm or so.  My learning has been slow, because my practice has been intermittent, but it's not a race. 

There are several computer aids to help you learn.  Koch and Farnsworth are your friends.   I found lcwo.net and justlearnmorsecode.com to be very helpful, but there are others which are similar.

You're right, in that it's not something that requires intellectual thought, but lots of repetition and practice is required to make things fluent and automatic.  You don't want your brain to have to think about dits and dahs, and count them up to turn them into letters.  There's no time for that when the letters are coming fast and furious.  You want to hear the letters directly, and eventually, you want to hear words.  That sort of automatic recognition of the letters and words only comes with practice.

The most similar thing I've done before is either learning to play a musical instrument or learning touch typing.  Or maybe learning a foreign language, but a language has a MUCH larger vocabulary that must be mastered -- Morse code is only 26 letters, ten digits, and a handful of punctuation marks and symbols.

While eevblog is great for general electronics, there are other boards with more ham radio related content, and a bigger population of Morse code learners and users.  Qrz.com has a fairly active CW/morse code forum where you can find lots more training hints.

People can and do argue the usefulness of Morse code in this computerized age.  It may not be essential, but it is fun.  It allows me to communicate over long distances using a very simple, small, inexpensive, low power transmitter than I can build myself.  I've found that the people I've met on the air are consistently polite and helpful to newcomers.  Maybe there is a rude and snarky Morse code operator out there somewhere, but if so, I've not found him yet.

Have fun learning the code!
 

Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2016, 12:00:11 pm »
The only trick to learning code is practice. Take it slow and easy, no need to rush it and try and copy it being sent too fast.  Speed will come as you get more practice.  Another mistake with folks is they study for a few weeks then quit and start back a few weeks later. Just spend 30 minutes to an hour a day will help.

When I got my novice license code was a requirement. So I had to learn it.  I when to the VE session so nervous. I was worried I would never pass the code because of my hearing. Deaf in my right ear and only 60% hearing in my left.

Anyway I sat down and took the code test, it seemed so slow. I copied every character 100 % and even answered the code questions. At this point I was so excited but so nervous that when I took the written I flunked it. |O  Went to another session a few days later and passed it and the technician test. Tech was all I wanted at the time and was pleased.  This gave me voice on 50 MHz and above and code on everything else. By the time I went for General they dropped the code.

Offline Fank1

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2016, 12:27:34 pm »
I have taught several people who swore they could never get it.
I start with the 1 an 2 character letters ( e, t, i, m, a, n ) at 15 WPM spaced at 5 wpm and stay with them until they get them down pat at 15 wpm spacing.
Then I throw in the 3 character letters, then 4 etc.
Once they get them all at 15WPM I increase up to 25 WPM.
One fellow went for his 5 wpm test and didn't have to take it because they sent the extra test first and he passed it !
 

Offline hammy

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2016, 12:48:00 pm »
Do you own a smartphone? Put an app on it to practice every day some minutes. On every occasion you get. It is better to do over the day four times five minutes, than in the evening 30 minutes in one go.
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2016, 12:54:37 pm »
Just remember that Morse is not dots and dashes.... It is DIT's and DAH's. At higher speeds The brain sends and receives Morse as almost musical rythems.

AR is ._   ._.  but it should be read as DIT DAH    DIT DAH DIT.

I was trained to send and receive Morse at Maritime College and it was daunting. We all achieved greater than 25wpm though. Start real slow and work up to 12wpm using an electronic tutor (PC or something like the ERA micro reader) It's good to have a training tool that can also read your hand sent Morse and show what you actually sent.

I will not bore you with detail of how we were trained by professional Merchant Marine Officers but they did make it hard for us by mixing off-air background noise and other Morse signals with their hand sent Morse ! Sadly I have not needed my Morse since as I joined a land based employer.

It is normal to hit a wall at 12wpm as the Morse starts to become too fast to think about its component elements.....you start to learn the rythem of a character rather than thinks individual DIT and DAH elements.

The funny thing is, once you get used to Morse above 12wpm, it can be hard to receive lower speed Morse as your brain is trained to listen to the rythem and that can get lost at low speeds.

Good luck

Fraser
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 01:06:18 pm by Fraser »
 

Offline grantbob

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2016, 09:18:05 pm »
I agree that listening really helps. I think "immersion" is a pretty good way to learn anything. One thing I've done that seems to be helping was to use http://lcwo.net/text2cw to create mp3's in CW of the names of people who message or call me and then set up my phone to use those for the alert tones for those people. I hear them when I get messages and it's helping to me to learn the letters.

Everything I've read says to avoid learning the characters visually as it's really an audible experience. I think that makes sense as if you learn the visual pattern then when you hear something your brain will try to translate what it heard to the visual pattern and then tell you what it was. You just want to hear an M and have your brain tell you "M".

-grantbob
 

Offline apelly

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2016, 10:17:42 pm »
create mp3's in CW of the names of people who message or call me and then set up my phone to use those for the alert tones for those people.
That's a nifty idea!
 

Online G0HZU

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2016, 10:24:07 pm »
With the internet there will be loads of ways to learn morse for both sending and receiving. Go back 20 years or more and many radio hams used to have on air morse classes on 145MHz FM using an audio tone to generate the dits and dahs. These classes were quite effective especially if the main tutor was a good teacher. I've not heard any morse classes on 145MHz FM for many years now but they probably still happen somewhere :)
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2016, 05:08:35 am »
Just remember that Morse is not dots and dashes.... It is DIT's and DAH's. At higher speeds The brain sends and receives Morse as almost musical rythems.

Fraser

This has been my experience too.  I started thinking in terms of dots and dashes and also shorts and longs but when I moved to thinking dits and dahs it got easier.  I'm also experimenting with a version of what Fank1 described:  I've been working on sets of characters at a time starting with one set being vowels and another that works it's way a few characters at time through the alphabet.  The challenge is that you need to be able to work on both sending and receiving.  I'm still early in the process so there's probably lots more to figure out. 

A couple things I'm trying are some free Apple apps - the one I like the best so far is called Dah Dit (it looks similar to an Android app that was recommended in one of the Morse threads), and also keying with an real key (Lionel J-38) attached to a frequency generator (set for 750 Hz square waves) and a small speaker.  You can use the iPhone app and the real key separately or you can let the app guide you through characters.  In one mode the app will repeat your custom character set in random orders but with each character sounded 3 times in a row; in between each app sound-out you can work on replicating the pattern and rhythm with the real key.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dah-dit-morse-code-tutor/id310462519?mt=8
- there are a bunch of these apps out there; many seem not so good and most seem to be missing some fairly obvious potential enhancements; this one is ok in some respects (it let's you build custom lists of characters to practice on).  If anyone finds one you like better please post here.  Thx
« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 05:16:38 am by Electro Fan »
 

Offline voltz

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2016, 06:08:31 pm »
Just to add to the previous comments, it really is a musical / rhythmic sound that translates into characters or even whole words at times. The word 'The'  for example just becomes one sound rather than a series of dits and dahs. Thats the ultimate aim, for it to become automatic just like someone talking to you. Thinking too hard about dits and dahs actually slows you down!

But at first take it real slow, just take your time, learning a selection of letters and numbers and repeat many times.. Then add more letters and just build it up from there until you get to punctuation. Once you get used to all the characters as morse, it really is practice and more practice to get your speed up. How you practice is up to you, apps, local 2m with a friend on cw, clubs, on line, training boxes...etc

Another thing, once you learn morse you never forget it, Like riding a bike. I am just getting back into radio after a long break of many years and i can still read callsigns and RST reports at around 12 wpm without doing any practice. But my speed has dropped dramatically from what it used to be. If i wanted to jump into a QSO at say 18, i really would need to practice!

Good luck with it, try not to drive yourself crazy with the 'noise', when you start dreaming of morse code, that when you know its starting to sink in lol.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2016, 06:19:59 pm »
i learned morse because i had to (during mandatory military service). a very effective way is to learn all digits first (starting slow at 40  digits per minute and go up to 120 -150 ) and then add letters - group of 4 letters at a time - every time you add letters start slow-ish  40 wpm and go slowly up to 80-120, once mastered add another group of 4 letters.
never think of dot's and dashes - rather listen to morse as a "foreign language".
 

Online G0HZU

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2016, 10:51:50 pm »
One tip I recall from a local on air morse tutor was to learn with the characters being sent at the equivalent of 12wpm but to leave longer gaps between the characters when first starting to learn morse.

His argument was that if your primary goal was to pass the 12wpm exam then you should be listening to and recognising the rhythm of characters being sent at the test speed. I'd already passed the exam when I heard this tip so I don't know how valid it is but that is the way he taught morse and he had a lot of successful students :)

Nowadays, you don't need to pass a morse test to get a full licence here in the UK so maybe this tip is less relevant.
 

Offline apelly

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2016, 11:12:25 pm »
Pretty much all sources agree these days that it's better to learn the characters at full speed with longer spaces between words and individual letters.

I've been working on the characters at 25wpm with an effective speed of 13wpm. It's hard going! Sometimes I can hear the character, but not always consistently. I'm actually practising a few I'm particularly shit at by themselves right now.

 

Offline apelly

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2016, 10:32:06 pm »
Well, today I'm practising 30 characters. It's still hard going and my enthusiasm is waning. The novelty of copying random characters for 5 minutes at a time is wearing off.

Has anyone practised by listening to morse ebooks?
 

Offline German_EE

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2016, 11:56:12 am »
Hell yeah! When I learned Morse code I was still a field service engineer and I drove around for hours listening to Hamlet and Henry V sent at 12 WPM on the car cassette. They were generated using a program that I had for the Apple //e which took ASCII text and generated CW as an audio tone out of the cassette port.
Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.

Warren Buffett
 

Offline ivan747

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2016, 04:22:50 pm »
Well, today I'm practising 30 characters. It's still hard going and my enthusiasm is waning. The novelty of copying random characters for 5 minutes at a time is wearing off.

Has anyone practised by listening to morse ebooks?

I'm on the same boat as you.
 

Negative-Bias

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2016, 04:41:25 pm »
I did it to get the HF licence I was after, once I got the license , I didn't use the Morse at all, now several years on, I have an interest in it  again, only advice I can give learning little and often like every other day, some clubs do on air practice sessions .It's meant to be enjoyment, not a punishment, keep that in mind.
Paul
 

Offline apelly

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2016, 12:10:22 am »
Hell yeah! When I learned Morse code I was still a field service engineer and I drove around for hours listening to Hamlet and Henry V
To Too classy for me! Maybe some old Asimov.

Edit: Fix one of my pet internet hates.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2016, 12:56:12 am by apelly »
 

Offline apelly

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2016, 12:29:55 am »
It's meant to be enjoyment, not a punishment, keep that in mind.
Paul
True.

Pretty much just have to slog through this stage though.
 

Offline Len

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2016, 12:32:31 am »
Hell yeah! When I learned Morse code I was still a field service engineer and I drove around for hours listening to Hamlet and Henry V
To classy for me! Maybe some old Asimov.

I'm sure there's a way to rig up a live Morse feed of EEVBlog comments...
DIY Eurorack Synth: https://len42.github.io/Synth/
 

Offline mtntreks

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2016, 05:04:30 pm »
It sounds like you're just doing the random character thing?  Yuck!  I can see how that is a slog and boring.  Have you listened to on air QSOs?  There's usually some QRS (slower) CW going on on 40m around 7.049 to 7.060 or up around 7.110-7.124.  Try around 7.055 to start.

If you don't have a HF rig, websdr.org will let you listen in.
 

Offline Bud

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2016, 05:13:21 pm »
never think of dot's and dashes - rather listen to morse as a "foreign language".

This is a brilliant statement!
Facebook-free life and Rigol-free shack.
 

Negative-Bias

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2016, 06:12:20 pm »
It sounds like you're just doing the random character thing?  Yuck!  I can see how that is a slog and boring.  Have you listened to on air QSOs?  There's usually some QRS (slower) CW going on on 40m around 7.049 to 7.060 or up around 7.110-7.124.  Try around 7.055 to start.

If you don't have a HF rig, websdr.org will let you listen in.
I agree with this statement   and if you hear Morse you like record it, then play it back bit by bit , until you get it, with your script.
 

Offline kg4arn

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Re: Thoughts on learning Morse
« Reply #24 on: February 21, 2016, 05:35:12 pm »
FWIW I had a lot of trouble trying to learn the code at first. 
Then I found this method called Code Quick:  http://www.cq2k.com/index.html

In 3 weeks I was past 12 wpm and passed the test.  Passed the 20wpm test after just a little more practice on the air.

I met a Ham who lived nearby and he had tried to learn off and on for over 20 years without success.
I loaned him my materials and he passed the 12 wpm test after about 6 weeks.

Basically the method uses word phrases that make the same sound as the morse characters.
It really worked for me, and when I was active on the air, I could receive at 25 wpm easily.
When the code gets faster that about 30 wpm, it seems the sounds start to change and it is a different ball game, at least for me.
 


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