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Learning morse code (what?!?!?!)


Hi Jonathon,

Well one size does not fit all of course. A stick may be counterproductive with a few individuals. Carrots don’t work for everyone either.

Some people have the internal discipline to run their own training programs. Some of them are nerds and hate social activities like parties and loud concerts. However not all are cold fish and do enjoy other forms of socialising.

Others are more like wheel barrows and make no progress without another person pushing and directing them.

The weekly CW practice sessions I am engaged in are confidence building exercises with no stick in sight. There is no criticism of poor sending or pressure to lift speeds. It is a place where a SOTO like contact can be made without the pressure of a pile up or the need to get 4 contacts etc.

It is assumed that basic code proficiency has been achieved albeit at a slow speed.

There may be an occasional comment such as “I think you sent me 500 instead of 599” if the sender does it more than once without correction. If the sending sounds better the operator will be told this.

The majority of us do better with a tutor and a goal to be reached in a time frame. As adults we should accept occasional failures and not expect rewards for everything we do.

With enough internal determination (you really really want to achieve something) anyone can do most things at a competent level. World champion? Probably not.

I will never be a champion golfer. If I were to spend the time practicing with a coach in 10 years I might win some matches in my age group. As it stands I would consider a round under 180 off the stick as a great effort. It’s not on by bucket list as I prefer to do my walking without a golf stick.



I’d like to think I’ll still be around then!

Of course you don’t go from no skill to expert after the 9,999th hour. If your learning follows the usual curve you will be at nearly 70% of your ultimate ability after 2 years. That’s a very rough rule and thousands of behavioral experts have miscalculated how people can or will respond. Just look at investing on the stock market.

If you have talent of the right kind and practice enough you might reach your peak by this Christmas. The rest of us will take longer.

How long did it take you to learn to talk? How long to read and understand the newspaper? Both are admittedly harder than basic CW competency but the first structured sentences we uttered came well before our tenth birthday.

Anyone who has been laboring away for years without making much progress should not feel it is beyond them. Most things progress by small increments. If they feel they are spinning their wheels then they may need a tutor, a different tutor or at least different learning regime.

My final word on whether the stick works. Technology advanced at an enormous and unprecedented rate during World Wars 1 and 2. Can’t think of a bigger stick.



It certainly makes a difference if you can get to a useable level of proficiency relatively quickly. That’s why Koch was a bad choice for me. You don’t get to a useful level of proficiency until you’ve completed the course. If it takes you six weeks, that’s not so bad, but if it looks like it’ll take ten years then you’re better off taking another path. I should have changed course when, after six weeks, I still hadn’t got the fourth character. Instead, I plugged on at less than one new character a month for two years, which was a complete waste of time. Determination and motivation aren’t much help if they keep you moving down the wrong road, especially if you have trouble accurately judging your own progress. Relatively regular checkpoints (like a weekly classroom session) certainly help a lot, especially if they give someone else a chance to tell you how you’re doing.

73, Rick M0LEP


Although I am not a fantastic cw operator I did learn the code I looked at and tried a few methods and for me the one that worked was codequick http://www.cq2k.com/. Its not free around 40 usd but well worth it. I had the code down in 6 weeks and a reasonable speed of 13 wpm. I still need work, but for running SOTA activation/contest style where the exchanges are predictable and short I do just fine. My goal is 20 wpm rag chew and I will get there eventually. I say once you have it just go being the activator people are patient and the more you do it the better you will get.


The trick with the images is nice but not for me. As I can se it will later slow you down.
Also the site looks really ‘fake dr. sells googled pdfs’*, but it seems to help people pass the 5wpm test.

*it seems to hold a PhD of some sort from a US uni, don’t get me wrong.


Hi Tasos,

I am sure you didn’t expect the amount of excellent advice posted on this topic when you started it did you :wink:

I really can’t add anything other than keep at it. I still find CW QSO’s more rewarding than those made using any other mode. It is also very useful skill to have in your amateur radio arsenal.

One observation based on my own experience regards rag-chewing, which it seems other amateurs struggle with a little. Whilst I am quite comfortable with short exchanges at any reasonable speed, & as a consequence can copy longer rag-chew type exchanges at 20-25 WPM, I think my difficulty with rag-chewing on CW stems from the fact that I am not a rag-chewing type person, on phone, or in real life.

I think this may be an issue for others that may well have good CW ability but struggle to effectively rag-chew. Ask yourself, do you rag-chew on phone, or are you chatty in person?

If not, then CW rag-chewing may just not be your thing :wink:

Best of luck Tasos.

Thanks & 73,

Mark G0VOF



My training is a bit behind schedule due to some nasty cold/flu lately, my head is a mash.
Its slow process but maybe one day Ill have my CW QSO :smile:



Wonder how you’re getting on learning the code?
Learning on your own can be tough so if you can find friends to learn with you then you can motivate each other. Once you’ve got the alphabet, numbers and a few prosigns under your belt (no mater what speed) I recommend getting on the air for live QSOs…this is the bit that makes you sweat with fear!
There are lots of places to get help on these first scary CW QSOs but, if you use Twitter then search out @lids_cw (www.lids.org.uk)… We’re a community of CW learners and supporters and we’re there to help you get on the air with your key and build your skills and confidence. We use Twitter to arrange sleds and also for real time communications when the CW qso goes completely to cock :o)
We all want to succeed and we want to help you succeed too. We also provide daily moral support and encouragement via the medium of taking the mickey mostly…but we do it nicely.
Come find us and let us help get you conversing in CW.

Michael (G0POT)
Twitter: @DrOrthogonal


I do follow you on Twitter Doctor for quite some time!! :smile:

Thanks for the link Ill check it!

To be really honest… progress is very slow.
most of it are excuses to myself to skip a lesson… but sometimes after work its hard to have a clear head.
If I have some skills to show by the end of the year Ill be happy!

My twitter is @varoudis



Just thought I’d share my experiences using this site:
I took out a subscription back in February after feeling like I was getting nowhere with copying in my head. Now, about 9 months later, I read at 30wpm. I don’t copy absolutely everything, but I’m continually improving, and that’s the point. In short, this site has got me to a point that would otherwise have taken years. The trick is to start slowly for the first 2 or 3 weeks; it’s amazing how hard it is reading one letter at a time in plain English, never mind in morse code. After that, I added in the longest characters first, which gives you more time to think. I also used the increased word spacing, which is really important; it’s a shame other programs don’t allow this. I help out at the Graz morse code school, and we are desperate for a German language version of this program (the online version has problems translating the special German characters ä, ö, ü and ß). I used to look at this site and hum and hah, but I’m glad I tried it. Now I can ragchew at about 20wpm and I’m working on 25wpm. I find I have to be much faster in practice (24 / 54 in Just Learn Morse) to be half decent on air. It’s not a speed obsession, it’s just a desire to be halfway decent at lower speeds. By the way, if anyone wants to ragchew at about 20 - 25 wpm, please email me (m0feu@hotmail.co.uk): I need to practice in English as well as German (which slows me down quite a lot).
GL & 73


Hi Matthew,

Thanks for sharing your experience. Will contact you when I think I might manage to ragchew. Started listening at the beginning of this year but had a very long break in between - shame on me :frowning2:
I suppose we might manage a 2m-QSO before that…

73, Sylvia OE5YYN


Hi Sylvia,
I’m afraid I don’t have any 2m gear. If you’ve got 6m then we might QSO through OE6XRF. Either that, or you could come to the CW treffen next year. Are you on the CW Schule email reflector oe6-cwkurs@ml.oevsv.at?


That system is interesting, not come across it before. I wonder if it might help me get faster?

Yes you do need to be able to go faster in ideal situations as on air the extra pressure cuts back your ability. I was able to copy (mostly) plain language at 18 wpm before I sat the amateur exam at 14 wpm and only just scraped through.

Having an actual basic QSO at slow speed is the best next step after achieving some competence at receiving and sending. There is no shame in dropping to 10 or even 8 wpm for that first QSO. Its a memorable experience. I clearly remember my first CW QSO and decades later, with not much CW in between, my first 2 m VK-ZL QSO which was only achievable on CW. Heart racing, sweaty hands, and a big grin after.

As always the secrets are motivation and practice.



just to let everyone know about:


This is amazing!!! I lost my will to leave with the normal lessons especially after work in the evening that Im usually braindead.

Morse Machine is way more fun and helps me build the neural net classificator :stuck_out_tongue:


Code groups sections - fastest record 200-500wpm!!!
I can’t stutter that fast


Seems a hack to me… or machine


I just want to tag on the end to this that after three week of the koch method its does not seem logical. From a learning point of view. Or at least as a starting point. I have decided to approach this like a language. I have watched a few CW contacts on youtube and the exchange is typical short. I am going to focus on some of the Q codes number my own ID and etc. I cant seem to get past decoding four characters in a row. but its typically only the ID that are random characters and even the format of an exchange for SOTA that I have seem is quite straight forward. This seem like it will be the quickest path to being able to make a contact in CW. If anything it will be break from decoding the madness or random letters for four minutes.


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