Many resources exist for learning International Morse Code, or CW (continuous wave) as most of us call it, or sometimes just code. It is important to know that not everyone learns things in the same way, so it is also important to match the resource to your learning style. Perhaps the best way to determine what resource works best for you is to try several. I am sure that you will find one that just “clicks” for you.
Before listing some resources, there are some very important concepts you need to understand.
- Learn and memorize the sound of each character and not some pattern of dots and dashes.
- The time between dits and dahs should be at least 10 words per minute, and preferably at the WPM you have set as your goal. Any slower timing and the tendency to count dots and dashes becomes extremely strong. Counting dots and dashes more than doubles the time it takes to translate sounds into the character.
- What really helps is to lengthen the time between the characters. That way, when you want to increase your code speed, just shorten the time between characters.
- Practice – practice – practice. There are no shortcuts! This is where choosing the right resource is so important. In order to stick to it and do all the practice, it really helps to be using a resource that you can enjoy.
- Build (or buy) a code practice oscillator and practice sending each lesson after you have mastered receiving it. I read somewhere that sending and receiving code uses two different parts of the brain, and that you should learn all the characters before sending them. Phooey! Learn to do both at the same time; it helps to tie the two parts of the brain together. By the time you are ready to get on the air, your skill on the key will be reasonably developed. It turns out that most of us can send faster than we can receive, so it is good to practice sending at the same speed at which you can receive. Note: An alternative to building or buying a code practice oscillator is to plug your key into your radio and use your Radio’s side tone. Just remember to turn your radio’s RF power off or down to zero output.
Some code learning resources on the Internet
http://www.hamwhisperer.com/ – Andy’s site presents code learning in 11 lessons. Each lesson, except the last 3, introduces 3 letters and a number. The last 3 finish off the alphabet and numbers while introducing a couple of important punctuation marks and prosigns. The lessons are about 20 minutes, usually begin with a short review of the previous lesson. Then each new character is introduced in separate sections with a practice for each. The lesson concludes with a random run of everything learned up to that point. I found Andy’s site to be very useful in moving me from procrastination in learning the code to actually learning code!
http://www.pdarrl.org/K6RAU/ – Twelve lessons from a master – no personal experience yet.
Some code learning programs for computer
Just Learn Morse Code – This is a particularly easy program to set up and use. Plus, it is very easy to program in typical QSO’s for your receiving practice.
G4FON – Another premier computer-based Morse code application. This one has more settings for on-band simulated conditions.
Practice – Practice – Practice
American Radio Relay League (ARRL) – ARRL station W1AW has scheduled code broadcasts. You can also download MP3 files of the broadcast and replay them on your computer or MP3 player. You can also download the text files that are being sent. And what’s great about that is they are cataloged at a variety of code speeds. I very highly recommend this resource! You should probably know all the characters and numbers before tuning in or downloading files. The link below will take you to ARRL’s page for the practice files. Once there, choose the speed you want and click the link. To download, right-click on the MP3 file link and choose save link as. Do the same for the text file.
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