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I've been having a hard time getting my Morse Code copying speed above 7-10 words per minute.

Are there any techniques I can use to improve my skill?

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    $\begingroup$ I can't help but remember my first instructor telling me the joke abuot this. He said it is like asking someone in New York how to get to Carnegie Hall. His answer was: Practice, man, Practice. $\endgroup$ – SDsolar Apr 26 '18 at 19:54

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The Koch method is supposed to be very good at building fast Morse code receiving skills.

The basic idea is that you start out by setting up to receive code sent at your desired target speed, usually a rate of 20 wpm or more, possibly staggered to a slightly lower speed; I've seen 20 wpm staggered to 15 wpm being relatively common, although for a pure Koch approach you should be copying at the full target speed. The big thing is that the character set you work with is only two characters. If you miss one character in the stream, simply let it go; I found this to be the hardest part myself! Once you are able to copy this with good accuracy, with the usual target being around 90% correct copy, you add another character and work your way back up. Rinse and repeat until you have mastered the entire Morse code alphabet.

The way this works is by not allowing you to think; you have to learn to associate the sound of each character at high speed with the respective character from the beginning. It also works by way of positive reinforcement: the simple realization that yes, you can copy Morse code at 15-20 wpm or more, because you just did it.

Peter Hicks N5KD has a pretty thorough page on Morse code, which includes mention of the Koch method, and Ray Goff G4FON has written a piece of software to do it on Windows (there are others, too).

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    $\begingroup$ I've found that Koch grows less effective as you get above 8 or 10 characters in the pool, because you spend so much time exercising learnt characters and encounter the new characters more rarely. My progress would always peter out there. I haven't encountered a program that applies spaced repetition timing to the problem, so my solution was just to reorder the Koch list to put 10 new chars at the head, start over with just 2 of those, and work my way back up. Rinse and repeat. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy W. Sherman Oct 25 '13 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @JeremyW.Sherman G4FON's application allows you to set the character speed and the overall code speed independently, and I think (but am not sure) that it allows you to specify the character set manually. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 25 '13 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ I found that people who start slowly - say 5 wpm, tend to count the dots and dashes and have problems passing the 8 - 10 limit. So Koch's method is a big improvement there. You can easily offset the imbalance between the newer characters by statistically mixing them. I.e. when the new characters are just learned, give them a larger percentage of presence, then taper off. I used to prepare my classes like that. $\endgroup$ – jcoppens Jul 24 '14 at 4:11
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Just listen and copy. Tune into areas of the band populated by higher level licensees and just start copying. Don't dwell on the letters you miss, just skip them, leave a blank and focus on the next one. Eventually you'll start picking up the words or phrases instead of just the letters.

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    $\begingroup$ Amen! Once you learn CW at a reasonable speed, the best way to improve speed is to listen and work stations that are just a little beyond your speed. I highly recommend the ARRL news and code practice broadcasts on 14.0475, and other frequencies on other bands. You can find the schedule and frequencies here: arrl.org/w1aw-operating-schedule $\endgroup$ – K7PEH May 11 '16 at 4:43
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So, my personal theory is that "Koch was a good start". But in the modern days of computers, why haven't we improved much since that period of time. Huge advancements in education have also occurred since the time the Koch method was created.

I decided to test my theory that with computer assisted learning we could improve our speed by having the computer actually help us. Koch is overwhelming, at first, and goes too fast. Why can't a computer specifically decide when to send us something based on how long we've taken in the past?

So, I wrote some software to train you using just these methods. And others.

You can find my software (free) at the CuteCW home page.

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    $\begingroup$ Disclaimer: my iOS app in the App Store, MorseTest and free MorseWords do exactly the above. $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Jan 7 '14 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Nice. Just one minor complaint: the Mac app isn't properly signed for Mountain Lion's Gatekeeper, so the OS refuses to open it if you double click the icon. The workaround is to right-click on the icon and select "Open"; that gives you the option to run it anyway. $\endgroup$ – Pete NU9W Jan 7 '14 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Nice... I may dust off my N900 for this $\endgroup$ – rhaig Jan 8 '14 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ A currently maintained fork of CuteCW is available here $\endgroup$ – MoTLD May 22 '17 at 5:08
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There are numerous resources on the web for learning and practicing Morse code, with most of them agreeing on some basic principles. One is to learn the code by sound, not by charts of dashes and dots or mnemonics. Another is to learn the characters themselves at a high rate of speed, even if they are separated by large spaces (Farnsworth method) or reduced to a smaller number of symbols (Koch method) at first. Another important principle is to listen to code a little faster than you already know even if you miss a few characters, and to gradually increase your speed. Learn CW Online is a great site for practicing these techniques.

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There are several PC and iOS/iPhone (etc.) apps that will play Morse code at controllable speeds (letters, random groups, common words, whole QSOs, etc.). One can sometimes just keep increasing the speed at which these apps generate Morse Code as ones proficiency adapts.

For apps that support Farnsworth timing, you can first increase the dot speed by a few WPM, and then later increase the word speed by smaller WPM increments. Some apps allow one to use a custom limited character set, so you can start at a higher WPM with just a few letters, and the gradually add new characters as your accuracy catches up.

Sometimes, just increasing a minimal number of things (maybe learning just a couple letters at a time at a new faster WPM, or just a couple whole words, or just trying a higher dot speed at a much slower character WPM) can help one get past a WPM hurdle, better than trying to copy everything faster all at once. These things are easy to modify with many of the Morse code software applications. Don't just try one same method (even if it has a name: Koch, Farnsworth). Try varying different things in what you change and practice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Disclaimer: MorseTest in the iOS App Store (my app) does exactly the above. Also the MorseWords iOS app is free. $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Jan 7 '14 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ This does not really provide an answer to the question, however. The question asks for methods to get above a speed plateau, and those methods may or may not be practiced using computer software. Can you edit your answer to suggest technology-agnostic approaches to attaining the desired goal, perhaps exemplifying with software that implements them? (Also, it's perfectly all right to mention your own products if they are relevant to the question at hand. See What kind of behavior is expected of users?, specifically Avoid overt self-promotion.) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 7 '14 at 12:50
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I have a couple of CW Morse code trainer Android apps that are perfect for a beginner. One is a CW Koch Morse code trainer that includes CW abbreviations and prosigns and includes interfaces for both RX and TX, the other is a Morse code practice oscillator with straight and iambic keys that translates into English and CW prosigns as you practice. Both apps are available on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore. You may find more information on these webpages:

http://www.kg9e.net/apps/AmateurHamRadioMorseCodeTrainer/

http://www.kg9e.net/apps/AmateurHamRadioPracticeKeys/

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a pecuniary interest in the above referenced apps.

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i like QRQ (Mac) or RUFZ (Linux) - and whilst they are both designed for high speed CW contests - they are adaptive. You get the call sign correct it goes faster, get it wrong and it goes slower... Which is just what the poster requested.

It does however assume that you know the code already - there is no punctuation in it (except '/') and there are also no prosigns (SK, AR, CL, KN etc).

Very addictive - with each set of 50 calls taking < 5 mins. I try and do 1 or 2 rounds when I have a few minutes spare.

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For a new look at this subject, see the article WORDSWORTH in the May,2017 issue of QST page 74. The thesis is to learn whole words at a time by listening at speeds at least 5 wpm beyond your capability and having long spacing between words. The tool to use is the software Data Mode program FLDIGI.

I have been using a word-list '100 Most Common Words' extracted from G4FON's tutorial program and an inter-word spacing of 8 characters.

There is no one method that works for everyone but this could the method that is YOUR Silver Bullet. Give it a try.

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  • $\begingroup$ The iOS app MorseWords randomly plays 250 common whole words at an adjustable (Farnsworth) WPM. Disclaimer, it's my app, but it's a free app. $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Sep 16 '18 at 19:46
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Anyone wanting to either learn CW --or improve their skills-- would do well to download The Art & Skill of Radio Telegraphy. It contains powerful incentives and methods to learning it. It's a masterpiece!. I printed and bound all 60+ pages; however, you don't really need to read all of it to benefit and be highly motivated and excited about it!

After the original page disappeared, I made it available at http://www.w0btu.com/links.html

Whatever you do, DON'T learn the code by memorizing the printed dots and dashes, or you'll have to re-learn it all over again in order to actually use and enjoy it! Learn the SOUNDS.

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Use it everyday. The secret is to forget the magic. Practice or use will always make you better. However, I would not concern myself too much with speed . Readability always wins out. Speed is incidental. The two guys who won't work you because you are too slow will never be missed in the log anyway.

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In my experience teaching several students new to Morse Code, the fastest way to increase receiving speed is by sending more. This seems to build up students' sense for words rather than just for letters and tends to lead more naturally to a sense for phrases and sentences.

Since it seems too great an additional burden for students to compose in their heads the text to be sent, I have them open a familiar book or magazine and just start sending the words as they read them. The most frequently used words soon start to flow as whole units. Once they get up to about 10WPM, I have them begin sending material out of their heads, alternating back to printed material as necessary.

At about the 15WPM level, I have them listen to individual 35-40WPM words. It surprises them how quickly they're able to pick up words at these much higher speeds, gives them confidence and inspires them to use what they have learned on the air.

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