I have wanted to learn morse code for some time, and now I have eventually commit myself to it. Things are going surprisingly fast, and that gives me courage to continue practicing.
Flip cards do not work
Many have said it before: Flip cards or memorizing dits and dahs do not work. Before reading any advice on how to learn morse code I purchased a set of morse code flip cards off Ebay. I thought it was brilliant – I practiced everywhere and every time I had the chance. After a while I had learned the entire alphabet and all the numbers.
Then I came across Learn CW Online (LCWO). It revealed that I had no clue at all. Even though I had been humming the sounds while shuffling through the pile, I was unable to receive any morse at all. I had to turn the speed down to almost nothing to catch up. The practice I had done was in vain. So I gave up, so to speak. For several months I left morse code.
Starting from scratch with the Koch method
LCWO uses the Koch method to teach morse code. I had read about that online after purchasing the cards, but not tried it. The principle is easy: Learn two characters first and add one more at a time when you can resolve 90% or more. The characters are played in groups of five. This is the tried and trusted method for learning morse code.
Recently I started practicing again, with new found hope and ambitions. -This time using the Koch method on LCWO. I practice with high character speed – 25 WPM, but with longer pauses between the characters. Effective speed is only 7 WPM. That gives me enough time to recall which character I hear, but not enough time to think about dots and dashes. All I hear is the rhythmic sound of each character. This is what you should aim for.
Practice makes perfect
The Koch method works great. By now I have learned the sound of 15 characters, and it has only been a week since I started. This weekend I did not practice at all and I had to pay for that when resuming after the weekend. Just look at the drop in the middle of the graph below, what happened to my stats when I stopped practicing for a couple of days. I even had to go back a couple of steps to continue my progress.
When I practice twice a day, even if it is only for five minutes, I don`t forget the characters between sessions. I can continue right where I left.
Reset the brain with Morse Machine
Some times after practicing for a while, nothing makes sense anymore. I cannot tell the characters apart and everything sounds like a mess. Then I “reset” my brain with the “Morse Machine” on LCWO. It plays one character at a time, and when you give the correct answer it plays the next. Somehow this method is useful for getting back in the flow. After a minute or two with the Morse Machine I can return to the Koch Method.
Practice sending later
They say you should learn to receive morse code before you learn to send morse code. So I do that. I have not even tried to send morse code yet. But it makes sense – it should be fairly easy to learn sending after learning to receive morse code. I am determined to learn this art, and have ordered an iambic key for my Yaesu FT-818ND. As soon as I master the art of receiving I will start to practice sending as well.