Learning Morse code? Want to increase your skill?

Are you looking for some aids on learning Morse code, or to increase speed and skill? Let’s look at some great information and some software aimed at making your efforts successful.

(Note: I am not associated with any of the software. I just want to help you…)

I encourage you to look at the time-proven Koch method of learning Morse code. Below, we’ll look a little closer at this method of learning and honing your Morse code skill.  In the meantime, if you just wish to skip the details, here are some software links for learning tools using the Koch method:

+ For the PC, I prefer the G4FON Morse code ‘Koch Trainer. It is a slick program that is set up to help you learn and enhance your skills with Morse code:  http://nw7us.us/g4fontrainer – and his web site is at: http://www.g4fon.net/

G4FON Koch Trainer - Morse code learning on the PC

G4FON Koch Trainer – Morse code learning on the PC

+ For the iPad and iPhone: On these devices, I use the ‘Koch Trainer’ by Nick / N3WG, found in the store here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/koch-trainer/id405137883?mt=8

+ For the Android: I use the same software as for the iPad and iPhone, the ‘Koch Trainer’ by Nick / N3WG, here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.n3wg.kochtrainer – however, note that it is not compatible on the S4.

+ Some other Android possibilities that I have not tried:

Again, I have not tried those last few.

Now, let’s talk about the Koch Method of Morse code training!

From my page on the Koch method (text was used by permission from the author):

Koch’s method is a simple, direct way of building reflexes. However, it requires either a computer and Morse software or a personal trainer. That’s why it was overlooked for so many years. Now that computers are commonplace, it should become the standard Morse training method. Here’s how it works:

You start out by setting up your computer (or a microprocessor-based code tutor machine) to send you Morse characters at 20 wpm and at an overall sending speed of at least 15 wpm. You then get out your paper and pencil and have the machine start sending — but only two characters. That’s right, for your first sessions, you’ll only have two choices. Copy on paper for five minutes, then stop the machine and compare what you copied with what the machine sent. Count characters and calculate your percentage of correct copy.

If your score is 90 percent or better — congratulations! You just learned your first two characters, and, importantly, you learned them at full speed. You’ll never have to learn them over again. If you didn’t make 90 percent, practice some more. As soon as you can copy the first two characters with 90 percent accuracy, add a third character to your practice. Your accuracy will drop as you work on assimilating the new character, but it will rise again to 90 percent or better. Then you add the fourth character, and so on.

This method does not allow you to build that lookup table in your brain. To copy at full speed, you must build the reflexes in order to achieve 90 percent accuracy. And that’s what you’re spending your time doing — building reflexes. Think of it as a parallel to perfecting a tennis swing or mastering a gymnastic routine; you’re practicing until you get it right. The Koch method of building code proficiency character-by-character is similar to standard methods of teaching touch typing, another skill that must be reflexive.

While the Koch method is the fastest method of Morse training, speed alone is not its principal advantage. Its principal advantage, and a major difference from other methods, is that it provides you with constant positive reinforcement. This begins with your realization, after mastering the first two characters, that you can copy code at 15 or 20 wpm, because you just did it. After that, each new character mastered is further proof of your progress. Contrast that to slowly trying to build speed up from 4 or 5 wpm, then hitting the plateau at 10 wpm and seeing no progress for a long time. With the Koch method, frustration is at a minimum.

Constant testing is necessary to ensure that you maximize the effectiveness of the Koch method. You must copy on paper, so you can grade yourself. Remember, if you score 90 percent accuracy or better, add another character. If you score any less than that, try again. By constantly testing yourself on continuous copying of at least five minutes, you know exactly how you’re doing and exactly when you should add another character. This results in the fastest progress possible.

As you proceed toward your goal, remember that some days are just going to be better than others and some characters will take longer to assimilate than others.

(Read the entire article: the Koch method).

Again, here’s the PC software link: http://nw7us.us/g4fontrainer

And, here’s a web-based way to learn Morse code.

Good luck! If you have questions, please share them – I’m @NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to 'CQ Amateur Radio Magazine', and 'The Spectrum Monitor' magazine.

5 Responses to “Learning Morse code? Want to increase your skill?”

  • Steven KC0SEB:

    Thanks for the helpful information. I keep tossing around the idea of learning morse code. It’s good to do things to challenge your mind.

  • John N8ZYA:

    Ditto….

  • Gurbux Singh W6BUX:

    Good suggestions in this posting and hope it produces more CW lovers.
    I for one still feel that good sending is very important as it requires knowing Morse Code and sending it without hesitation or thinking of individual characters. 60 years ago my father started me on learning code and he gave me a straight key hooked up to a muffled bicycle horn so as to not disturb anyone. For some time all I had to do was keep sending paragraphs from Reader’s Digest and my skill slowly but surely improved. My father said by learning to send requires you to know the alphabet and how each letter and quotation mark sounds in Morse and not memorize the dots and dashes. He was right and it was quite difficult at first. I enjoy code very much and unfortunately don’t devote as much time as I should and it shows in my erratic sending. Can still copy fast code that is prevalent on the HF bands. I grew up in Rangoon, Burma and there were no radio shops of any kind and that is why we had to improvise with the bicycle horn. 20 WPM with the straight key was no hurdle. Enjoy learning a different language called Morse.
    73, Gurbux

  • Luc ON7DQ:

    This is a good site too : http://aa9pw.com/morsecode/ , nothing to install and generates many different kinds of practice code.

  • John AJ1DM:

    I highly recommend HQX Morsetraining, provided by the Helvetica Telegraphy Club (HTC: http://www.htc.ch/index.php/en/). It can be downloaded for free at http://www.htc.ch/index.php/en/downloads/viewcategory/41-morsetrainer . It is very flexible, allowing you to choose random character groups, call signs, random text selections, etc., displaying errors if you copy via the keyboard. HQX also supports Farnsworth and Koch methods, though by the time I had discovered HQX I had already learned my letters, numbers, and punctuation, so have never used those techniques with this program. HQX also administers a cw exam, using random number groups, simulated qso’s, random character groups, quotations and call signs. The HTC offers pins (for a very nominal fee) for those who complete the exams at 16, 20 and 24 wpm with specified accuracy. Using HQX has improved my speed and confidence, making my cw qso’s much more enjoyable. Can’t recommend it enough.

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