CW Learning Aids
Information on this page is provided by Brion VE3FUJ. Contact Brion at with any questions or comments.
Learning Aides can consist of many things, listening to W1AW, ( 3547.5, 7047.5, 14047.5 KHz or thereabout ), see http://www.arrl.org/code-transmissions for more info. Or to the Bands or what have you. A Code Buddy with a good fist is one other alternative, that requires some effort on the part of two individuals.
So what does One do? Using a Tape-deck and a turned down to Zero TX with a side-tone, or working into a "Dummy load" or for that matter a Code Oscillator, Using a book or other printed text that you don't have stored in your memory ( Brain ) tape it save it for a week or two or even longer, or till you feel you've forgotten it, then play it back and try to copy it. I can almost guaranty a surprise. It gives you a chance to hear yourself with out knowing what's coming (that is if you have forgotten the content? That's why printed material was suggested). It also gives you a chance to evaluate the code for spacing, character lengths etc. Just as if you were listening to someone else. It also allows you to make necessary changes to your sending, that may or may not be required. For extra convenience you could also use "Just learn Morse code". It's a down-loadable program that has many capabilities including generating Morse code from a text file, which you then can listen to and copy by whatever mean you choose. It can be found at http://www.justlearnmorsecode.com/download.html. Me I'm stuck using paper and pencil, I'm very slow at typing, and not very good at Head reading yet.
For another choice there is a Morse code translator to and from Morse code at http://morsecode.scphillips.com/translator.html.
I have also found that a Mechanical Metronome ($5 at a garage sale) or a Electronic Metronome (nearly any Music Store) is a great help in achieving correct spacing and character lengths, the Electronic Metronome is likely the best choice as the Mechanical one only goes to just over 200 beats per/min. which is not all that fast, about 50 dashes or a 100 dots a minute with a proper space. Set it for a comfortable speed and use 3 bts for a dash and l bt for space and dots etc., then try and send dashes that fits into that beat, changing the speed to suit the comfort level. Then change to dots and do the same.
Practice and tape it till it sounds right and follow the beat, then increase the speed slowly while maintaining the beat. Once your Ear gets used to the sound, your brain will try and maintain the character lengths and spacing, and will also maintain correctness even as your speed increases. Then tape yourself occasionally to keep your Ear satisfied. After a while it will become second nature and a habit, and be just as inherent in your sending as sloppy code is for others. I might add "any old habit is hard to break" including generating good code once learned.
A good comment from a Reader:
As a followup to my previous comments, here are some more thoughts others might find useful.
When learning CW, we often listen to nice, clean, pitch perfect code sent at a reasonable speed. This is nice and is a good pure learning method for getting comfortable with the code. However, unless you have a really good receiver and the sending station is strong, you will have to listen through some noise. The sooner you become accustomed to listening through the noise and even slightly (or maybe not so slightly) off tune CW, the sooner you will gain comfort in copying, either on paper or in your head. If any software you are using allows pitch variation and random levels of noise, use it. If any audio files you are using are clean, you should listen to them with some other noise in the background, like with the TV or broadcast radio on. Don't listen in a sterile environment, learn to copy as you expect "in the wild."
I remember when I operated at my first CW Field Day. The first thing I recognized was my academic level learning was only a start and that I needed to move away from the clean code, and work on listening as I expect to hear it - off pitch and in the presence of other noise.