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Thread: How long to learn Morse code?

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Posted: 2021-11-02 01:47
I thought I was doing ok at learning this until I saw a YouTube video that said you could learn all the letters in about 1 week then be able to send/receive at 10-15 wpm by about 1 month. I am at this for about 1 month now and am on lesson 15 still trying to distinguish "P" and "Z". I have my settings on 30/3 and sometimes have trouble keeping up. I thought I would be able to increase speed after I got all the sounds learned. Do you think my particular brain just can't learn this. I want to learn this for the sake of its tradition, history in ham radio, and beauty.

Posted: 2021-11-02 02:39
Bruce Lee said "believe half of what you see, and nothing of what you hear". Youtube is not Gospel.
Mozart might have said you can compose music when you are 5 years old. You can see many postings by the forum's knowledgeable CB. His observations are better than Youtube. If you are practicing correctly and regularly, you should make forward progress - that's all that matters. Some are more fortunate than others, but that has no impact on you, so don't get distracted or discouraged.

30 is likely unnecessarily aggressive for a beginner - some have posted that 20 is more than adequate. You might want to drop to 20 and see if that lets you pull up the 3 which is a must.

There is no ONE way, find what helps you. Mix code groups and words; short and long groups etc.
Variety so you don't get bored and quit from frustration. Must good skills take time and effort.

73 wa2nfn

Posted: 2021-11-02 03:52
WA2NFN Thanks for your answer and words of encouragement. I started off my lessons at 25/5 and raised the speed up to 30 after some people told me that I only want to hear a sound not dits and dahs. So I think I will try to lower the character speed down to 25 or 20 and see if I can increase my actual speed. I'd really feel like I was making progress if I were to get to 10 wpm. Do you think I should learn all my characters before increasing speed or should I speed up now?

Posted: 2021-11-02 06:46
Hi Stephen.

I went through all lessons in exactly 3 months. First at 20/5 and then finished the last 10-12 lessons at 20/4. I felt I was counting dit and dahs, but kept trying hard not to. Even much later at speeds of 22/22 (real CW), I had the sensation that my brain was counting, checking and rechecking. Maybe I am a slow student, but you have to keep pushing yourself, and at around speed 26/26 something interesting happens. The CW begins to feel slower somehow. You start perceiving some short words just instantly without thinking about it. The hard part at this point is to let go of thinking. Like it is another part of the brain taking over.
So at first you put a lot of effort in learning CW, and later you have to let go, and start the process of forgetting it again. The unconscious mind must take over.
After a few years of daily training, I’m now rag chewing at speeds up to 30wpm with a paddle, and up to 20wpm with a straight key (in danish).
But it is a long road to get there. Just keep at it. Don’t give up. You will have longer tedious periods without progress, but trust me, your brain is still learning.

Just my experience.

73 de OZ1SPS

Posted: 2021-11-02 15:36
Sebastian - 3 months is quite quick!

My experience:

I've been hacking away at this for years - I'm now on to lesson 33 and progressing fine. I've done most of it at 20/15.

I'm now confident that I'll get to the end - at points I wasn't as confident, but over the course of the lessons I've done so far I have come to appreciate that at times I will become stuck and things will go slowly, at other points things will go faster.

I suspect that if I'd tried learning at (say) 12wpm or 13 wpm (the old test speed here in the UK) I might well have done it quicker, but I wanted to end up at 20wpm (or so), so it made more sense (to me) to start there, rather than have to re-learn.

So I would heartily agree that you should ignore youtube! Don't give up!

Posted: 2021-11-02 18:19
Hi Stephen,

There is lots of good advice in this forum from experienced cw-operators. I can give you my 2 cents (not experienced and still learning):

I am new to cw, and worked my way from august on to lesson 40 last week. My speed is 12/6 but hey, next week 12/7 :-). Started the course with 20/10 but slowed down after lesson 10 or so because I really was not progressing any more..

For me part of the fun is making a little progress every week. 12/6 worked fine for me during the rest of the lessons. Every week a couple of new characters. In the next month(s) I hope to increase my speed a bit so I can start practice keying with some local operators!

Again, this is how it works for me. I don't think your brain can't handle cw, just find your own way and balance in progressing.

Keep it up and 73's, Mark (PA3HTZ)

Posted: 2021-11-04 19:47
Just in case anyone is interested this is how long it has taken me (over 50, busy with job, children etc) so far practicing 15-30 minutes a day.

Complete lesson 40 at 20/8: 2.5 Months

Increase speed from 20/8 to 25/12 to 14/14: 3.1 Months

After completing the first 40 lessons I did the CW Academy basic course which was an hour of practice per day and I increased from 8WPM to about 12WPM during the course.

Posted: 2021-11-05 13:57
"I thought I was doing ok at learning this until I saw a YouTube video that said you could learn all the letters in about 1 week then be able to send/receive at 10-15 wpm by about 1 month."---KK7ASP - Stephen Palumbo

How Long? I have been practicing for 4 years.
I liked what Mark wrote:
"For me part of the fun is making a little progress every week."

Stephen, messages like you cited in that big promise, as far as I can tell, are massive exagerations. There is always someone it seems who wishes recognition as a kind of "Glory Boy" who promises The Impossible Dream. Such claims do attract attention.
I know it took me about 9 months to learn all the numbers and letters and then I began on punctuation.
My initial learning speed was 3/3 with some YouTube pages similar to this:

When people propose that faster learning is possible, they sometimes write or speak as though they were giving some kind of "universal truth". Then again, there are people who absolutely love throwing up barriers to other persons. After all, if other people can be discouraged from trying, it further ensures the advisor's "elite status" as someone in possession of a unique gift. Otherwise, the people making big promises such as cited in the original subject, are mostly irrelevant. A person can do what they are capable of, and promises and advice that people learn faster, in no way dictates that learning occurs at a faster rate.
I might add that in some contexts, people have a strange habit of being "highly accomplished" in something, and that is used to suppose that the individual is then a kind of Superhero Authority on all things, doling out advice like some kind of "guru". That shows a distinction between what someone else says, and what you and I can actually do.
I think we can enjoy our activities much more, if we can relax, and begin where we are, without worries about "how fast". There are very few Bucky Beaver Badges being awarded in the "real world". In short; "We practice...we get better".
For myself, I do not require nor expect another person's approval. Of course, if people were awarding me with a Bucky Beaver Badge, I might follow advice, but for the moment, I find that being "cheered on" does not help, and I am satisfied with daily progress.
Only one number matters to me, and that is the number that I am able to effectively learn at.

Posted: 2021-11-05 14:40
Yeah, that target of sending/receiving 10-15 wpm in a month seems pretty unrealistic. It took me 4 weeks to get through all the lessons at 20/10, and I was spending a decent amount of time on it (maybe 30-60 minutes/day). I moved up pretty much immediately when I was >90%, unless I had only done the lesson < 5x in which case it was likely a fluke.

My concern with doing 25 or 30 wpm was that I'm not really shooting to go that fast and it'd lengthen the learning process. I figure the speed will come if I end up sticking with it and want to go faster. At some level I may have been counting, but it works its way into subconscious processing with repetition.

One interesting thing is that even though I could copy fine at 20/10, I could not copy very well at all at 10/10. I was so used to hearing 20wpm and then having time to think about it in between letters. On the air, (I'd imagine) folks aren't sending with Farnsworth spacing, so I'm trying to get rid of it and get my true speed up. So I've been practicing that in addition to ramping up the Farnsworth speed. I'm up to 20/15 on mixed now, and 15/15 with letters only, about 8 weeks at this point.

Like other said, whatever helps you have fun and make progress is the way to go. I'd play with whatever timing works for you, so you can get through a lesson every day or two and feel like you're making some progress!

Posted: 2021-11-05 19:09
I started this training off at 25/5 and could not keep up. At some point, on someone's advice I moved it up to 30/5 and still could not keep up. I wanted to totally eliminate any counting dits and dahs. This didn't work so then I moved it to 20/3 and have made progress at that speed through several lessons. I am coming up to about 1,000 repetitions and am still only on lesson 16. Do people in the forum think I can continue, sticking with 20/3, and pick up the necessary speed after learning all the characters?

Posted: 2021-11-05 20:31
Hi, I am also still learning, on 10th month. And after all LCWO lessons, CW Ops Beginner and Intermediate course, and 1 hour training almost every day, I am still not comfortable at 15WPM on air. While someone else might we well ahead, and someone else again well behind. It is so individual...it is impossible to compare with another person. From the "experience" I have with skilled CW operators from my mentors at CW Ops, you seem to do the right thing now. CW Ops suggest 20-25 on char. speed. For the reason mentioned, to get the sound - and not count or build a look up table which later will have to be "de-learned".

I used your current tactic. Keeping at 20 WPM char. speed, and was in 3-4 WPM effective. From time to time, after 4-5 new lessons, I tried to push the effective speed a bit up, 5-6-7-8 as far as you can handle. Than I added a new lesson, and if needed moved down in speed until I could cope again (perhaps back to 3 again). So my effective speed was up and down often, but char.speed set to 20-25 WPM. Do not rush adding new lessons even if you are at 90%. I think I sometime waited a week at the current lesson, to make sure they slowly moved to long term memory.

I could really recommend the CW Ops Beginner. I joined that after I had almost done the 40 lessons here. It was a fantastic motivation to meet others, and get a professional mentor to help me along the way to the first QSO on air. It's free, and has two Zoom meetings weekly for 8 weeks.

It might take a while, but never stop with daily training, from 1 minute (!) to 1 hour when possible, and don't forget that two 15 minutes sessions is much better than one 30 minutes session. Perhaps use 5 minutes of your lunch break, if possible?
Good luck, you are doing great and will succeed! :)

Posted: 2021-11-05 20:47
I started this training off at 25/5 and could not keep up. At some point, on someone's advice I moved it up to 30/5 and still could not keep up.

if you can't keep up with 25/5 (yet) then 30/5 will be even worse. . .


I wanted to totally eliminate any counting dits and dahs.

good - but you can still count at whatever speed you can hear


This didn't work so then I moved it to 20/3 and have made progress at that speed through several lessons. I am coming up to about 1,000 repetitions and am still only on lesson 16. Do people in the forum think I can continue, sticking with 20/3, and pick up the necessary speed after learning all the characters?


Best to just get through the lessons with the char speed 15-20.

Slow the overall speed whilst you get through learning the characters


practice practice until it becomes a sub-conscious reaction . . .
. . . hear code -> char pops into your head as if by magic

Then worry about speed.

Don't keep changing looking for an easier way.

Don't worry about how fast anyone else learned code.

Don't worry about how fast anyone else can decode


Just get through the lessons before you get fed up with it.

YMMV etc of course.

Maybe you need knew headphones, a new chair, a quiet new shed at the bottom of the garden . .

We can't say about any individual . .

But probably you just need to accept that it's just not as easy as you were lead to believe
( and maybe you are doing quite well in normal terms )


Posted: 2021-11-05 21:39

Some people DO learn morse to 25/25 wpm in a few weeks.

Not many, but some.

Some people learn morse in a couple of weeks, but have to think about (manually) decoding every char every time, and can keep up with that for a few minutes at least.

These two groups are newsworthy.

Most people ( 99% ( I'm guessing here, but you get the idea ) ) are in neither of those two categories and have to be a bit more realistic about their aptitude, though of course there is a very broad range here.

Aptitude is even more important than hard work and dedication for . . .
. . . almost everything skilled.
- but for repeated action type skills, dedicated hard workers can catch up quite well

Head copying morse is a multi skilled skill.

You have to be thinking about the content once you have decoded the chars,
piecing it together and interpreting it.

This is one reason why 40 lessons don't always translate straight away to QSOs

To make head copy easier you need to be decoding automatically, by reaction,
which means you need to decode based on the sound of the character ( or whole word )
pictorial ways to learn morse don't help much on the road to copying in your head.


If you want to do a youtube - and don't know about head copy, you think that just knowing what each character is in dots and dahs means you "know" morse,
. . which it is for the purposes of one youtube, boy scout badge, yacht skipper etc

LOTS of people can remember all that stuff in a week from some tree chart or other, or hint words which sound like a morse character, or just repeating it over from the card
- but that is very different even to hearing it at 20/20 and writing it down, with added prosigns.

A good technique to pick up for QSO world is to listen for the first two chars, to give you tone timings and and sender straight key characteristics -like varying gaps.
Once you decode the first two - often the others follow.

Other people can manage to read a few letters then guess the next letters and think that that means they are decoding.

Whilst we all do that - sometimes guessing wrong and really getting mixed up,
it's not the same as decoding all the code,
which is why random sequences are better - even if the "paris" timing gets thrown out and worries people that they aren't really 20/20 etc


to head copy at speed or for any time - you ( really ) need to decode the chars automatically in your head ( which you achieve by LOTS of repetition, not one youtube ), preferably as a stream of letters numbers prosigns
concentrate only on assembling the letters etc into meaning (whilst simultaneously also receiving the next characters).

Learning to do these things together is not a trivial exercise, or (for most of us) a two month project.

Commercial and military operators just have to decode and type into the mill or write it out.
This doesn't mean they can't head copy - but letter accuracy is everything - speed isn't.

How fast could you write a Telegram with 100% CERTAIN accuracy?

For a TEST or normal QSO it's not so bad once you get started - anything difficult or different is repeated - often lots of times, ( call signs, OP name, QTH )
which might show you how good some people really are - because QR[M|N] QSB doesn't just affect those words
most of the rest is your (probably inaccurately 599) report etc TNX FER QSO DR OM FB etc

Better not to worry about speed at first.

Various things conspire to slow you down - in no particular order of significance

fatigue - a day's work or 15 mins of concentration on lessons
worrying about age
not being relaxed
being too relaxed
stopping breathing because the noise stops you decoding = fatigue again probable
not concentrating
concentrating too much - kids learn whilst half concentrating then thinking about something related then concentrating again - but they remember between concentrations. they then think about it again a few mins later whilst trying to fit it into their view of the world
audio problems - listening too loud/quiet, too much background noise, wrong audio frequency for you ear's unique response.

I expect hardly any of the "learn morse code in a week" brigade know anything about this . .
. . . apart from the very few with high aptitude - but they aren't giving advise - they are telling what they did without more than a few day's effort.

Very big YMMV - specially the second to last bit - we are all different


Posted: 2021-11-05 21:51
Do you think my particular brain just can't learn this.



I want to learn this for the sake of its tradition, history in ham radio, and beauty.

Excellent sentiments - it's kept alive ( in the west anyway ) by HAMS but they don't own it.

You might add:- for passing useful information, like hello how are you? are you in trouble ?
. . . which only needs a torch or just the sun and a small (plastic) mirror - one of which which I always carry in my wallet .

Personally I think everyone should learn it - so we can still communicate after the computers stop working . . .


Posted: 2021-11-28 00:02
Simplemente intenté disfrutar del aprendizaje, todo lo demás llegara.

Posted: 2021-11-28 00:16
You can write a book, make some electronic device, a painting or whatever like a transceiver, It will be still there when you passed away, but learning morse code will disappear the moment you die.

Posted: 2021-11-28 02:44
"I want to learn this for the sake of its tradition, history in ham radio, and beauty."----KK7ASP

Stephen, that is a most commendable, and admirable motivation.

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