Thomas Martin, DF7TV, Stuttgart, Germany.

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Morse Code Training (25+ wpm)

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Abstract

By the end of 2020 I felt comfortable at Morse Code speeds up to 28 wpm. I enjoyed conversational QSOs lasting 15 to 60 minutes at 28 wpm. Presented here are some of my experiments on exercises to get (1) to higher accuracy and (2) to higher speeds. Please keep in mind that I am just sharing my experiments and that the ideas presented here are not based on long-term experience.

Morse Code Training Setup DF7TV

One of the main ideas behind the exercises I am doing is to keep them as close as possible to a real-world QSO. During a conversational QSO you will not be reading your message from a screen or from a sheet of paper while sending. While receiving, you will not type a received message into a keyboard. The exercises presented here are mainly "audio-only" and seem to lead to improvements in Morse Code proficiency.

(Note: Presented here are some files and tools for exercises to improve Morse Code proficiency at speeds above 25 wpm. If you desire to learn the Morse Code or, if you already know the code and want to feel relaxed at higher speeds (up to about 25 wpm), I may recommend to sign up as a CW Academy[12] student. CW Academy is a program put on by the CW Operators’ Club (CWops) and offers excellent courses at four levels from Beginner to Advanced.)

How I have proceeded so far

  1. I fixed a mid-term goal to become comfortable at 35 wpm. As a long-term goal I would like to feel relaxed at a speed of 40 wpm in conversational QSOs. For both goals I think it is a good idea to have a safety margin of about 10% for the speed. So, to be able to work real-world QSOs in a relaxed manner at 35 wpm, I'll try to get comfortable at 39 wpm under the (ideal) exercise conditions.
  2. For receiving training I have chosen a fixed speed at about 15 wpm above my comfort level and started to listen to a file containing the most common 100 English words (see section "Lists of Words"). After a while I felt that I would like to increase the range of words, so I went to the 200 words file ...and so on.
  3. The speed for training receiving of words (Instant Word Recognition - IWR) will stay fixed at 45 wpm until the long-term goal is reached. My intention is to increase the range of the instantly recognised words (vocabulary building). For training sending I started at my comfort level and slowly increase the speed by steps of 1 wpm.
  4. During receiving and sending exercises, I only listen once to / send only once each word. If I miss one / send one not accurately - it's o.k. I am content to copy the words I get - or send correctly - and move on.
  5. When I go for a walk I listen to the "K-..." file (see section "Lists of Words") containing 2265 words (3 to 8 letters) as background sound. In that case I let repeat every word once after a short pause to have a second chance in the noisy city environment to copy words which to me are unfamiliar in Morse Code.
As you already know: The key to improvements in Morse Code proficiency is DAILY practice (QSOs) and/or DAILY exercises.

Lists of Words

To support the training of Morse Code at speeds above 25 wpm for receiving words (Instant Word Recognition - IWR) and for sending code at these speeds, randomized lists of common English words (txt-files)[1] are provided. These plain text lists contain up to 4000 words.

They are based on the vocabulary of "The New General Service List" (NGSL)[2] by Browne, C., Culligan, B. & Phillips, J. (2013) and of "The TOEIC Service List" (TSL)[3] by Browne, C., and Culligan, B. (2016). One of the goals persued during the creation of the NGSL was "...to create a list of the most important high-frequency words useful for second language learners of English, ones which gives the highest possible coverage of English texts with the fewest words possible."(NGSL)[2].

Number of Words in Files

Please note:

  1. All files, except files named "T-...", contain ONE WORD PER LINE.
  2. The files named "A-...", "B-..." and "C-..." contain increasing numbers of words according to their frequency.
  3. The files named "A-...", "B-...", "G-...", "K-..." and "T-..." are based on the NGSL list only.
  4. The files named "C-..." and "D-..." are based on a combination of the NGSL list and the TSL list.
  5. The files named "G-..." contain 200 words each. They are organized according to the range of frequency of words contained, as reflected in the names of the files (rank). The complete NGSL list (2800 words) is mapped onto the 14 "G-..." files.
  6. The files named "D-...", "K-..." and "T-..." only contain words of a certain minimum and maximum length (number of letters) as reflected in their names.
  7. Some of the files named "T-..." contain MORE THAN ONE WORD PER LINE as reflected in their names. The files named "T-..." are primarily used for training sending.

(If you like to modify these files or to build your own ones, an editor like Notepad++[4] by Don Ho with its column mode and powerful functions/plugins may be very helpful. Notepad++ is a Windows code editor. The files named "A-..." to "K-..." may be used with other Morse Code training software. They may be converted to Morse Code audio files with tools like ebook2cw[13] by Fabian Kurz, DJ1YFK)


Training Receiving Morse Code

Claus' Morse Trainer[11] by Claus Niesen, AE0S is an Android App suitable to train the receiving of Morse Code up to a speed of 100 wpm. The files named "A-..." to "K-..." of common English words (txt-files)[1] may be used as practice files in this App. These files contain one word per line. During the installation of the App a folder "Claus' Morse Trainer" containing practice files is created on the mobile phone - just store the txt-files in this folder.

During a training session I listen once to the code, try to copy the word as quickly as possible during a short pause, and then Claus' Morse Trainer will speak the correct word.

Here is a short recording of the output of Claus' Morse Trainer. Practice file is "A-100-WORDS-NGSL.TXT" at a speed of 35 wpm:


Training Sending Morse Code

To prepare for the (daily) training, a Morse Code Sending Practice Warm-Up file[9] may be used.

The file (e.g.) "T-3-TO-8-LETTERS-2256-WORDS-IN-2256-LINES-OF-1-WORD-NGSL", a file of the randomized lists of common English words (txt-files), may be used to train sending Morse Code.

Sending Morse Code may be improved by listening to a spoken word and then sending it. This can be accomplished by using a Text-To-Speech (TTS) program like Balabolka[5] by Ilya Morozov. Balabolka allows to save audio files in your preferred audio format (wav, mp3 etc.) and allows the insertion of pauses before each word (like in "AWFUL{{PAUSE=5000}}ENORMOUS" for a five seconds (5000ms) pause before the word "enormous"). As examples, input txt-files "DF7TV-T-3-to-8-Letters-2256-Words-NGSL-Balabolka-Input-Files"[6] (zip archive of txt-files) for Balabolka are provided, which include pauses. Audio files generated by Balabolka may be stored on your preferred playback device. In my case it is my mobile phone and the Android player App is Maple Player JB by SQR5.com.

Dual-Lever Paddle Handling

Audio files "DF7TV-T-3-to-8-Letters-2256-Words-NGSL-Spoken-WAV-Audio-Files"[7] (zip archive of wav-files) are provided (Please note: Size of this zip archive is about 150 MB). These audio files were created by Balabolka[5] Text-To- Speech (TTS) program. The Balabolka input files used are "DF7TV-T-3-to-8-Letters-2256-Words-NGSL-Balabolka-Input-Files"[6] (zip archive of txt-files). The files include long pauses foreseen to practice sending a word or a sequence of words just heard. If there are two or more words in a sequence, the words are separated by a short pause. It is recommended to first listen to a word or a complete sequence of words and then start sending.

During a training session I listen to a single word (or a sequence of up to four words) and, during a long pause, I try to send it (or them) as accurately as possible using my dual-lever paddle, electronic keyer and side tone oscillator (The Idiom Press (W9KNI, W7GH) Logikey Model K-5 keyer shown in the picture in section "Abstract" includes an internal speaker providing a pleasing side tone).

Here is a short sample audio file for single-word training. Words are separated by pauses of five seconds:

And here is a short sample audio file for training sequences of four words. Sequences are separated by pauses of twelve seconds, words by 300ms:


Extras

Reading Tip

Chuck Adams, K7QO (2013): "Using a Dual-Lever Paddle"[8] (Article retrieved May 1, 2021 from https://k7qo.com/)

After reading this article I decided to hone my handling of a dual-lever paddle in Iambic mode B and to profit from K7QO's hints. To support this extra training I prepared a simple sending course[10]. I started with lesson 1 and tried, for each of the five characters / ligatures of this lesson, to send it five times in a row without errors. Then I continued training for lesson 1 by exercises 1a and 1b. Then I went on to lesson 2 / exercises 2a and 2b and so on. The exercises "a" contain only characters / ligatures of the present lesson; exercises "b" additionally those of previous lessons.

To break the habit of moving the thumb or index finger away from the finger pieces of the paddle (see "Using a Dual-Lever Paddle"[8], pages 5 and 6), I initially had to reduce my usual sending speed by about 10 wpm. This was necessary to achieve an accurate sending while permanently keeping the thumb and index finger (strictly speaking: their fingertips) touching the finger pieces. After a complete run of all nine lessons of the simple sending course[10] I will increase the sending speed and restart at lesson 1. I think that K7QO's method leads to a more relaxed sending and supports a good (continuous and easy to copy) smooth flow of Morse Code.


Finally...

There seems to be no magic bullet for rapid improvements in Morse Code proficiency.
So I enjoy having QSOs and doing exercises presented here.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Keith Chambers, G0HKC and Chistian M Bravo, W4ALF for being my advisors in CW Academy[12] courses in 2020 and to Christopher Mason, G4UZE for proofreading of the August 2021 version of this page.

CU 73 Tom
CWops CWT Participation Award 2021 and HSC - Radio Telegraphy High Speed Club

References

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