Fall 2024 classes are being scheduled.

Overwhelming demand is determining the class schedules.

This Course is Designed for Those Currently Operating With at Least a Simple Presence On-the-Air, and Eager to Improve.

(See Course Requirements Below)

Table of Contents

The Comprehensive Instant Character Recognition (ICR) Course

Comprehensive ICR Course Skills

What is the Comprehensive ICR Course?

Sending From Your Thoughts

Reading With Your Ears

The ”Comprehensive ICR Course” stands alone in its pursuit of providing every CW student the opportunity to “Learn How to Learn CW.”  Having FUN and enjoyed the journey is emphasized.  It is comprised of a maximum of 10 students and becomes a safe and welcoming place to share your experiences and ideas as the group progresses together.  You will have a Code Buddy with whom you will actively participate outside of class.  The intent is for you to become self-sufficient in your future pursuit of the CW journey.  All the tools for learning are provided, and individual assistance is consistently welcomed.
The Comprehensive ICR Course is Modules-Based – leading you step-by-step through the process of reaching your CW goals.  The Modules are based upon student input and provide succinct instructions.
The course emphasizes ICR plus an additional set of necessary and complementary skills.  It is coached in a way that eases the plateaus and speed bumps associated with building CW proficiency while using Instant Character Recognition best practices. 
This class focuses on progressive skills; sending proficiency, building callsigns, words, phrases, and entire thoughts. It features a comprehensive approach designed to enhance and enrich one’s on-air experience.
This 10-week course with 2 sessions per week is a proven method for those wanting to move beyond decoding dits & dahs. You’ll learn to listen for and recognize the unique sound of each character instead of parsing dits and dahs. Instant Character Recognition (ICR) is the path to CW fluency.
Speaking (sending from thoughts) and listening (copying without writing) are coequal skills you will practice and learn in this ICR Course.
Morse code classes typically begin and end with a focus on listening for dit and dah sequences and decoding them. Learning the alphabet by unique character sounds leads to ICR and the skill of relaxed comprehension. It’s important to be patient with yourself and have fun as you follow the process.
Regardless of your CW interests and goals, ICR greatly enhances your ability to enjoy and converse with CW. Your proficiency with all types of Morse code activities will increase dramatically when you achieve ICR. When you can comfortably converse using ICR, you’ve arrived at the peak of CW fluency.

Why Instant Character Recognition (ICR)?

Simply stated, the pace at which you’re able to recognize characters is the pace at which you’re able to hear, use, and enjoy Morse Code. The slower the pace the more cumbersome CW becomes. ICR provides CW fluency and transforms Morse code into a new language for you.
Instant Character Recognition depends upon hearing each CW character as a single distinct unit of sound instead of dits and dahs. This means patiently learning the alphabet in a new way – by unique and distinct character sounds.
You think you know the alphabet but the slightest hesitation in recognizing even a few characters can wreck your ability to keep pace with the code. At a minimum, Instant Character Recognition with every letter of the alphabet is required.
Decoding dits and dahs is a conscious remembering process that takes a lot of effort and is slow. ICR is a subconscious knowing process that’s extremely fast and nearly effortless. You achieved ICR with spoken characters and words long ago. This ICR course focuses on achieving the same with Morse code.
Achieving Instant Character Recognition makes the sound of each Morse code character equivalent to the spoken character. ICR is naturally fast when you know character sounds instead of remembering dit and dah sequences.
The answer to “Why Instant Character Recognition?” is simple. With this skill, Morse Code transitions from a slow conscious recognition process to a very fast and nearly effortless subconscious recognition process. The goal is to understand what’s being communicated by simply listening.

The Steps and Skills to Master and Use ICR

  • On-Air Activity – Consistent presence on the air
  • Thought Sending (aka Head Sending) – Train to send from thoughts with consistent tempo, rhythm, and excellent word spacing with a primary focus on being understandable.
  • Instant Character Recognition (ICR) – Training to quickly recognize unique character sounds at character speeds of 27+wpm. This includes discovering and targeting troublesome characters that impede your progress.
  • Missing Fast! – This means recover from missed characters fast! Ignore misses and go with the flow.  If a character isn’t instantly recognized, let it go and listen for the next.
  • Intro to Words – Training to build words using familiar characters – spoken letters.  This separates the need to complicate word building during the ICR training process.  It prepares you for doing the same when ICR has been learned.  This step also includes training for copying short words, state abbreviations, etc.
  • Progressive Word Building – Training to build and comprehend words as CW characters within words are sent repeatedly and progressively beginning to end.  This includes callsign copy.
  • Word Comprehension – One pass copy – no 2nd chances. Miss it? Let it go. Focus on what’s next.
  • Intro to Phrases – Test and build your ability to comprehend thoughts by first listening to words and phrases spelled with spoken letters before listening to them spelled in Morse code
  • Progressive Phrase Building – Training to build and comprehend phrases in Morse code while hearing words sent repeatedly and progressively beginning to end
  • Phrase Comprehension – One pass copy – no 2nd chances. Miss it? Let it go. Focus on what’s next.
  • Train of Thought and Head Copy – Following the flow of thought.

Course Requirements

  • If you have made SKCC, POTA, SOTA, Slow Speed Test contacts you may be eligible for this class!
  • Ability to practice every day in multiple short 10-15 minute sessions
  • Have a ‘Code Buddy’ with whom you can practice regularly.  If you don’t already have a Code Buddy, you’ll have the opportunity to choose one.
  • Share your success and struggles with the team
  • Be understanding, kind, and supportive of all team members – 

(NOTE:  Find a Code Buddy who is approximately at your proficiency level.  This allows you to both grow through the Code Buddy experience.

Course Tools

  • Equipment for on-air operation – HF transceiver, antenna
  • Sending device – Straight key, bug, or paddle
  • High-speed Internet connection with ZOOM (on a Windows PC, Laptop, Tablet, Mac, etc.)
  • A webcam (a built-in microphone and camera or an external webcam plugged into a USB port)
  • Headphones or earbuds for video calls to prevent echoing
  • An audio recorder (a computer, a smartphone app, or any other preferred recording device that you’ll use to record your on-air and sending practice)
  • Practice Tool – Word List Trainer

ICR Hits and Myths

  • Hearing each CW character as a single unit of sound is the foundation of ICR. Hearing unique single character sounds is easier at fast character speeds.  The general  range when characters begin to have unique sounds is ~27-30 wpm or faster.  While the sounds of dits and dahs remain, Character Recognition causes those sounds to fade, while the overall “shape” or sound of the characters becomes prominent.  These prominent sounds then begin to combine into words and thoughts 
  • Comprehensive ICR is a suite of skills that, when combined, enables you to fully enjoy any type of CW activity: QRP, POTA, SOTA, contesting, DX, rag chewing, etc.
  • ICR is a skill set that all proficient CW operators eventually attain without a formal focus on learning ICR.  It is often attained over several years of operating consistently with CW.
  • With focused and consistent practice, the joy and gratification of CW is greatly enhanced, wherein comes relaxed comprehension. ICR requires patience, discipline, and a willingness to hear the alphabet by character sounds.
  • Instant Character Recognition is a single easily learned skill that will instantly maximize my CW proficiency.
    • Proficiency in all skills requires dedicated practice, patience, and consistent use.
  • I can use slow character speeds (10-20 wpm) to effectively learn ICR.
    • For dit and dah focus to be overcome by unique sounds,  the characters must take on the characteristics of single sounds.  This begins to occur ~27wpm.
  • I have no intention of getting on the air at those speeds, so why should I learn character sounds at 30 wpm? I won’t be able to copy slower speeds.
    • Learning to perform a skill at a high rate of speed doesn’t prevent you from performing the same skill at slower speeds.  The ability to perceive dits and dahs is not lost.