Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Learning morse code (what?!?!?!)


Yes Rick you bare absolutely right. Another seniors moment here! It did seem a long time for proficiency.

Now let’s see, 26 letters plus 10 numbers plus say 10 punctuation thingies, say 46 characters to learn. If there are 5 characters per word that’s about 10 words. That’s only 1 minute of sending at 10 wpm. Receiving each character 10,000 times therefore requires no more than 10,000 minutes not 10,000 hours. That is only 167 hours, if I haven’t made another blunder. Of course as speed builds up time reduces so 150 hours should be enough.

My 500 hours makes me look pretty slack, which is probably accurate.



I think the theory is 10000 hours, but it is contentious.

This article is not about Morse, but it explores some of the same ground…



Hi Tasos,
Memory training experts push the idea of hooks for information to be connected to.

For CW getting a hook with the right sound and rhythm may take a bit of imagination. Pick on the characters that are troublesome. Think of a hook that has the right sound and has a sort of logical connection to the character.

For example,

So “K” which is sent at the end of a transmission might be “Bye de Bye” or Dadidah.

M for “mum” in two syllables as in “Mu um” or dadah.

R could be “a rabbit” as in “a rabb it” or didadit

U is you, with a stutter yh yh ooo or dididah

This might help, at least in the short term until the sounds start to stick.

Keep practicing, you will get there.



[quote=“G4AZS, post:82, topic:10046”]but it is contentious.[/quote]The number’s suspiciously round, whatever the units, for a start, which reminded me almost instantly of Terry Pratchet’s running joke “Million-to-one chances come up nine times out of ten!” - http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Million-to-one_chance :wink:

Oh, and of course TV Tropes also has opinions on the matter too - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MillionToOneChance :wink:

73, Rick M0LEP (heading off at tangents since who knows when…)


I know the purists won’t like this, but there is a simpler way. Sure, it won’t get you up to useful conversational morse, but hopefully won’t demotivate people to the point of giving up either.

This is a straight forward process to get to the point of being able to chase and activate CW SOTA.

  1. Learn the alphabet - G4FON, Justlearnmorsecode, LCWO, whatever. Listen to CW activations in progress (even if you’re not reading it, background listening is good too).
  2. Use RuFZ to practice receiving call signs - very effective. Listen to CW activations in progress…
  3. Do a HF CW SOTA activation. Whatever speed you like, my first was at 10wpm. You are the DX, everyone will cooperate with YOU (if they want to get worked). Oh, and listen to CW activations in progress etc…
  4. Repeat 2 and 3.

Motivation is the key element. With it you will make progress, without it you won’t. That’s why I avoid the “practice practice practice” mantra of some Victorian school teacher, and stick to enjoyable rewarding learning activities. RuFZ is fun and rewarding because it cleverly adjusts itself to your current ability and clearly tracks the progress you are making. HF listening is fun, because it is our interest in that that got many of us into the hobby in the first place. And there’s no greater fun than actual SOTA activating is there?

Use a computer keyboard at stages 1 and 2 if at all possible. It makes the tracking and progress features work much more effectively, plus it supports your brains development to automatically know what it has heard without any conscious converting going on.


Aye, there’s a nail firmly hammered. :smile: Learning’s a lot easier when ithe process is interesting and/or fun, and a lot harder when it’s dull and/or tedious…

73, Rick M0LEP


I would have thought even in Victorian times the definition of practice both as a noun or verb would have been similar to what it is today:

practice as a noun:

the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

as a verb:

perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it.
carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

From the above I would deduce that you imply “practice” when you say:-

Victor GI4ONL


Aye, I suspect it’s a matter of disguise. It doesn’t feel like “practice” when it’s not dull and tedious.


I wouldn’t say being able to communicate through morse code is becoming a polyglot, as morse code is not a language but just a form of representing letters, numbers, etc.
An English say GM = Good morning but a Spaniard say BD = Buenos días and a French say BJR = Bonjour
Learning morse is equivalent to learning reading and writing text, just that.
Hams learn acoustic morse but we probably don’t understand flashing light morse, which is usually taught in the navy and used to communicate between vessels.
Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF


In English-speaking countries except the USA, the noun is “practice” and the verb is “practise”.


Walt (G3NYY)


I have been agonising for the past three hours whether my “practice practice practice” remark should have been “practise practise practise”. I still can’t decide. Even if you put it in the context of "The key to success is ‘practie practie practi*e’ ", it could still be meaningful either as a noun or a verb.

There’s no argument Victor, that any methods above will involve practising, in whatever guise. I just felt that some of the attitudes above were sounding a bit “hard line old school” and were going to put off more than they would motivate. It’s important to know that if you accept there will be limitations to what you will be able to do (which is fine if all you want to do is activate/chase SOTA), then there are faster and more enjoyable ways to reach nirvana.


Started learning CW in Aug 2013, first activation in Feb 2014 at 18wpm.
40min a day - everyday - in blocks of 15min. Self taught.
Koch method. Started with 18wpm character and 12 between characters.
Materials used,
The art of telegraphy - book
Just learnt morse sw and app for iPhone
Plenty of good advise has already been given through this thread.
K7QO material.
Contests, 100+500 most common words

Motto. 40min a day will give CW powers to most mortals!

73 Angel


Here the beatings will continue until all students copy 22 wpm 99% correctly. Then they will get a graduation certificate. Stick and carrot. Spare the rod and spoil the student.

Old school? Motivation by being gentle? Humbug sir humbug. Why in World War 2 we got the laddies trained quick smart using the methods that worked for WW1.

It’s a hard world out there. If I had had more discipline I would be well in front of where I am today. I had too much carrot and not enough stick.

On a more serious note, yes we do learn stuff we are interested in better, but most of us are not interested in the learning, only in the outcome. As Andy said we need a hunger to improve and to stay focused on our goal. There needs to be some pressure to work on learning. Some pressure goes directly to our reptilian brain and we respond, either by fighting or fleeing. Those who mutter about it all being beyond them are actually fleeing, in a manner of speaking.

An effective trainer needs to be firm and demanding as well as encouraging. He may not be liked as much as one who just encourages but he will be more effective.

For most of us the trainer for CW is us. We are too prepared to accept our own excuses to sneak off and do something else. More stick, less carrot.



Can only endorse the " More Practice " Message, i am told that every week by my long suffering instructor.

On a lighter note, more stick may not be the answer !



Be the Morse with you, padawan!


Obiguan Micky, I could have done with the force of a 3KW PA & 5-element beam at 40m to work EP6T & C5X this afternoon!:wink:


Works fine, until you crash and burn.

Now you could contribute that to “feeling”. But we are not machines. We are Human and we do experience emotion, no matter how cold we think we are.

It is far more complex then simply discipline, you need balance as well. Recreation has to provide a rewarding experience and that I believe that gives you the drive to concentrate and push yourself in areas which are difficult.

I actually find learning CW OK as it happens, there is no time pressure here. But when a process puts time pressure on learning something, that can have a negative “feeling effect”, I suppose the answer is to suppress it Ron. But you tend to become colder and that does catch up with you in a socialistic way.

I am talking from experiences in my education. I hate the system, and have always learned far more from private study. Balance is the key here, hence the 15 min rule that others have stated. Hunger to improve and self evaluation is the key to efficiency in the learning process, which ultimately makes you better.



I did a bit of google to find statistics per mode and whats the trend for CW.


Looks nice (for CW) but I bet the last 4 years that are missing will be getting mode data modes.
I logged into the club log site but I couldn’t find an easy way to get and updated chart.



Hi again Ricky,

In order to avoid doing something else I did a quick google on 10k repetitions for learning.

Well the story starts in 1993 when Professor Anders Ericsson published a paper on achieving excellence through deliberate practice or study. He suggested 20 hours a week, 50 weeks per year over 10 years could if properly structured make you an expert. This was taken up later by populist writer Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” as the 10,000 hour rule. Much to the annoyance of Ericsson he did not place much emphasis on the bit about directed study, measurement of progress, feedback and appraisal.

Sports specialists have latched onto to 10k rule. Certainly the best ones follow Ericsson’s findings with measurements, analysis and feedback. Timelines and both positive and negative rewards are included. That is a type of carrot and stick approach.

Some have opted for the 10 k repetition, goal kicking in football for example.

So my original 10k hours statement was correct but 10 k repetitions can be an alternative. ie 10 k hours of study, 10 k repetitions for physical activity. Neither is a golden bullet. They are indicators as to what is required for some levels of knowledge and for some activities. Natural talent, special physical attributes, superior intelligence etc can totally change the achievement rate.

The bottom line is that lots of practice is always required. It also needs to be structured. Review and assessment is necessary so your achievement or lack of it is plain. This helps in self motivation.



Well… See you in ten years then!! :slight_smile: