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

please note! this post will probably contain a lot of ‘justin bieber mama crying’!! :smile:

I though of learning CW and after reading some old posts here and on google I start doing the exercises on LCWO online.
I know that Im probably younger than the average ham in here (age 33) but my little brain started hurting on lesson 3-4 with 4 letters total!!! how do you train a relatively old dog this new trick!!! (maybe better learn quantum physics? :smile: lol)

I won’t give up that easy but even though I have a ‘good ear’ based on some tests/experiments I did for academic purposes it feels quite hard! (justin bieber crying…)

Ill stop whining and Ill ask a couple of questions!

  1. as the post I found were a bit outdated. what is the best way currently to learn morse code? (if only it was as easy as C++ code :wink: )

  2. any coders/IT/etc people with RSI, tendon issues etc etc etc? did CW with a dual-paddle thing got you in a bad trouble?

Best and 73s

People tell me that LCWO is the best but I currently prefer Just Learn Morse Code a Windows download.

Learning morse can be very hard going; it seems to depend on some sort of inate ability which I certainly lack.
I have given up in the past more times than I care to remember but am having yet another attempt.

Having not yet reached the end of the alphabet :frowning: I am not yet in touch with a key.

Good luck.

All you lack is enough hunger to succeed.



Google G4OFN, and download his software.

Unfortunately you will find that using “just learn morse code” which I was using. Doesn’t really help for use on air listening. As somebody said in the office this week “its not very realistic !”.

With that software you can change the SN ratio. As well as alter the spacing rate between characters. One of the most difficult areas I am finding especially with this weekends contest is how compressed spacing can be.

I would also add there is no use being able to “just” cope with 15 WPM. It is pretty useless. You need to be able to listen to 20 or above to be able to communicate effectively. At these speeds you begin to hear words. Its also useful to use the key and the software. I have gone right away to Iambic, the common notion is to use the straight key first. Just my observations anyway.

Its not difficult it just takes determination as Andy has already pointed out.


Not so IMHO. A good operator will slow down to whatever speed he / she is called at. I usually run at 18wpm, but call me at 5 wpm and you’ll get 5 wpm back. It is the same as being respectful to learner drivers. We all have to start somewhere.

73, Gerald G4OIG


I agree Gerald, When I finally do Tx I hope that happens to me. But when you are listening they wont slow down. I always believe in reserve capability.

But similarly, no one should be put off because you can not copy at those speeds (yet).



That’s why when I read that a chaser was asking an activator to QRS I was dumbfounded. All the chaser had to do was call the activator at the chaser’s comfortable speed and the activator would slow down anyway. No need to QRM everyone.

Tasos, don’t try too much at once. Just do 10-15mins learning/practice a night. Don’t over do it and do it every night. Keep on because you will find lots of occasions when you cannot get better and it seems pointless to continue. Just keep on practicing. Suddenly you will be past whatever was holding you back.

It’s a lot easier for someone young like yourself to learn. And, if you think C++ is easy then learning Morse is trivial. I’ve been using C++ since 1998 and I still have to sit down and concentrate when I see something using lots of templated code and overloading. Morse is much simpler.


The best way of learning Morse is the way that works for you. Trouble is, finding it may take some experimenting, unless, perhaps, there’s a skilled Morse teacher at an accessible club who can help.

I fell for the “Koch Method” hype, but every time I moved up a character it seemed I had to re-learn some or all of the previous ones in a slightly different way, so each stage took ages to get through, and the end of the course kept getting further and further away. Only took me two years (and a bit) to realise Koch really wasn’t working for me. I should have realised (and dumped Koch) much sooner…

The only program that makes a half-decent job of sounding like the Morse you’ll hear on-air is G4FON. Most of the Morse you hear on-air will vary in pitch, volume, speed, spacing, weighing and all the rest to some degree, while computer-generated Morse usually won’t. G4FON has a few options which cover some of that real life variability, but I got far more from on-air listening than from anything computer-generated, and mixed-mode on-air practice sessions are, for me, the best Morse classroom.

As for RSI, for me, using a straight key was agony, but an iambic paddle was usable.

Good luck.

73, Rick M0LEP

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Sorry to tell you this but it takes quite a long time to learn morse code, I would say it took me at least a year to get the alphabet stuck in my head . Trusting what you heard and making sure you forget trying for the letter you missed straight away and wait for the next letter is a big help. From my memory when I learnt code 36 years ago if I miss copied a letter it took 3 more after that to recover from thinking about the one I missed. I might be a bit slow but that was my experience so don’t expect to plug and play cw it does not happen for many of we mere mortals. If by chance you get to about 15 WPM by this time next year,throw the pencil away then learn to head copy asap its the only way to get on and increase the speed. A couple sessions a day, not very long is good too don’t bog down doing really long practice sessions you will go to sleep.
CW is probably one of the most useful tools in the Ham radio tool box, up there with a knowledge of electronics and other stuff we all dabble in. Good luck
73 de Ian vk5cz …

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yeap! quite confusing! :slight_smile:

Thank you all, it really feels that you need to spend a lot of time on it!

A year from now heh? :school:

Ill do my best and Ill also check the windows software.

G4FON, Justlearnmorsecode or lcwo - all good and will work. The thing that will make it work is actual listening. Do this as much as possible, to hf sota activations. GL.

Hi Tasos,

Yes, stick with it, as others have said.

To improve my speed I used CW_Player software from here:

I haven’t compared it with any other software, but I found it useful. You can’t beat listening on air, though :o)



I have taught a few people morse code and coached them for the exams in the past, but my brother made a set of tapes in the 70s and sold hundreds of them (in Australia). His approach was to divide the alphabet into groups of letters - in straight alphabetic order - and teach by repetition, in those groups. You wound the tape back to repeat the lesson. Lots of people learned successfully using those tapes. The principle was
Phase 1. learning what the letters sound like
a. hear the letter spoken
b. hear the sound sent several times.

Phase 2, trying to copy randomly chosen letters from that group, sent with wide spacing. You hear an unknown letter, followed by a pause where you try to identify it and write it down, then hear the spoken letter. This either confirms your decode, or contradicts it.

Repeat the group several times. When you have learned the first group (about 6 letters) well enough that you are confident of them, move on to the next group.

Koch method teaches simpler letters before complex letters. I believe that may work for some learners and not others.

The biggest problem IMHO is trying to go too fast when learning the alphabet, ie. moving on to new letter groups before existing ones have been learned fully. Then later the problem is not being prepared to listen to a speed you can’t copy. it is the only way to speed up, by listening even if you are only copying 50%. Tomorrow it will be 60%, etc. The same applies to learning how to send faster.

For some people the biggest problem is getting a key and practicing before they actually can receive reliably. But getting on the air and having some contacts, albeit painful, sometimes helps people.

But everyone is different and finding how each person learns is the “key” to success.

While it is accepted wisdom that listening to actual contacts helps, about half the morse I hear on the air is very poorly spaced and does not encourage learners because it is so poor.

Andrew vk1da & vk2uh

I can confirm from personal experience that it certainly did not work for me. :wink:

For me, it turned out the least unsuccessful approach was to learn the whole bally lot in one big hit, A to Z, 0 to 9, and the necessary punctuation, repeated in a predictable sequence (the best part of an hour (or one whole CD) long!) many times over. In retrospect, I wish I’d split it into chunks at different pitches and speeds, and included the important pro-signs, but that’s the benefit of hindsight…

Aye. (And I said “least unsuccessful” above because I know I’m not there yet. I beat my head against the Koch method for two years or so, when I should have looked for an alternative after six weeks because Koch was obviously not working out even then. Trouble was there were way too many folk out there saying that Koch was the One True Way and it would work if I kept at it, so I kept at it, and wasted about two years… )

…and that’s the reality of Morse as it’s used on air. It’s something you have to deal with. There’s some Morse that’s like clear type-set text, but much of it’s like hand-written text, and some of it’s just scrawl…

73, Rick M0LEP

Hi all budding key thwackers,

Andy made the most important points. You must want to learn. Then keep at it. 15 minutes once or twice a day most days is good. Discipline is required to keep to a schedule. Do not let tiredness or laziness get in the way. If you need motivation just look at how most SOTA contacts are made world wide - CW. What allows 5 W to sound like 100 W? CW. 1 W of CW will get most peaks activated easily enough even here in VK where SSB is the dominant mode. A 1 w transceiver is small light and does not need heavy batteries.

I learned the code as imaginary sounds - dit and dah - using letter groupings given in a 1920’s book.
While traveling on buses I mentally sent the words on roadside and shop front signs or the headlines of other peoples newspapers. Then when I started earning money I bought a key and buzzer and a 3 speed reel to reel tape recorder. I would send and record text and play back at normal or twice speed. Another CW challenged amateur would join me once a week for an hour’s practice sending to each other. Using the straight key was the only way to go as the Postmaster’s exam was done with a straight key. After 6 months i was copying about 50% at 18 wpm and so sat for the test at 14 wpm. I failed. 6 months later I had an HF receiver and a partly built AM rig for HF. I managed enough practice listening around to pass the next exam.

These days there is no exam so once you are receiving at say 10 wpm it’s a matter of having some contacts to get confidence, understand the procedures and polish up the sending and receiving.

Today I advocate starting with a paddle to send but only after you can receive at around 8 wpm. There are plenty of smart phone apps and on air signals to practice with.

The most important two things are:
One, practice, practice practice and
Two, learn to ignore any letters or numbers that you brain temporarily fails to decode. Just decode the next character. With plain text you can loose a letter or two and it still makes sense. As Ford Prefect said in the HGTTU “don’t panic”.

It has been said before but it is worth repeating. When you do go on air send at the speed you can readily copy at. All good operators will match your speed. I have only come across a couple who don’t. That’s when the question mark gets sent a lot. In extreme cases you just have to ignore them and work others.

When sending try and correct your mistakes. After the error signal send the whole word again and again, don’t panic. Correct and press on.

Having a prompt sheet with a fixed format is helpful when starting your SOTA CW career.

CW heaven is achieved when you can copy whole words as a sound and not need to write each letter as it comes. But you can still activate and chase before the heavenly state descends upon you.

Good luck.



Hi Ron, I think you have pretty much summed it up, the only thing I would add is don’t get trapped in the 5?9 style QSOs but get on air and make some “real” CW contacts. That way you will be able to read what is actually being sent rather than just your own callsign and reports.

Victor GI4ONL

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If you have not seen these documents yet, I would strongly recommend to have a look at “The Art & Skill of Radiotelegraphy” and “ZEN AND THE ART OF RADIOTELEGRAPHY”, which are “classics” on the subject.

You will find links to them amongst others on http://www.on6zq.be/w/index.php/CWpractice/HomePage .


For the past year now I have been learning using the software just learn Morse code, started of with a WPM of 20 and character speed of 20 give that up after the fourth letter was added.
I then continued on using a character speed of 8 to learn the alphabet 0-9 and a few symbols took just under a year to get there but I used the keyboard and my typing skills were not the best, but have now improved. i have gone back over the characters using 20wpm with 14 character speed, now just changed it to 18 WPM and a character speed to 16 using the pen and paper seems to be going well.
The FISTS website do a learning CD pack for a few quid, they include the K7QO cw course and two practise discs for improving your speed, you can also download the course from his website for free, I have just started using these in the car whislt on my travels with work.

So many different ways to learn, advice, software on the web these days, it’s best just to go what you feel comfortable learning with and keep at it.

Yes pen and paper help me too. As typing is another function added later in life.

Ill try to using Character Speed: 15 and Effective Speed: 10 and I see how hard it is after a couple of days.