Learning Morse code

So, I have decided to join the ranks of those who can speak and understand Morse code.

With a recent activation having not been successful, I want to round out my kit and doing some QRP 20m cw from the peaks of New York.

Winter is here… its cold and gets dark at 5pm… when I get out of work at 6, I come home eat and do a whole lot of nothing until I’m tired enough to fall asleep so CW is going to be my new thing to learn while I have all this idle time.

Since the majority of activators on HF are running CW, I have to simply ask… how did you learn? Any programs or software to train/help?

Looking forward to my first Summit Activation with some video of me doing morse code :smiley:

Andrew - K2FR

Try www.lcwo.net - it worked for me after 25 years of not using cw !

73 Graham

In reply to K2FR:
Hi Andrew

My advice is to stick to the Koch method and if so, you can follow the lessons here:

…and DO NOT learn by listening to characters slower than 15 wpm (even 18 wpm) otherwise you will have to retrain your brain as you speed up.

It’s better to start by learning the sound of each character at a “normal” speed with B-I-G gaps between them to allow your brain to process them.

Eventually the gaps can become smaller and then you are working at a good speed without having to learn the “melody” of each character all over again.

Good luck!

edit: Great minds think alike. Graham beat me to it while typing the reply :slight_smile:

73 Marc G0AZS

In reply to K2FR:

simply ask… how did you learn?

I was not really interested in cw at 14 years old, but at this age you are more easily influenced and I was told that it is needed for this hobby. So I did listen some of the C-cassettes to be able to copy 8 wpm (or 40 cpm). Still not very good in this.

73, Jaakko OH7BF/F5VGL

In reply to K2FR:
I fell in the CW since my 13 years old. Now 41 ;-))
I got a ZX81 sinclair computer but there was no CW program.
Then first i learnt all letters
and so on. I played to read everything in CW. Advertisings in streets, all i could read. “dat dit dat___dit dit dat dat dat___dit dit dat dit___dit dat dit” … ;-))
After I started to listen group letters … listen HF QSO and got my Ham ticket … now I can’t breath without CW ;-))
I learnt CW in 2 months but i was really younger, now not sure to be as good as youth time.
73 QRO and I really do hope QSO you.

There is also http://www.justlearnmorsecode.com but I think LCWO has more features and peer support.

I would agree with Marc about having the character speeds set at 15wpm minimum while learning the alphabet. However, when learning to read words/sentences/QSOs, it may be helpful slow down rather than play individual letters faster with big gaps between. The danger of that is that you don’t get the idea of the rhythm of a word, ie what a word sounds like (as opposed to individual letters).

More than one learning style is significantly beneficial, so while going through the LCWO process, I would also be doing the following every day too:

  1. 30 minutes listening to CW on HF frequencies. Find a CQ call at a comfortable speed - ie where you easily recognise the CQ - and practice reading the callsign. You will soon recognise “DE” given just before the callsign. You will also soon recognise “RST” given just before the report, and “5NN” - the short form of “599”. “73”, “TU EE” and “BK” will also become soon recognised.

  2. Download RuFZ.xp This is callsign copying practice, and is quite good fun. It records your personal bests and increases the speed automatically when you get one right, decreases it when you get one wrong.

Do LCWO first to learn the alphabet. Then do LCWO for reading words and QSOs, plus HF listening and RuFZ every day. 1 hour total of these per day is more than enough. Don’t spend more than 25 minutes at a time on any one activity. I did the HF listening in the car driving to and from work every day.

At some point begin some slow speed QSOs (5-8wpm) with a friend in a sked. When you get to 10wpm, do a SOTA activation on CW. This will be a massive buzz and motivation that will inspire you to improve more quickly.

With regular SOTA activating (much easier than chasing on HF CW), you will soon be up to 14wpm, but you may (like me) find that a barrier for a while. Answering calls and exchanging in the major CW contests will help. When I was at that stage, I spent a weekend answering and exchanging in the CQWW CW, and went from 14wpm to 19wpm keyer speed inside 40 hours! Of course, I was listening to the calling station over and over again until I was sure I had the callsign correct, then all I had to send was “M1EYP”, and then “5NN A4” (short for 599-14), so the new-found speed wasn’t transferable to ragchew operation yet, but it was a good feeling nonetheless.

It took me about 3 months to learn the alphabet using a program (G4FON as LCWO and JLMC weren’t around then) and then another 4 months of slow speed skeds, HF listening and RuFZ before I did an activation at 10wpm. 6 months later (CW activations, RuFZ, HF listening and major CW contests), I was up to 20wpm, which is where I have remained pretty much ever since. I usually activate at 22wpm. Occasionally I try a higher speed, but make too many sending mistakes.

This system was specifically for me to be able to activate and chase SOTA in CW. I haven’t done much practice at general rag-chewing, and as a result, I am still not very good at that.

I hope that is of use. (And to Helen GW7AAU as well … sorry for the delay!!!).


In reply to K2FR:

I learned the code by writing software to decode hand sent Morse from a straight key. By making the program strict on timing made me send better formed characters.

However, learning the code is easy, copying it at a more usable speed is harder. For that you need one thing…


In reply to K2FR:

Since the majority of activators on HF are running CW, I have to
simply ask… how did you learn? Any programs or software to

Looking forward to my first Summit Activation with some video of me
doing morse code :smiley:

Andrew - K2FR

Don’t entirely abandon phone, Andrew - some days there seems to be little on Sotawatch except CW spots.

Besides, if it is easier to validate an activation on CW, isn’t changing to CW evading a challenge? :slight_smile:


Brian G8ADD

PS On 7 megs, arguably the bread-and-butter band for HF SOTA, in numbers of activators CW achieved parity with SSB for the first time in 2007 and exceeded SSB in 2008 and 2009. This year with a few weeks still to go, CW and SSB seem to be neck-and-neck. Oddly enough, CW has yet to achieve parity with SSB on 20 metres!

In reply to G8ADD:

Oddly enough, CW has yet to achieve parity with SSB on 20 metres!

But CW is miles ahead on 30m :wink:


In reply to MM0FMF:
I can’t think why Andy :slight_smile:

Roger G4OWG

In reply to K2FR:
Hi Andrew…I used a software program called “G4FON CW Training”…allows you to learn at character speeds of 15wpm and up but set your copy speed as low as 5wpm and up…has practise letters, words, QSO’s etc and you can even kick in QSB, QRM etc if you want. You may want to join the SKCC or some other club to make your first few CW QSO’s.
I’m still a CW rookie with slow copy skills but it can be learned!!! Good luck!


In reply to K2FR:

Looking forward to my first Summit Activation with some video of me
doing morse code :smiley:

Good luck! I’m also trying to learn CW, and http://www.lcwo.net is the best resource I’ve found so far, but any computer-aided method is going to be limited by the speed at which you can type in the characters it plays at you, and that’s my main road block. For letter learning I’ve found the “Morse Machine” approach less frustrating because it waits for my brain and fingers to catch up with my ears. There’s an implementation on http://www.lcwo.net, but there are also versions that can be run on the system of your choice (up to a point - I havn’t found an Android app yet, but see Wiki: Welcome Visitors and Morse Machine for ready-to-run programs for Windows, MacOSX and Linux).

Computer-aided method is a massive advantage to the effectiveness of the learning process - if you have good keyboard skills.

Because hitting any particular character key is already a “second nature” response for anyone who can type, that then links really well with your learning as you are trying to get a second nature response in your brain to the morse it hears.

The original G4FON freeware required you to handwrite the characters down and to mark and calculate your accuracy at the end. LCWO, RuFZ and JLMC mark and calculate for you from what and when you typed on the keyboard. This is a much tidier way to manage your learning and it builds on the links that have already been made in your brain rather than create brand new ones.

So if you can touch type at a reasonable speed, then use a computer-aided method - as you’re already halfway there, believe it or not.


In reply to K2FR:
A good source of mp3’s I use is quotes of the day (QOTD) podcast by AI4QR. I also use the App. Ham Morse by AA9PW. I am still in the learning phase, and have no yet used morse on the air. Getting close though, sat at around 20wpm at the moment. Starting to think it is time to venture on air with my new skill.

In reply to M1EYP:
I never learned to touch-type because card-punches and teletypes were inherently slow mechanical devices, and by the time these new-fangled VDUs came along I’d already learned enough about keyboards for a programmer’s purposes. When I’m typing words I’m not too horribly slow; it’s the random character sequences morse training programs seem to love that I grind to a halt on… :wink:

In reply to G8ADD:

I love SSB dont get me wrong… however a recent activation wasnt not successful for me for well a few reasons. no APRS coverage at the peak, and not a single soul on 146.520.

Couple that with a hiking group who didnt stay at the summit very long and cold wintery conditions, it was just not happening. However id like a lightweight alternative and I do have my 817… so if i can use it for CW i might have better success making my 4 contacts and getting down before freezing =) haha

Thanks for all the info and insite everyone! hopefully I can tackle learning Morse

In reply to M6LEP:

Just don’t look at the keys. If you stop looking at the keys you learn where they are quickly. You type rubbish and feel you will wear out the backspace key but with hours you find you can type. I can’t touch type at all, I use all the wrong fingers on the keys but I can type well enough and without looking.

Just stop looking at the keys. It’s the only way!


In reply to MM0FMF:

In reply to G3CWI:

Yeah, but she didn’t actually type on it! I’ve got two IBM Model M keyboards here. One is the original IBM PS2 Model M 102 key AT keyboard from about 1989, the other is an M2 from 1993. I must get some PS2 to USB adapters so I can press them back into service. Though the DELL 987PRY I have here is not bad. Not as good as the M or M2 but nothing is really :wink:


In reply to K2FR:
I’m off to my workshop to take part in the Thursday night edition of my radio club cw class in a few minutes. 144.6FM around Telford. It’s entertaining, stimulating and never dull like another session of computer morse training software. Jokes and praise are in short supply from e.g. G4FON [which I now use with all 40 characters at 15 wpm character and 1wpm word in QSO mode]. One of the tutors Paul M0PNN has a laugh that would set the Laughing Policeman off!
I learnt the alphabet by writing it out over and over on paper during many dull slide presentations at work where the lights were dimmed. Now M0KZB will send many groups of 5 letters to the class over the airwaves.
The experienced ops are giving you good advice but a club cw class on air is the place to go IMHO.

73 es sd

David M0YDH