Morse Code practice (Part 1)

If you want to improve your ability to copy Morse the criterion for improvement is directly proportional to the time spent copying Morse.

To copy without writing is a matter of speed. The faster words are decoded you will find your ability to comprehend the message is much better.

You need to connect the sounds of what is heard to the words. If you knew in advance what the words were going to be you would comprehend the sounds you hear quicker.

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has archived hours of code practice with two files for each session. They provide an audio file (MP3) and a Text file of the message. With both files opened on your monitor you can see in advance what is going to be sent.

the link immediately above will bring up that archive. You can print out the text or have both files open, Reading along while it is being sent is the best way for you to comprehend the text. Do the same text and audio file numerous times. Then you will be slowly learning how to copy without writing down the text. Some call that copying in your head. It is just how humans can communicate. The idea is to pass the concept to your brain from your ears. Inserting a written process just complicates the decoding. We do not do that when we are face to face and talking to each other. Stop and think about that. It is a time factor dedicated to learning a new language.

Try out the ARRL Archives and you will have a new tool,




I listened to these mp3s while driving - learned a lot.
I never read the text in advance and I’m not sure, if it is a good idea to do so.
Decoding means you never now which word will follow. So you have to decode the letters, memorize them and put them together to a word.

It is possible to memorize the sound of many words, so you don’t need to decode letter by letter any more. But you will need single letter decoding as well. How to decode a call-sign or a sota ref? When you read the text in advance there’s no chance to learn this.

But of course YMMV. At the moment I’m stuck at 40 wpm. May be I try your method.

Would be interesting how the trainers form long island cw club handle this question.

73 Martin


Well my experience is different
you will learn faster what a word sounds like if you hear it first
that is logical. It may seem counterintuitive, But it is not. When you learn a language you learn from someone who pronounces the words or phrases correctly, This is that type of process, It speeds up the process.

I am no genius, But I have 70 years attempting to become better, My suggestion works for me. I would prefer when i was learning a different language that I had a tutor pronouncing the word or phrase correctly at the start.

Good Luck



Try RUFZ for a few weeks and see if you break through 40 wpm. Two or three runs a day sure worked for me when I was stuck at a similar speed. I eventually topped out around 80 wpm. If one can copy callsigns at 60 wpm, text at 40 wpm stops feeling impossible.
Also try LCWO word copy and other selections on the site.
I think the main point is to challenge yourself, push through your limits.

Best of luck breaking through your plateau.
David N6AN

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It has been an enjoyable journey of 70 years, I am the type of personality that enjoys pushing myself to new limits. Morse is ideal, I used to find a lot of QRQ QSOs on forty meters that were challenging. Now that has disappeared. I use the text of the ARRL Archives to convert them to higher speeds above 40. I have a pretty extensive library to help me knock the rust off,

Morse is just another language based on sound, Natural speed is 120 for reading text, Most Morse operators do not devote the time to doing what you and I have done, The process is driven by time and dedication, As are most success stories,





David N6AN

I notice you are a musician, My experience has been that musicians are able to master Morse more than non musicians. I have several friends who are professional musicians who are excellent Morse operators. I believe that Morse is like playing music, There is a rhythm with both music and Morse. Those who do not have rhythm are missing a crucial component. That is is my experience,



I was a radio operator in the Royal Navy. I had many friends who drank beer, wine, & spirits, I saw many of them get drunk numerous times and most of them were skilled able morse operators.

That doesn’t mean those who drank and got drunk made better morse operators - does it?

(PS. I can’t remember any of them being able to play a musical instrument.). :grin:


Re: Musician
I think this made it harder for me to get started. I kept trying to fit letters into a musical beat!


I find that listening to REAL QSOs in REAL conditions has helped tremendously. I listen to WebSDR sites on my phone while out walking or running errands. Trying to copy through QRN, QRM, and QSB helps train your ear and head.


I do not know how to pronounce French words. If i read a message or phrase in French without knowing how combinations of words are pronounced would be a poor way to speak French. Someone who is versed in French would find my attempt at speaking French to be missing something. You can labor away at your comfortable speed but that will not advance your ability to copy faster as fast as knowing how the WORD sounds. You want to copy WORDS.

I am not out to change your ways of copying Morse, I am just sharing ARRL archive and my personal experience (70 years), I always check advice when it is free. Free to use or ignore,

Jim w9vne


I have a question here. What’s the interest in working towards reaching a 50 WPM speed when the truth is that almost nobody ( a very minimal % of the ham radio community) will be able to have QSOs at that speed?
How do copying words handle the many errors we hear everyday when sending at fast speeds like 25-30 WPM? (i.e. sending 6 dots instead of a number 5; sending H instead of a 5 or a S; sending a T instead of an O; etc, etc)
Copying at 50 WPM is no doubt a high level skilled discipline, but what about sending that fast? how do you get to that and what for, to have QSOs with who?
I think saying one can send and receive morse at +50WPM is no doubt impressive, but I don’t see very well how useful that is. Personally, I prefer dedicating that time and effort on improving my skills in a new language.
For instance, by listening CW SOTA QSOs yesterday, I learnt that CZESC is the word to say hello/ciao/hola/szia/etc in Polish.




Totally agree, 50 wpm speed maybe is good for fast qso with friends, no for SOTA.


Some people like a challenge, even if it isn’t a particularly useful thing in practice.

It is certainly true that there will be very few folks around on the bands that can make anything other than the very shortest contest style QSOs at that sort of speed. But the general principle of being able to copy faster than you need to is good protection against losing it when there are other distractions such as might occur during a SOTA operation.

For most practical purposes 30WPM is quite fast enough for any sort of QSO you’ll make on the amateur bands. Being able to do, say, 35WPM without breaking sweat gives a bit of headroom.


I found that greatest and fastest improvement in my CW happened when I started activating on the mode. Much more progress in a much shorter time than any “training method”.


I’m sorry but was listening to some rather fast CW today and I guarantee that over 50% of what was sent was gobledygook They certainly weren’t words I’ve ever come across before.

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But was it English?


Don’t know our kid cos there was no spaces or anything it was just continuos letters. it started off ok then got faster and faster and that’s when all words blend3ed into each other


Thank you very much. This helps me a lot!
73 de JP3PPL


I don t care about great numbers. My 818 is set to 14 wpm. Not interested in fast people. I will live 300 years, no need to hurry


There is an op that chases me on POTA that ALWAYS sends .----- for the 1 in my call sign. I just roll with it since I know it’s going to happen. :slight_smile: But that could definitely be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the other op’s fist or style.