How to Learn Morse Code: Practice & Use CW

Essential hints and tips on how to learn Morse code, practice CW and use it for sending and receiving successfully.


Morse Code includes:
What is Morse code     How to learn Morse code     Morse code table / chart     Morse code keys & keyers     CW QSO    


The Morse code is still widely used for radio communications especially within amateur radio or ham radio circles and it is easy to learn Morse code, especially for sending and receiving for amateur radio.

Once Morse code has been learned it can be used for making contacts or QSOs with stations around the globe.

Morse code is a very effective form of communication, allowing low powered ham radio stations to make contacts or QSOs with other ham radio stations all around the globe.

Morse code transmissions have many advantages and can enable low powered stations or those with simpler equipment or smaller antennas to make the long distance contacts they may want to make.

Ways to learn Morse code

Many people still want to be able to learn to use the Morse code and to practise it. There are many ways to learn to send and receive the Morse code very successfully:

  • Using a Morse code tutor
  • Use our YouTube Video.
  • Listening to Morse code tapes
  • Learning the characters by saying them
  • Listening to general Morse code transmissions over the radio
  • Listening to special practice slow Morse transmissions

These and many more ideas can all be used to learn the Morse code, practice it and use it effectively.


The Morse code

The International Morse code is used on the ham radio bands. A full list of the International Morse Code is given here.

Basics of learning Morse code

There is no one way that is right for learning the Morse code. Different people have been successful teaching the Morse code in different ways, and different people respond to the some methods better than others. Often, though, learning the Morse code is more a matter of persistence and regularity rather than the Morse code being difficult to learn.

In many ways, learning the Morse code is a little like learning a foreign language, the more it is spoken, the easier it becomes. So too with learning the Morse code. A little practice often, preferably each day is far better than a large amount once a week.

Persistence is also needed as it takes time and determination to keep going is needed. Although it can appear as if little progress is being made sometimes, every bit or practice helps and once it has been conquered there it is very rewarding to use.

First steps in learning Morse code

The first step in learning the Morse code is to learn the individual characters themselves. This can be done in a number of ways. One is to look at the characters and repeat them one by one. Another is to have a recording of the letters in alphabetical order, or identified by voice in sound. In this way the particular sound of the letter can be associated with the letter. This is particularly beneficial because as learning process continues and speeds increase, it is necessary to recognise the sound or rhythm of the letter and associate this directly with the letter.

One tip it to try to learn a small number each day. After this they can be recapped each day to make sure they are properly remembered. In this way thee is less chance of becoming overloaded with too many to learn at once.

Increasing your speed

Once the basics of the Morse code have been learned, it is then necessary to start to put it into practice and increase the speed. Typically having learned the code, it will be possible to read Morse code at a rate of about three words a minute. As most Morse code messages are sent at in excess of 12 words a minute, and often at 20 words a minute or higher, improving the speed is a necessary step in learning the Morse code properly.

While the jump in speed may seem daunting, it is by no means impossible, and it is not difficult to start making some real improvements very quickly, especially once the basics have been learned.

At this stage some of the techniques listed below may be more helpful.

  • Listen to pre-recorded Morse code CDs
  • Listen to Morse code from a Morse tutor
  • Listen to Morse over the air - this may be too fast at first but persevere.

At this stage the main requirement for learning Morse code is regular practice - typically half an hour a day, and preferably every day is what is really needed. The main objective is to get away from thinking dit-dah, of that is A, to recognising dit-dah as a sound and instantly relating it to A.

The Morse code for the letter 'A' is a dot followed by a dash

Once this transition starts to take place, deciphering the Morse code becomes much easier as well as becoming much faster.

Equipment and resources for learning the Morse code

There are several pieces of equipment and resources that can be purchased or used to help learn the Morse code. Some are more beneficial than others as they will fit into the learning routine better than others. Also it is necessary to find what approach is best for you as different people benefit better from different approaches.

  • Morse tutors:   Morse tutors can be bought from a variety of sources. They consist of a small box containing electronics that randomly generates Morse code. Depending upon the Morse tutor itself different variations are possible. Some Morse tutor computer programmes are also available.
  • Morse recordings:   It is possible to buy some CDs of recordings Morse code. These can be a good way to start learning the code, but the problem with them is that the messages being sent are soon learned and it is possible to anticipate the next letter and this considerably reduces their value as a learning aid.
  • Watch & listen to YouTube videos:   There are some very good videos that are available free of charge to watch and listen to on YouTube. These can provide an excellent resource for use when needed. It is possible to watch this Morse code practice video
  • Listening off air:   This is probably the cheapest option, assuming a radio receiver is available. A huge number of Morse code transmissions can be heard, especially at the bottom ends of the HF amateur radio or ham radio bands. The problem is that the speeds tend to be quite high, but some slower transmissions can be found especially on bands such as the 80 metre ham radio band, or the 40 metre ham radio band.
  • Listening to slow Morse code transmissions:   Some national ham radio societies have a schedule of slow Morse transmissions. If it is possible to hear them, they can be very useful. Try looking at the ARRL site (www.arrl.org) of the Radio Society of Great Britain (www.rsgb.org).
  • Attending Morse code classes:   Sometimes it may be possible to attend a Morse code class. If this is possible it can be a real benefit, because the regular encouragement from someone else provides an ongoing stimulus to keep going.
  • Practice sending:   It is often said that sending Morse code should not be started until it is possible to read about 10 words a minute. Certainly sending Morse code is not normally the problem, so the focus should actually be on receiving it. When sending Morse code, though, concentrate on getting the right spacing and the right rhythm for the individual characters as this is very important. Good habits learned at the outset are more likely to stay with you.

Don't give up

One of the biggest problems with learning the Morse code is retaining the impetus to learn. Regular practice is the real key - half an hour a day is ideal. Any longer than this and the brain becomes a little tired and the benefit after about half an hour reduces.

By maintaining regular daily practice, learning the Morse code soon becomes more familiar. Learning with someone else often helps. Each person does not want to give up because they feel they will be letting the other one down. This can become a major motivator and a key to the success of learning the Morse code.



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