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Presented by Bill, WJ5O, VE
These tips, tricks, hints and techniques for learning and receiving Morse code will get you off to a better CW learning session and help you when copying code on the Ham bands.
They are shared here
by Bill, WJ5O of Corpus Christi, Tx.

Bill's tips are worth their weight in gold. Follow his instructions below and
be certain that you will get better results when using Morse code on the air!
I followed similar tips and techniques years ago to pass my CW exam when Morse code was a requirement....THEY WORK!!!.......N4UJW

These notes are from my experience's of administering the CW examination as a member of a VE team...... even before the FCC turned it over to the Amateur community in mid- eighties. --- all NOVICE Class 5 WPM examinations were administered by a General Class or higher prior to that.

Get the code "under Your belt". Learn it just for the fun of it!

A little background!

It is a relative simple matter for anyone to broadcast a message using voice and the English language. The only requirement is that the
individual sending the message should speak into a microphone connected to a transmitter. At the receiving end, the procedure is just as simple, the individual desiring to understand the transmitted message needs only to tune a receiver to the broadcasting station and listen to the spoken words as they are reproduced by the receiver.
The transmission of messages by code however, requires a special skill on the part of both the sender and the receiver.


1. Radio communication by code requires less elaborate, less costly and less bulky equipment than does voice radio communication.

2. Code transmission will penetrate radio and atmospheric interference more readily than will phone transmission. Code transmission will usually be intelligently received under conditions that render voice transmission and reception impossible. The spoken word with it's inflections,
intonation and a tremendous variety of sounds is infinitely more complex than is the single piercing note of a radio telegraph signal.

3. The radio telegraph code constitutes an invaluable method of sending "secret" messages or security information with a greater amount of safety.

4. A transmitted code signal requires much less frequency space than does a radio telephone signal. Approximately 6 KHZ for an AM signal and 15 KHZ for the wideband FM signal. The typical CW signal is 1.5 KHZ.

5. Amateur radio operators use "Q" signals which have common meaning in languages other than English. This permits the exchange of basic information in CW between operators regardless of their English
speaking ability.
(Editor note: These five reasons above can be credited
to the ARRL from many years ago and passed down over time.  I am certain that others can find more reasons to use code.)

The Morse code is made up of letters as is most spoken languages. The code letters consist of sounds of short and long duration which are called DOTS & DASHES, (sounded like DITS & DAHS). These sounds are usually high pitched tones of about 500 to 800 Hertz or approximately the sound of a high C on a piano. The long sound (DAH) is three times as long in duration as the short sound (DIT). Each letter of the alphabet, each number and each punctuation mark is composed of a different combination of these long and short sounds.

Since Morse code consists of sound combinations it is very similar to music. A person listening to the National Anthem hears only the melody and not the individual notes of the music. Morse code is quickly mastered by listening for the "melody" of the letter sound rather than counting the individual dits and dahs. (Editors note....learn code by sound, do not count the dits and dahs.....sound = character!) REPEAT....LEARN EACH CHARACTER BY SOUND!

Editor's Note:

The following tips, tricks and information below was originally designed to aid you in preparing for the previous Morse code exam but still remain as extremly valuable methods of learning Morse code! They are based on preparing for the exam as was required by the FCC. These methods can be readily applied to actual on the air conversations between Amateur radio stations using Morse code and will be very valuable to you when using Morse code on the air.

NUMBER NUMBERS NUMBERS ... KNOW THE NUMBERS  It's difficult to have ten questions about a five minute QSO without four or five of them requiring numbers. (Call Signs, RST, Antenna Height, number of tubes, power, age, years a ham....etc)

Expect to have a CALL Sign with a DAH DIT DIT DAH DIT ( / ) ...
FCC exams are required to have all 26 letters, zero thru 9 numbers,
at least 4 punctuation marks including the slant bar & procedural SK. Learn the common configurations for CALLSIGNS like 1x2, 1x3, 2x1, 2x2
& 2x3 ... That way there will be no surprises if something like WN7OPQ/6
 is heard.

The exam was a typical QSO that would last for a little over five minutes.
Before the exam there would be a one minute warm-up to insure that everyone can hear the message. You would be given a paper to copy both the practice warm-up minute and the QSO . The QSO would start with a
series of six "V"s and end with the procedural sign SK.

A passing score was achieved by answering 7 out of the ten questions
correctly or 25 characters in a row. (Not counting the V's or Warm up)...
Numbers and punctuation marks counted 2 and letters counted 1.

Typical questions:
What is the Call of the receiving station?
What is the location of the receiving station?
What is the Call of the Transmitting station?
What is the location of the transmitting operator?
What was the name of the receiving operator?
What was the RST report given by the transmitting operator?
What was the radio being used by the transmitting operator?
What did the transmitting operator say His power output was?
What type of antenna did the transmitting operator utilize?
What was the height of the antenna?
What was the weather described as?
How long had the transmitting operator been a Ham?
What was the reason given for ending the contact?

ADDITIONAL HELP: Learn the names of as many type of radios as possible...especially the more common ones like KENWOOD, ICOM, YAESU, TEN-TEC, SWAN, NATIONAL, HALLICRAFTERS, SBE & HEATHKIT.

Learn the names of the common antenna configurations..... like DIPOLE,


Callsigns (If you miss part at first, they will also be in the closing)..
The first call given is the RECEIVING operator  followed by DE .. and
then the Call of the TRANSMITTING operator.

Names of the operators (receiving operator usually near the first of message)
.... Expect short names like JOE, JIM, JACK, BILL rarely a SAMANTHA or CLEMENTINE but often a MARY, JILL, BETH

When you hear UR RST or SIGs is/are --- know there will be three
numbers coming next. Most likely the first will be a 5 and the last a 9
(know what RST is ....and that the first number is never over 5).... remember, it's possible to get a RST report like .... 599 W/QSB     (with fading).. ....QSB....QRM ..... QRN  are the only ones I have ever seen on a 5 WPM exam.

If you miss a Character----FORGET IT (for now) -- mark your copy
with a "-" or just a space where the letter should be. These "holes"
can be filled in later.... see below.

QTH - look for City & State. Sometimes just  the CITY or the STATE is sent.

When you hear weather or WX it's usually a two word description following.
(WINDY and WARM......... COLD and FREEZING .....DAMP and RAINY)
Sometimes followed by "TEMPERATURE IS _ _DEGREES"

Type of radio (rig) --sometimes descriptive like OLD TUBE or QRP but
most often the name of a manufacturer.... KENWOOD, ICOM or YAESU
 & HEATHKIT). ... be familiar  with names of Rig types.

Antenna used. Know the names of several configurations.  DIPOLE, DELTA LOOP,  WINDOM, ZEP, BAZOOKA, YAGI, BEAM, INVERTED VEE, LONGWIRE & RHOMBIC.
By knowing the configuration names of the antennas it helps to fill in the "holes" in Your copy. 

Comment like "BEEN A HAM 30 YEARS" or "AM IN 12TH GRADE"

Listen for why ??  QRT........ "I MUST QRT FOR WORK".... "QRT FOR BED"

Listen closely for Callsigns. They can be confusing at times.

Scan your copy - fill in the" holes" of the letters missed. (GROC_R) most likely GROCER (EN_INEER) likely ENGINEER .... GET THE IDEA?.... This filling in of the "holes" helps in getting better copy. A copy of CHICA-O and later adding the G, tells you the station is in Chicago.

See if QTH corresponds to the callsigns (KL7XXX should be Alaska--WH6XXX in Hawaii & etc)....
KNOW the Call sign area

Look at the "doubtful" ones.  Are any a "toss-up" between 2 responses? Like is it a four or a six? If it's in a Callsign .....  see if you got Florida for a location ... Florida is in 4 land.

Look for "tell-tell" letters in your copy--if a couple of letters 
match to what you have knowledge of , MARK IT. (DI_O__ is likely DIPOLE.... even if the copy is just D_____ and it's about an antenna it's probably DIPOLE if the copy is just _a___ and it's about a radio it's probably YAESU.

If there is one "I have no idea" it's worth a guess. If it's a callsign,
Count the numbers You have copied....
If You are missing a ZERO or any other number, put it in the Callsign that doesn't have a number in Your copy.

If an Op says His age is 78, it's likely He's not a go-go dancer. If an Op
says STUDENT don't expect a number over 20 for age.

As a last resort----- EDUCATED GUESS......you can always have the station re-send that part you did not understand.

All of this is NO substitute for CW skill  and lots of practice however, but it's a sure thing to help overcome the on the air apprehension when you are learning and to secure better communication using CW.

Good luck! YOU CAN DO IT!     
I would  like to know if this information helped You.........
                           Send Me a message......... wj5o@amsat.org

"I believe one of the most rewarding facets of Ham Radio is being able to help others......
and the more widespread the continued use of CW, ... the more Hams can benefit

See Bill's
10 Meter Beacon Information page.......loaded!


On 19 July 2005 the FCC released Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order (NPRM), .... It was acted upon February 23, 2007 eliminating the Morse code requirement.
The Morse requirement WILL BE NO LONGER REQUIRED IN THE U.S EFFECTIVE February 23, 2007 for any Amateur Radio License!

Even with the requirement eliminated by the FCC.....
Morse code will NEVER be outdated. It will always be a very
reliable method of getting a message delivered when all else fails!

It has been around for about 100 years and can be used very effectively......



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