So You Would Like to Learn the Secret of Morse

Morse is a Language and not a Code and should not be learned as such and my views are held by other operators World Wide. Learning Morse Code by dits and dahs will haunt you for a long time and if you are counting dits and dahs I would recommend that you stop immediately and read my post on “Redefining Slow Morse in Amateur Radio”.

Learning Morse is not easy and you must be dedicated and willing to put aside at least half an hour a day every day for practice. You will find that sometimes you will struggle and get mental blocks on some characters, but remember that you would not be on your own as most operators have gone through that at some time or other. We have all persevered through the hurdles it can throw at you and now enjoy the music of Morse.

There are many different views on how to learn Morse and I may be a bit blinkered as I was taught Morse professionally in the UK Armed Forces using the Koch Method up to 20wpm in 1965 and it certainly worked for me. I have also trained other amateurs using this method which successfully secured their 12wpm Morse Ticket. I will be pleased to publish any comments to my methods, especially if another solution was offered which goes along with my way of thinking.

For more information on learning Morse a trip to John N1IRZ‘s website would be very beneficial to you and it will save me repeating what John has to say, then visit Ray G4FON’s website for the free download of his Koch Method Morse Trainer which will give you a good start in learning the language of Morse.

I don’t teach Morse any more, as there is no need with the personal computer and the software available and it is up to the student to be dedicated and manage his time, but I will be available to give guidance if called upon. Remember I want you to be able to learn and get up to the standard that you would like to attain as would most experienced operators, and we will help when help is required but the ball is in your court to be determined enough to learn.

9 thoughts on “So You Would Like to Learn the Secret of Morse

  1. When I started learning Morse I was memorizing dits and dahs. Once I did that it was very difficult to advance my speed past about 10 wpm. Had I not found the Koch method I may have turned away from the hobby.

    The thing is that communicating with Morse does not really become natural and conversational until you get beyond about 12-15 wpm. Once the initial excitement of communicating at slower speeds wears off QSOs become drudgery. Koch changes that as you are hearing the letters at the higher speed, but giving your brain time to react by spacing the letters apart. The spacing gradually becomes less and less, which builds your speed.

  2. Have been reading your site for a while today and its really an inspiration. I gained my Foundation call just over a year ago and my Intermeadiate in April or so, and once I had that I said “right I want to learn cw now!”. Its just taken me more than 6 months get around to starting, and no doubt my actually starting has been helped by a snapped achilles tendon that will keep me off work for a few more weeks yet. I started yesterday with the G4FON programme which I love – and today had a go at the LCWO site lesson 1 and eventually 2 – which I found much harder. Do you have any opinions about which is better? Also I note you reviewed the Czech Army key – I plan to buy one myself as it looks just the thing. all the best, Scott

  3. Hi Scott, thanks for your nice comments and I really need to put some more work in on the site. I have redefined my thoughts on the koch method to a morse speed of 12wpm and a character speed between 18wpm and 20wpm which will initially make it slightly harder but I think will be in line with the LCWO site but you are you own judge to what is best for you.
    With Morse keys everyone has their prefrences and mine is the marconi 365a but they are expensive to own. the Czech Army keys are ok and I use mine if I go out and about, I don’t think you will be dissapointed if you buy one.

  4. Thanks Ian, yes what I find difficult with LCWO is that I must be a slow writer or typist so by the time I have written or typed the letter the next one was along! I’m sure I could shout them out fast enough, but thats no good.

    Yes I think I’ll go ahead and purchase a Czech key – its a sign of intent isn’t it? 🙂

    all the best, Scott 2E0OZI

  5. Hi Scott I have just posted about copying Morse on the Blog and also I am trying to get a mentoring scheme going so if you would message me on the contact form I will be able to let your know more about it.

    Just a word of warning about your new key. Most bad operators on the bands tended to start playing with their Morse Key before they had the sound of the Morse Characters embedded in their head.


  6. Ah yes I have read about that – I’m intending to keep mine in the original package until I can copy reasonably well.

    all the best,


  7. I think the secret is that there is no secret. Learning the Code and wiring your ears, brain and fingers is a process that requires a certain amount of time, its own journey. It can’t be done overnight nor within a week.

    From my point of view, the only “secret” -or better said, most important advice- is to destroy and make sure you don’t expose your eyes to any tables with the letters/numbers/punctuation marks and the dots and dashes next to every character.
    This way of learning adds an extra obstacle into the beginner’s effort, by forcing him/her to count, think over in order to finally decipher what he/she heard, a guaranteed way to eventually hit a unbeatable plateau and thus have the learner discouraged.

    With this in mind and practice at a decent speed (not effective speed, but individual character speed, like in both Koch and Farnsworth methods) definitely above 12WPM straight from the beginning.

    Next step for CW mastery is TX, which is in my opinion the hardest part since it requires both RX skills and motor skills, that will boost your precision and help you eliminate your mistakes. With a decoding software program or with a CW op, you’ll practice and make sure you send correctly your problematic characters.

    Last step is to leave building blocks, the character practicing and get your feet wet in QSOs and callsign RX, as well as facing the biggest obstacle, your own self; what I mean by this is to build your confidence and accept the fact that every CW op was once beginner and thus not fluent and making errors. It’s a necessary phase you have to go through until you will make CW your second nature and it will be an effortless process. Until then, for the more advanced beginners I strongly, strongly recommend is to make a favor to themselves, and practice using two free software programs: rufzXP for callsign receiving, as well as Morse Runner, for conducting virtual QSOs (using the Single Call mode, not any of the Pile-Up modes). Your first real QSOs will be a rewarding experience, something you’ll never forget, regardless of your excitement or errors !!!

    These two programs will always accompany you and help you get better and better, no matter if you are an advanced beginner or a High Speed Telegraphy competitor.

    To sum up, the “secrets” that I wish I knew when I began:

    – trash any dot-dash tables
    – use it or lose it (=consistency with training, no gaps longer than 3 days without any training session even if that lasts only 10 minutes)
    – it can’t be done overnight (=be patient and give your self time by setting realistic goals and don’t push yourself into expecting the impossible)
    – practice TX to lock your RX skills (make sure you know what you send and don’t skip/overlook your errors, correct them) and build up your motor skills
    – download two lifelong CW companions: rufzXP and Morse Runner. They’re free and regardless the fact they’re High Speed Telegraphy disciplines, when using them at your speed, they are a priceless tool for mastering CW and building up your confidence.

    GOOD LUCK !!
    de Vicky DM8YL / SV2KBS
    di dit !

    • Hi Vicky

      I would like to congratulate you for such an comprehensive comment and would like to list you in the Directory of Morse Mentors, as you have certainly got the dedication that would help others

  8. Hi – I’ve just had a go with rufzXP as suggested above, and it works very well. With that, plus MorseRunner and G4FON’s software, I’m having fun blowing the cobwebs off my morse copying!


    Jon, G4LJW.

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