Some Good Advice on Learning Morse Code

Below, find some great advice from Dee N8UZE, who originally posted this to the KochMorse Yahoo Group in response to someone who has been trying for a long time to learn the code. Thanks, Dee!

If you can tell a dit from a dah, you can learn it [Morse Code]. You mention having spent “countless dollars on it.” I suspect that you have fallen for the advertising hype “I learned it in days with xxxxx….” and then when that didn’t happen for you (as it doesn’t for most people) you thought that perhaps you couldn’t learn it. This is one area where the amount of money spent has absolutely no bearing on success in learning.

Anyway here are some things for you to mull over that I’ve observed over the course of the years as to why some people pass and some don’t.

Number 1 reason for failure: Unrealistic expectations. Many people believe that they should be able to learn it in a few days or hours. Only the “wunderkind” can do that. The advertising hype encourages that false notion. Most NORMAL people need 30 hours or more to get to 5wpm. At 1/2 hour per day, that’s two months.

Number 2 reason for failure: Incorrect study habits. It is necessary to study every day. If you don’t, you’ll lose a little bit each day you don’t study. Missing an occasional day isn’t bad but missing more than a day a week makes success take even longer as you will have to repeat some material.

Number 3 reason for failure: They don’t really want to take the code test so they fight themselves subconsciously on learning it and find every excuse possible not to put in the time and effort.


Other reasons/problems in no particular order plus study guidelines:

  • Incorrect choice of training approach. Some people try to memorize the dits and dahs or use words or phrases to help remember. Bad choice. The best method is to learn solely by sound.
  • Additional poor study habits. Skipping days and practicing too long at once are both counterproductive. The most productive approach is to study 1/2 hr per day, every day and break that 1/2 hour into two or more shorter sessions so that the brain doesn’t get fatigued. As I mentioned above the NORMAL person needs 30 hours of practice to get to 5wpm.
  • Pushing too hard. If you add characters too soon, the brain isn’t ready and starts flubbing the ones they know. That is why in G4FON it gives you a specific target in terms of correct copy to go on.
  • Waiting too long to add characters. Again the target is useful here. If you wait until you get 100% copy it takes too long and is discouraging.
  • Setting the character speed too slow. The brain may end up creating a look up table that, while you may pass the test, creates a barrier to higher speeds that you will have to overcome later if you want to get serious about CW. Plus the tests are given using Farnsworth spacing (i.e. character speed around 15wpm and word speed at 5wpm).

I strongly encourage the use of the G4FON program and following its guidelines exactly. Since you are in the US, set the character speed to 15wpm, the word speed to 5wpm, and the tone to 750hz. This is the general standard used in CW tests in this country.

As a VE, if someone fails the CW test, I take them aside afterwards and provide them with guidelines on how to succeed. In addition, I ask those who fail how long they have studied. Invariably their answers have been on the order of one or two weeks and often they have not practiced every day. Some do answer with longer times but even though longer, they often only practiced once or twice per week. None of them have put in 1/2hr per day for 60 days using a method such as G4FON.

I try to encourage people and help them find ways to learn as I want everyone to succeed.


  1. Ronny Risinger says:

    I think the Morse Code advice is spot on. Looking at each of the points, I can definitely find one (maybe even two) to which I fell victim. Specifically, setting the speed at 5 wpm and ‘translating’ aural into visual (dit-dah alphabet sheet) into written. Way too many steps to be done at 15-20 wpm. Also, trying to add letters too soon was a problem, but not as bad as the first.

    As I am preparing for my 20th high school class reunion, I had the good fortune to e-mail an old classmate now living in Minnesota. She indicated that her 15 year old son is interested in Morse Code. Wanting to help him, I sent a Code CD and a letter of encouragement. Maybe I will e-mail her the link to your site and these suggestions. Don’t know if the kid will ever get a ham license, but I don’t want it to be for a lack of support, even if I am in Tx.

    Good to see the blog is still keeping you busy. Keep up the good work.

    Ronny, KC5EES

  2. Hello how are you. is there a faster way to lern morse code. please. I need assistance.

  3. Dan KB6NU says:

    Unfortunately, not, Shamraj. Taking the advice above is probably the best way to learn code…….73, Dan KB6NU

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