Learning Morse Code - Lessons and Practice

Now that no Morse test is required there's very little organised Morse teaching happening at local club level. The chances are anyone expressing an interest in learning Morse is likely to be pointed at one or more of the many computer-based programs and websites and left to work their own way through the process. That's probably better than nothing, but it is likely to be a lot less effective than some well-directed tuition. However, there's very little tuition available. The last time I checked it, the CW Academy website, which co-ordinates tutors and students (in North America), had a waiting list about a year or so long. I'm not aware of any equivalent co-ordinating organisation this side of the Atlantic.

Morse practice broadcasts are a step back from formal tuition, but they can be extremely helpful when direct tuition isn't available. However, to be useful for beginners they need to be accessible. A plain Morse broadcast with no spoken content might be of use to folk who've already learned Morse and are looking to improve their ability, but beginners will need parts of the broadcast that they can understand naturally, so a mixed mode broadcast with significant spoken content is essential.

The ARRL's W1AW Morse practice broadcasts are transmitted from the ARRL HQ in Newington, Connecticut, three or four times a day, five days a week, on multiple bands simultaneously. They're transmitted at times to suit North American listeners, but they can sometimes be received in the UK. The hour-long plain Morse (A1A) broadcasts come in slow and fast formats, with the fast broadcasts starting at 35wpm and working down to 10wpm, and the slow broadcasts starting at 5wpm and working up to 15wpm in stages. The text is taken from the ARRL's magazine QST.

The RSGB's GB2CW Morse practice broadcasts are a much more variable mix, with individual broadcasters transmitting (usually) once a week each, on single frequencies for between a quarter and half an hour. Formats vary. Some are plain Morse (A1A), others mixed mode SSB (J3E and A1A) or FM (F2A and F3E). The VHF broadcasts usually cover areas relatively local to the individual broadcasters. The HF broadcasts are more likely to provide national coverage, skip zones excepted, depending, of course, on propagation at the time. GB2CW is a broadcast callsign not licensed for two-way communication, but GB2CW broadcasters will often come on air after their broadcasts using their own callsigns so that listeners can provide feedback such as signal and progress reports. Obviously, feedback after plain Morse broadcasts will be in Morse. With mixed-mode broadcasts feedback may be given using phone rather than Morse, so beginners who're not at all confident using a key are more likely to call in.

© M0LEP (Last updated February 2015.)


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