Amateur radio Q-Signals ~ Lesson 5

Much information can be exchanged quickly using Q-signals that mean the same thing in every language, when using Morse code to ommunicate. Q-signals consist of three-letter codes that begin with the letter Q, and may make a statement, or if followed by a question mark, ask a question. Can you imagine how much time is saved by asking "QTH?" instead of "What is your location?" Not to mention the wear and tear on the key contacts, with an international translation built-in, to boot!

LESSON 5: Amateur Radio Q-Signals

The most common Q Signals that you will encounter as a new ham are listed here, with an audio player to hear the Morse code for each:

  • Your QTH is where you hang your hat, or is where you are at in this moment if mobile or portable. Listen to the Morse code for “QTH:” City and state or province is usually exchanged with your contacts on your first go-’round. If you are in a suburb of a major metropolitan area, you may call yourself as being near the big city.
  • QSB is fading and blasting signal conditions. Listen to the Morse code for “QSB:” Your receiver has automatic volume control to avoid blasting, but when the signal regularly fades into oblivion and bounces back, it makes for some difficult copy. You will either report QSB to the other station or he will let you know.
  • QRM is reference to other signals near your frequency that are causing you interference to your reception. Listen to the Morse code for “QRM:” Sometimes you can filter it out with receiver controls, but sometimes a nearby signal is strong enough to push your contact's signal into oblivion or the interfering signal is on the same frequency. It takes a trained ear to keep track of your contact's message under these adverse conditions.
  • QRN is manmade electrical noise or natural thunderstorm static. The thunderstorm can be a thousand miles distant. Listen to the Morse code for “QRN:” Static and noise is more predominant at lower frequencies like 7 MHz or below.
  • PSE QSY UP or DN or to x kHz is a request to please change frequency. “PSE” is CW shorthand for PLEASE, and “DN” is short for DOWN. Listen to the Morse code for “QSY:” The request may be to meet another station waiting on the other frequency or to avoid interference. If you answered someone else’s CQ and another station calls you when you clear, it is always polite to move away to another frequency and let the first station continue to use this frequency in pursuit of more contacts.
  • QSL is on-air acknowledgement and also acknowledgement of the contact by mail (a QSL card) or by Internet logging services. Listen to the Morse code for “QSL:”
  • QRL? is used to ask if the frequency is in use before commencing to use it. Listen to the Morse code for “QRL:” On higher frequencies like 21 MHz, some on the opposite coast from you may be listening to someone within 150 miles of you on this frequency and you cannot hear him. But you will surely hear the fellow who is 1500 miles away when he comes back to his contact near you. Asking QRL? and letting up to listen allows another station to respond without you wiping him out by putting this busy frequency to use.

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For a list of Q-signals, here is a list in PDF for your download: Q-Signals PDF Credit goes to: bclingan.org

Also the W5WWW site lists only the Q-signals that pertain to amateur radio: W5WWW on QSL.Net, qcode.html

Q-signals go hand-in-hand with common abbreviations used in CW communications, which can be found toward the end of this handout: Morse Alphabet cheat sheet (Rev 1) and Timing plus RST Signal Reporting System and common CW abbreviations

There are parallels between Morse shorthand and instant messaging shorthand. IM shorthand is easy to type, whereas Morse shorthand is quicker to send, with a few exceptions.

More and more people will be already familiar with texting and instant-messaging shorthand as they enter the hobby, so surely there will be more and more of it showing up on CW.

Q-signals go hand-in-hand with common abbreviations used in CW communications, which can be found toward the end of this handout: Morse Alphabet cheat sheet (Rev 1) and Timing plus RST Signal Reporting System and common CW abbreviations There are parallels between Morse shorthand and instant messaging shorthand. IM shorthand is easy to type, whereas Morse shorthand is quicker to send, with a few exceptions.

More and more people will be already familiar with texting and instant-messaging shorthand as they enter the hobby, so surely there will be more and more of it showing up on CW.

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