The most important part of successfully putting a contact, also known as a QSO, in your ham radio logbook is listening — or, in the case of the digital modes, watching what the computer displays. (QSO is a Q-signal.) In fact, your ears (and eyes) are the most powerful parts of your station.
The ham bands are like a 24-hour-a-day party, with people coming and going all the time. Just as you do when you walk into any other big party, you need to size up the room by doing two things for a while before jumping in:
- Tuning the band (receiving on different frequencies to assess activity)
- Monitoring (listening to or watching an ongoing contact or conversation)
By doing so, you discover who’s out there and what they’re doing, what the radio conditions are like, and what the best way for you to make contact is.
How to listen to ham radio on different bands
You can listen on the following bands:
- HF (high frequency) bands cover 3 MHz to 30 MHz and are usually thought of as the shortwave bands.
- VHF (very high frequency) bands cover 30 MHz to 300 MHz.
- UHF (ultra high frequency) bands cover 300 MHz to 3 GHz.
- Microwaves are considered to start at about 1 GHz.
The shortwave or HF bands have a different flavor from the VHF bands. On the HF bands, you can find stations on any frequency that offer a clear spot for a contact. Up on the VHF bands, most contacts take place by means of repeaters on specific frequencies or on channels spaced regularly by a few kHz. How are you supposed to figure out where the other hams hang out?
As a Technician licensee, you’re likely to listen on the VHF and UHF bands at first, but don’t miss an opportunity to take in what’s happening on the lower-frequency HF bands, which have a completely different flavor.