Some people see CB radio as this big and scary thing. It isn’t. Sure. It is probably a little bit more difficult to dive into than one would expect, but learning how to talk on a CB radio isn’t all that difficult. On this page, we want to give you a few pointers. This should make your first communications that much easier.
Understand the Radio Channels
For the most part, you are free to talk on any CB radio station that you want. The only one that is not a ‘free for all’ will be Channel 9. This is reserved for emergency communications only.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that you can just jump into communicating on any station that you want. This is a technology that has been kicking around for a good few years now. This means that some channels have defaulted to certain types of communication. For example; throughout the United States, you will find that Channel 19 is mostly for trucker traffic. This is because being a mid-range channel, it means that it will almost always have the best audio quality.
Before you start using your CB radio, we suggest that you take a while to familiarize yourself with the usages of each channel. However, most of them will be completely open. It tends to be only channels 9 and 19 that you should not be communicating on unless you have a reason to do so.
When it comes to learning how to talk on a CB radio, there is nothing better you can do than just listen to the radio chatter that is going on. Sure, you could probably just jump into talking and most people won’t care (unless it is on one of the trucker channels), but each area has its own CB radio norms that have been established. Listening in will enable you to get familiar with the CB radio community in the area you are operating your radio.
When you are listening in, you are probably going to be hearing a lot of radio slang. Lots of it. Some of it may make you laugh. CB radio is pretty much the only place you will ever hear an overly zealous cop referred to as a ‘Yellowstone Bear’. However, this is the beauty of CB radio. The culture. The norms found nowhere else. Absorb yourself in it.
Listening will also give you an idea about the general conversation topics on certain channels. You may also find that certain channels are going to have a lot more radio chatter than others. Generally speaking; it is likely that the middle channels are most likely to have radio chatter.
A lot of people who use CB radios will never speak on the radio at all. Feel free to be one of these people. Sometimes, it is just fun to listen in to what other people are speaking about and to keep ‘up to date’ with situations in the local area. However, we do urge you to try and jump in once or twice. The majority of the CB radio community is fairly open….assuming you steer clear of Channel 19 unless you are a trucker!
Your First Communications
Once you are ready to dive into communicating with people in the local area, all you need to do is press the microphone button that turns it on..
Do remember that only one person can be broadcasting on a channel at once. If somebody is already talking, then wait until they have finished before you press the button on your microphone. If you fail to do that, then nobody will be able to hear from you! You may find that some channels are far too busy for you to ever get a word in. This is why you will want to gravitate towards some of the channels which are active, but not too active.
The first time you talk, just ask if anybody can hear you. Hopefully, you will get a response. If you don’t, this either means nobody can hear you, or the channel is not active. Remember; CB radio, while popular, is not as popular as it was in the past. This means that some of the 40-channels will have zero listeners. Find an active channel.
If you are on an active channel and people can’t hear you, then you may need to check your equipment to ensure that it is working correctly. For this, it is suggested that you read our guide on how to calibrate your CB radio. It is unlikely that there is anything seriously wrong with your equipment. In most cases, it will require nothing more than a quick adjustment of your antenna and you are ready to roll.
CB Radio Etiquette
As with most things related to CB radio chatter, there may be norms in your local community that won’t be found anywhere else in the United States. This is why it is so important that you just sit back and listen to the radio chatter for a while. It will allow you to learn the rules for communicating in that area. People won’t mind if you break some of the rules on occasion (as long as you are not being rude!), but try to learn how to do things properly.
Mostly, CB radio etiquette is going to be the same as if you were holding a conversation ‘face to face’. This means the following:
- Wait for your turn to speak
- Do not interrupt conversations
- Do not talk too much (unless you are engaged in a conversation)
- Do not talk for too long
The last one is actually incredibly important. As we mentioned previously, whenever somebody is talking on a CB radio channel, nobody else will be able to communicate on it. If you are talking for too long, you are basically denying people the opportunity to say something. You should never really be speaking for more than a minute or two.
Other than this, just keep listening and talking on your CB radio. Eventually, you will learn how to do things. Remember; everybody was a beginner at one time or another.