I need some recordings of CW / Morse code for use in a project. Most of what I find is either nonsense (it just exists for the 'sound of CW', but doesn't contain a message) or is generated by a computer. Where can I find some audio of real CW operators? I've been scanning the HF bands but have only found beacons, which are obviously computer controlled.
Try to find the allocated amateur radio band plans for your country. You will notice that there are reserved sections of the band plan that are for CW only. Usually they are in the first few kHz (i.e. lowest frequency) for the band you're interested in. For instance, in Australia the CW portions for common HF bands are:
band ~freq CW portion
160m 1.8MHz 1810 - 1840
80m 3.5MHz 3500 - 3535
40m 7MHz 7000 - 7030
20m 14MHz 14000 - 14070
15m 21MHz 21000 - 21070
10m 28MHz 28000 - 28200
(These could all differ a bit from country to country)
(Australian band plan for 40 metre band) Source: http://www.wia.org.au/
Then, using the websdr page as AndrejaKo suggested you should be able to tune in to some CW and hear live what is being transmitted.
On the websdr website in a waterfall display, CW appears as a thin, interrupted line, like the one below..
Alternatively (and similar to websdr), you can now also visit http://kiwisdr.com/public/ There, many stations have been brought online using OpenWebRX and a BeagleBone Black shield called KiwiSDR.
I should add that nowadays many people prefer an electronic 'keyer', a microcontroller-based device that corrects slight timing issues otherwise heard when using straight keys. If you're looking for hand-generated (straight key) CW transmissions you may have a hard time finding any these days.
Alternatively.. Learn the Code! For most people it's not too hard to learn how to send Morse. A simple 1kHz sine generator (kit) with a home-built key and a CW decoding program is all you need to get started.
Now, audibly READING the code... That's a different story.. :-)
Wait for a Straight Key Night (http://www.arrl.org/straight-key-night) to record from the CW portion of HF bands.
Another source of hand-keyed CW is the SKCC ( http://www.skccgroup.com ) 40m calling frequency at 7.050 MHz where you can hear code from straight keys most evenings (US). There is even more activity during their monthly sprints starting at 0000 UTC the fourth Wednesday of each month (Tuesday evening the US).
Regarding CW analysis, you might be interested in the thread which roughly starts here http://ag1le.blogspot.com/2013/01/towards-bayesian-morse-decoder.html . It goes on for over a year but contains excellent insights in several aspects if CW timing, noise reduction and decoding techniques.
There are some recordings here of ships and coast stations from the 'olden days' http://coastradio.info/recordings.html
Have a look here:
http://www.vlf.it/parmigiani/saq_eng.htm (look for 'Example')
and do a search on youtube for transmissions of the SAQ transmitter, which is an antique VLF transmitter (17.2 kHz!). Several times each year, they crank up the transmitter, and send a test message. Many people are always listening, and frequently publish the reception reports on youtube or dedicated mailing lists.
Appropiately, the transmitter is operated with a manual keyer! Here's an example of a longer message:
You could probably contact the author for the complete recording too.
Another edit - just found a PDF with the description of the transmitter - yes! it's electromechanical!
Using WebSDR, you can find people making their receivers and antennas available on the Internet. This avoids any problems your setup might have. You can find live CW QSOs, listen in and even record if you wish.