How to start learning CW Thread

Considering the post requesting a CW category, I thought I would throw out some things for those interested in learning CW. I have been slowly learning CW for a couple years. I have almost 40 CW contacts logged so my actual experience level is low as I am still learning.

How to get started learning?

There are a lot of resources on the Internet. So many that it’s overwhelming at times. I am not going to bother listing a ton of them, I am going to list a select few that I am am or have used and are highly recommended.

  1. The first one and probably the best is the CW Ops Academy. Detailed info is here: under the Academy section. They have four levels of classes starting with a beginner which expects zero CW experience. Your class will meet twice a week over Zoom and you will have to do homework during the week. I HIGHLY recommend this!!!

  2. K7QO Code course - This is a collection of over 500 mp3 files that start from zero and finished with The War of the Worlds in Morse Code. Yea a book! I have all the files on my phone and listen in the car. I am listening to file 77 out of over 500! I have a ways to go with this course.

  3. - This is a great resource. Lot’s of random cw exercises and lessons. I mainly use the exercises and not the lessons here.

  4. Once you learn the letters and numbers, most people recommend listening to actual slower QSO’s. Contest QSO’s are easier as the exchange is predefined and repetitive so it’s easier. A lot of my 40-ish contacts are QSO party type contacts.

Paddle or straight key? If you do the CW Ops class, they will tell you to just start with a paddle which will require an electronic keyer either built into your radio or external to the radio. I recently bought a K1EL Winmini Keyer. It connects to my computer and radio and allows contest exchanges to be done via computer. If you have seen the CW guys at Field Day doing QSO’s by hitting their keyboard F keys, this is how that’s done.

Old timers on forums will tell you to start with a straight key, because they had to do it that way. I believe the answer the corresponds to “We did it that way therefore you have to do it that way” is a B.S. answer.

That said, I am learning with a paddle/keyer combo and got a straight key and am working on getting that hooked up. Once I get proficient (sort of) with CW and can make contacts with a lot of trouble, I’ll start playing with the straight key.

There is a short synopsis of my thoughts. Let me know if you have any questions. When you guys get to learning, we should start up some sort of newbie CW practice thing.



Thanks, Wayne!

I’ll mention some things too as we go along. I haven’t made any QSO contacts yet, but I have listened and picked out hams’ call signs and emailed them listening reports. They seem to like that, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback. Most of them say I’m doing it right and encourage with drill, drill, drill and listen, listen, listen. When I’m ready, they say email them, and they will be happy to schedule a QSO and promise to go slow!

I’ve always been a terrible aural learner, so ear training comes slowly to me. I’m encouraged that my interest level has kept up and I see progress. I have no fear of sending Morse, but I’m not to the point with instant recognition where I can receive well enough. So I’m mixing it up and trying to keep it fun and continue to progress.

I like that K7QO Code course!

ARRL Morse Code Practice Files are also helpful.

I hear a lot of terrible Code on the air–usually slower senders. They have no rhythm, hihi. When you are listening on the air, listen to the rhythmically clean senders. It’s so much easier! About 15-20WPM. Pick out what you can. I can pick up many call signs if they repeat 4-6 times! Try contacting of them by email. Give them a listening report. You’ll be encouraged.

As for keys, I got a nice Kent single paddle key, and I’m learning it as a sideswiper (cootie key). It comes more natural to me. Plus they are easy to make, and I hope to build some someday–a good prepper project.

I also won a Christmas straight key in a hamfest raffle, and I practice on it some although it’s tiny. I can go back and forth between cootie and straight method with no problem.

Having fun! 73

Yea there are some rotten senders out there. . . . So pick good ones to listen to. I heard one person one evening that had no spacing in between letters or words. . . I made out the “CQ CQ CQ de” and after that it was all completely utter gibberish. Just one long string of dits and dahs.

I am still struggling with the instant recognition of some characters. Some I get instantly and others I have to think about but then it’s too late, several more go by and I am lost. Regroup and do it again LOL

I was getting better when I was working in it a little every day . . . but I have not practiced in a while. I have to get back to it. I think it’s just gonna take more work and time. I think I’ll quit messing around with FT8 on the weekends and try to do some CW QSO party contacts.

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