Posted in: New Hams Corner

New Ham: How to become a proficient CW Operator


CW Academy is a program put on by the CW Operators’ Club aimed at increasing the number of competent CW operators on the HF CW sub-bands. It addresses all levels of enthusiasts: from those aspiring to become licensed operators who want to learn and use Morse code; to veteran operators who are intent on increasing their CW skills, speed and activity.



Start with software that allows Farnsworth spacing, like G4FON, and learn the letters and numerals. Listen to the characters at 20 or 25 wpm, any slower and your mind starts counting dits and dahs instead of listening to the “sound” of the character. Your goal is to hear the sound and immediately picture that character in your head, not hear “dih-dah” and think yourself “that is the letter A” and then picture the “A” in your head. “Dih-dah” should just become another name for “A” without any translation.

Decide early what you want the end result to be. Do you want to have solid copy with a pencil? Do you want to copy at a keyboard? Do you want to copy in your head? Whichever you choose, practice that way from the beginning. Don’t think one is a stepping stone to another, the learning curve between each can be steep since they involve different responses and reflexes. Don’t start with a pencil if your ultimate goal is to copy at the keyboard.

Listen, listen, listen. Download the ARRL code practice MP3s and listen to them in the CD player in my truck and on an IPod. Use the G4FON software to send random words and texts of e-books. Enjoy the RUFZ-XP program trying to decipher callsigns at increasing speeds. Use a program called Morse Machine that sends characters for you to type. It doesn’t give you the next character until you have typed the one you have just heard. It helps to space things out and practice some of the less common characters.


Just Learn Morse Code

Just Learn Morse Code is designed to make it easy to learn Morse code, as well as improve the skills of those who already know the code.
The basic methods used to achieve this are Koch’s method and Farnsworth timing.

CLICK for “Just Learn Morse Code”


As for speed, anything above 12 WPM will work.  You should start out at whatever speed you want to use.  If your goal is 25 WPM standard timing, you should learn 25 WPM Morse code right away.  If it’s too fast for you to keep up, use Farnsworth to slow it down and then bridge the gap after you know all the characters.

A technique recently discovered is to identify the 100 most common words used in CW. Take that list and pump it into a CW generator of your choice. Start listening to 5 words at 25 wpm. When you are comfortable with hearing the sounds of those words, move to the next 5 words where you are now listening to 10 words. Repeat this process until you have completed the list.

These start with numbers and special characters.

Here’s a clist

a an the this these that some all
any every who which what such

I me my we us our you your he
him his she her it its they them

man men people time work well
May will can one two great little

at by on upon over before to
from with in into out for of about

when then now how so like as well
very only no not more there than;
and or if but

be am is are was were been has
have had may can could will
would shall should must say said
like go come do made work

CLICK for “100 Common Words”

CLICK for “500 Most Common Words”