Tag Archives: Morse Code Training

New to Morse Code? Embrace Your “Fist”! A message to budding CW operators

Are you a new CW operator, fresh on the airwaves?

Do you find yourself worrying about what your Morse code “fist” sounds like to others, or about making mistakes on the air?

If that’s you, then this message is for you:

Public Service Announcement: Stop worrying about how you sound on the air!

Several times a month, I hear from new CW operators who I’ve logged during POTA and SOTA activations .

This is no surprise! As I’ve said before, I wholeheartedly encourage new CW operators to get started by hunting stations in these on-the-air activities. After all, CW exchanges in POTA and SOTA are predictable and straightforward, giving you a great opportunity to practice your sending and receiving skills.

More often than not, new CW operators who’ve reached out will apologize for their “fist” or code sending skills. I get it…still…and I mean this is the most positive light possible… 

No Apologies Necessary

Give yourself a break! If your sending isn’t perfectly smooth or machine-like, that’s absolutely fine.

If you stumble and make mistakes, that’s absolutely fine too.

In fact, it’s a beautiful reminder that there’s a real human being on the other end of the signal, someone at their own place in their CW journey.

Yes, we should all strive for a good, readable fist, but especially in the beginning, no one expects you to sound like a seasoned operator.

And remember: every single Morse code operator on the planet has been a beginner at some point. We’ve all felt nervous, made mistakes on the air, and even flubbed our own callsigns. I’m certainly guilty of all three, and, to be completely honest, far, far more than once!

Embrace the Learning Curve

So, who cares if you stumble a bit? I can confidently tell you that most of us on the other end of the contact are cheering you on! We’ve been in your shoes, and we know the thrill of mastering this challenging but rewarding mode of communication.

Instead of apologizing, you deserve congratulations for diving into one of the oldest and most skill-demanding wireless communication modes out there!

Mistakes Are Badges of Honor

Photo from my first POTA CW activation int he summer of 2020.

Be proud of those mistakes! They’re not setbacks, but rather milestones on your CW journey. Embrace them, learn from them, and keep sending.

Your ham radio community is here to support you every step of the way!

73/72, and I look forward to putting you in the logs!

dit dit

Thomas (K4SWL)

Learning Morse Code When Work Life Limits Practice Time and Classes?

After posting my 2024 Radio Goals post, Mark left the following comment:

My main goal would be to learn CW this year.

[…]My work schedule doesn’t allow me to participate in any kind of CW classes since I’m in bed by the time they start. Trying to listen to anything while I’m working (I drive a delivery truck) is too tough to concentrate on the task at hand. So I feel I’m at an impasse. Happy New Year QRPers.

Mark, it definitely sounds like you need CW training in some sort of asynchronous format like audio or video recordings that will allow you to practice during lunch breaks and any short openings you might have in the day.

I started my CW journey so long ago, that I don’t know what some of the current options are for pre-recorded CW training that follows the Farnworth method. I learned CW via Gordon West’s Novice CW Training tapes which were really designed to help you pass the Novice test, not necessarily for CW proficiency.

Using the Farnsworth method, characters are sent to you at, say 21 words per minute or so, while extra spacing is added between characters and words to slow the transmission down as you start your CW journey. This teaches you to learn each character at your target rate from the very beginning. As you become more proficient, the spacing between characters is simply shortened. No question, it’s the best way to avoid the “counting dits and dashes” issue that causes many beginners to stumble.

Any advice for Mark?

I’m sure there are some phone/tablet apps, audio programs, and YouTube channels out there that will allow you to study at your own pace. I agree that it sounds like your work schedule would make real-time online courses challenging.

Readers, please comment with links to any resources that might help Mark and others in his shoes.

Consistency and habit stacking…

My own two cents here: Mark, I would worry less about how long you’re practicing CW each day and focus on consistency. Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes per day (most of us can carve that out), a steady and reliable pace will have a most positive impact on your CW journey.

Also, I find “habit stacking” to be a powerful tool–I’ll explain, but click here for a proper, thorough explanation.

Basically, habit stacking works by adding on a new habit to one you already do.

A real-life example: I wanted to implement regular light stretching into my daily routine, but I was finding it difficult to remember. Out of entire week, I might remember to stretch two or three times.

Then a friend told me about habit stacking where you add the new habit to one you’re already doing.

One thing I do each morning without fail is brew my first cup of coffee. From day one, I would grind my beans, start the coffee maker, and while the coffee was brewing, I’d spend a couple of minutes doing stretches and squats.

It was so simple implementing this new routine and I’ve never once forgotten to do my morning stretches.

In your shoes, I’d find a habit you’re already doing where you typically have a moment of peace: making your coffee, taking off your shoes after work, brushing your teeth…whatever you do daily and works for you. Then add on 10-15 minutes of code practice.

Even if you only added 10 minutes of code practice per day, by the end of the year, you’d have accumulated a total of 61 hours!

I feel like prerecorded code practice or a good CW app might help. Also, you might try a device like the Morse Tutor or Morserino. (I’ve been tempted to buy both of these to test myself!)

Again, my hope is that our community here will have some advice based on recent experience to help you! Please comment!