Okay-you’re ready to make the plunge into learning CW. Where do I start? I’d suggest you consider a few things that will help you to be successful. First would be budgeting enough time for study and regular practice, ideally on a daily basis. If you could do a half hour every day (or close!) you’ll find that your progress will be steady and rewarding. Short daily practice of even 15 -30 minutes is a lot more successful than trying to do 1 hour once or twice a week.
The second very important part is listening to live CW on the ham bands. I can’t overstate how valuable this is even if you aren’t copying hardly any of the conversation. You’ll be amazed at how much will seep into your ears, and if nothing else you’ll get a much better sense of rhythm and the variety of code being sent. And you’ll find yourself actually picking up letters and simple words. ‘ I don’t have any HF radios or antennas!’ Not to worry-if you have an Internet connection you can access a variety of online real time remote SDR (software defined radios) that will allow you to hear the ham bands. We’ll include links at the end of the article.
What you will need for practice especially sending is some sort of Morse code key, or better yet what’s known as a ‘paddle’- a two lever (one for dits, one for dahs) and a keyer/oscillator which will produce the code tone. If you already have an HF radio odds are it might have a keyer built in and there’s usually an option to practice CW off the air.
The most successful method is known as Farnsworth, which basically has you learning and sending the characters at a speed between 15-20 WPM (words per minute) but with big spacing between characters. As you get more proficient you decrease the space.
I recommend finding a class or instructor to help you get started. A great website to poke around on is LCWO (learn CW online). Excellent classes are offered by CW ops and the Long Island CW club, and from time to time there may be local classes you can join as well.