Learning Morse Code or CW

What is it and How to Get Started

Unlocking the Magic of Morse Code: Enhancing Your Ham Radio Experience

Morse code, also known as CW (Continuous Wave), holds a special place in the world of amateur radio. This unique mode of communication, relying on sequences of short and long signals, has been a pillar of ham radio since its inception. In this article, we’ll delve into the journey of getting started with Morse code, explore its benefits in enriching your ham radio experience, highlight some Morse code apps, and shed light on the Long Island CW Club and various Morse code keys like straight keys and iambic paddles.

Getting Started with Morse Code:

Learning Morse code may seem intimidating at first, but with dedication and proper guidance, anyone can master this skill. To begin your Morse code journey, consider the following steps:

Learn the Basics: Familiarize yourself with the Morse code alphabet, consisting of dots (short signals) and dashes (long signals) representing letters, numbers, and common punctuation marks. Practice recognizing the characters and their associated sounds.

Start Slowly: Begin by learning a few characters at a time. Practice regularly and gradually increase the complexity as you become more comfortable.

Use Resources: There are numerous online resources, tutorials, and mobile apps that offer interactive lessons and exercises to help you grasp Morse code effectively.

Practice Regularly: Consistency is key to mastering Morse code. Set aside dedicated practice time each day to reinforce your learning.  I suggest 20-30 minutes a day and you will stay proficient in what you have learned.

Benefits of Learning Morse Code in Ham Radio:

Enhanced Communication: Morse code offers a robust and reliable method of communication, especially in challenging conditions where voice and digital modes may struggle. Knowing Morse code allows you to connect with fellow operators across vast distances, even during adverse weather conditions.  You can literally communicate using CW with 1 watt!

Low Bandwidth Usage: Morse code is a narrowband mode, requiring minimal bandwidth compared to voice or digital modes. This efficiency makes it ideal for low-power or battery-operated radios.

Emergency Preparedness: In times of emergencies or disasters, communication networks might fail, but Morse code can be a lifesaving tool for amateur radio operators. Its simplicity and long-distance reach make it invaluable during critical situations.

Timeless Art: Morse code represents an essential part of the rich history of amateur radio. By learning and using Morse code, you become a custodian of a time-honored tradition, connecting with operators from the past and present.

Morse Code Apps:

Embrace the convenience of technology with Morse code apps that facilitate learning and practice on the go. Some popular apps include:

Morse Mentor: This app offers comprehensive lessons, customizable training, and interactive exercises to reinforce your Morse code skills.

Ham Morse: Ham Morse caters specifically to amateur radio enthusiasts, providing training for both receiving and sending Morse code.

Morse Toad: Designed as a fun and engaging game, Morse Toad helps you learn Morse code through various levels of difficulty.

Morse Machine – Makes learning CW into a game play scenario.


Morse Mania – Morse Mania is a fun and educational game that helps you master the Morse code by advancing through 270 exciting levels in either audio, visual or vibration mode.

Morse Mentor provides an easy way to learn Morse Code using the Koch Method. Start by listening to 2 characters and enter what you hear. If you obtained a 90% overall accuracy then you can move on to 3 characters and repeat the process.


Do you love codes and secrets? Morse Toad is the fantastic educational app that teaches you morse code through a series of simple lessons and exercises.


CW Hotline: DIY Morse Code and Great Learning Tool

If you have some basic soldering skills and want to build a tool that is not only fun, but will greatly help you to learn CW, let me introduce you to CW Hotline, a WiFi connected CW tool. CW Hotline was designed to provide a way to key a remote radio station in CW mode, but can be also used as a private Morse code link to friends. Think “The Bat Phone” for CW. It is available with either a built in straight key or paddles, or neither if only external keys will be used. Once it is configured with the local WiFi information, just power up, it will link with selected peers and be ready to send and receive.

For $50 you get the DIY kit with complete instructions and everything you need, or if you are not confident in your soldering, for $100 they will build and test it for you.


PC Software to Help You Practice Morse Code

Aside from apps and gadgets to help you learn Morse Code, there is also software you can download that will aid you in learning as well.  These two software downloads are FREE to use and they have helped me immensely in learning and practicing Morse Code at home. 

  1. G4FON – This is my personal favorite of the two.  This program allows you to use the Koch method for learning which is one of the more popular ways that CW clubs use to teach you Morse code. It has drills that allow you to learn to recognize the various letters.  You can choose your speed and pitch of the characters as so much more.  I believe you can even hook up a straight key to your computer or through a microphone system and it will hear you when you key the characters as well and interact with your progress.  You can learn more about and download a copy of G4FON HERE  (Download the Koch Trainer Version 10)  The website is very outdated but the file is still there to use and download.  The creator of G4FON, Ray Burlingame-Goff, passed away in 2021, but the site remains up for now.

2.  CWPlayer – So this is not as much a trainer program as it is a way for you to be able to start recognizing the characters and how they sound when keyed.  You can add in your own text and then it will play what you typed.  There is a Quiz mode, but I think the one on G4FON is better.  Again these are free software and will allow you to practice and learn on your own time and in your own way.  I recommend supplementing these with a course in CW like from the Long Island CW Club (Details in the next section.)

The Long Island CW Club:

The Long Island CW Club stands as a beacon of camaraderie and learning for amateur radio enthusiasts who seek to embrace the timeless art of Morse code. With its dedication to fostering a strong community of Morse code operators, the club provides a wealth of resources and opportunities for individuals to enhance their skills. In this article, we will explore the Long Island CW Club, highlighting its commitment to teaching Morse code, the frequency of classes it offers each week, and the affordability of its lifetime membership.

Embracing the Morse Code Tradition:

Morse code, the ancient method of encoding messages through sequences of dots and dashes, has left an indelible mark on the world of amateur radio. Despite the advent of modern communication technologies, many radio operators still find immense value in mastering this elegant form of communication. The Long Island CW Club, recognizing the enduring charm and effectiveness of Morse code, seeks to keep this tradition alive by helping newcomers and seasoned operators alike refine their skills.

Multiple Classes Each Week:

One of the remarkable aspects of the Long Island CW Club is its commitment to making learning accessible and convenient for all members. The club offers multiple classes each week, catering to individuals with diverse schedules and skill levels. Whether you are a complete beginner, looking to improve your speed, or seeking advanced techniques, the Long Island CW Club has a class to suit your needs.

Beginner Classes: For those just starting their Morse code journey, the club provides structured beginner classes, ensuring a solid foundation in the fundamentals of Morse code. Trained instructors lead these sessions, employing engaging teaching methods to make the learning process enjoyable and effective.

Intermediate and Advanced Classes: For more experienced operators looking to enhance their proficiency, intermediate and advanced classes delve deeper into the art of Morse code. Participants learn advanced techniques, practice with higher speeds, and gain insights from seasoned CW operators.

Speed Improvement Sessions: The Long Island CW Club understands the significance of speed in Morse code communication. To cater to operators striving to increase their speed capabilities, the club hosts dedicated speed improvement sessions, designed to challenge and elevate their skills.

Affordable Lifetime Membership:

The Long Island CW Club aims to encourage lifelong learning and participation in the Morse code community. To achieve this, the club offers an extraordinary lifetime membership option for a mere $90. With this one-time payment, members gain access to the club’s resources, events, and classes indefinitely.

Lifetime Benefits:

  1. Unlimited Access to Classes: As a lifetime member, you can attend as many classes as you desire without the worry of recurring fees. This allows you to continuously improve your Morse code skills and engage with the community at your own pace.

  2. Engaging Webinars: The Long Island CW Club regularly hosts webinars featuring experienced operators and Morse code experts. As a lifetime member, you gain exclusive access to these informative sessions, further enriching your knowledge and understanding of Morse code.

  3. Networking Opportunities: Becoming a lifetime member of the Long Island CW Club opens doors to an extensive network of like-minded individuals passionate about Morse code and ham radio. Interact with fellow operators, exchange experiences, and build lasting connections within the community.

The Long Island CW Club stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of Morse code in the world of amateur radio. With its commitment to teaching and nurturing Morse code skills, the club provides a welcoming environment for individuals of all experience levels. The opportunity to attend multiple classes each week and the attractive lifetime membership option for only $90 make it an attractive choice for those seeking to master Morse code. Embrace the rich history of Morse code and embark on a fulfilling journey of learning and growth with the Long Island CW Club. Discover the joy of tapping out messages in dots and dashes, and join a community that cherishes the timeless art of Morse code.

Morse Code Ninja: Another CW Resource to Learn Morse Code

This course is a set of YouTube videos using the Farnsworth method. Each video has a character speed of 20wpm and an overall speed of 10wpm. The course provides continuous and immediate feedback, which will help accelerate your learning. Practice callsigns are or were valid US callsigns. Words are limited to the Top 5,000 words that are at most four letters long, and a focus was placed on selecting words that match the current letter. Words and callsigns will only contain characters that have been introduced so far.

Morse Code Keys: Straight Keys and Iambic Paddles

To effectively transmit Morse code, you need a keying device to generate the dots and dashes. Two common types of keys are the straight key and the iambic paddle:

Straight Key: Also known as a “hand key” or “paddle key,” the straight key is a simple and straightforward device. It requires the operator to manually press the lever to create Morse code signals. While it may seem basic, many purists appreciate the nostalgia and simplicity of using a straight key.  An example of a good and reliable straight key would be something like the J-38 which you can get on Ebay.

Iambic Paddles: Iambic paddles are more advanced keying devices, particularly favored by high-speed operators. They consist of two paddles, one for dots and one for dashes. By pressing the paddles with different combinations, the operator can create characters seamlessly, resulting in smoother and faster keying.  An example of some Iambic paddles can be found HERE

As you embark on your Morse code journey in the realm of amateur radio, remember that patience and dedication are essential. Learning Morse code not only enhances your ham radio experience but also connects you to the fascinating history of this timeless communication mode. Utilize the wide array of Morse code apps available and consider joining a community like the Long Island CW Club to enrich your skills further. Whether you choose a classic straight key or embrace the precision of iambic paddles, Morse code will undoubtedly unlock new dimensions in your ham radio adventures. So, embrace the dots and dashes, and let the magic of Morse code enrich your amateur radio journey like never before. Happy keying!