CWA Beginner – Welcome Message

Note: I’m advising a Morse Code (CW) beginner course and wanted to capture my notes, questions that have come up, as well as making updates and corrections.


My primary goal and hopes for the course are to help make it fun and encourage you to make CW friends on the air.  The CW Academy beginner course structure is thus:

    Sessions 1-10 are learning the alphabet, numbers, and the slant character.  These are roughly in order of difficulty:

1A, E, N, T2I, O, S, 1, 4
3D, H, L, R, 2, 54U, C
5M, W, 3, 6, ?6F, Y
7G, P, 7, 9, /8B, V
90, 8, J, K10Q, X, Z
Letters learned during each session

    Sessions 9-10 also introduce common abbreviations and pro signs.  We will start building a QSO cheat sheet.
    Sessions 11-13 are simple QSO practices.  This is where your QSO cue sheet will be helpful.
    Sessions 14-16 are additional activities like listening to the sub-bands and trying to pluck out call signs, make QSOs.  I will also encourage you to set up meetings virtual meetings (Zoom, Skype, Teams,, whatever is convenient) between yourselves to practice during the week.  At this stage, getting on the air is a “nice to have,” as I would rather you spend time practicing together than fussing with propagation issues.

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Here is the official CWA Practice and Homework Assignments packet. 

I have made my modified version available . The lessons are the same. I did extensive reformatting to make it more concise. I also added added, live links, a document index, session titles that indicate what we’re covering, specific frequencies to try on-air and links to Web SDRs that you can use to listen to the air from anywhere (or estimating how well you’re getting out). If there are typos, please let me know directly.

There will also be opportunities for additional CW entertainment when we’re further along in the course.  For example, there are slow-speed roundtables, a story-time where an instructor sends snippets at different rates for you to copy, and recurring contests both slow and fast.

Time and Commitment

To have the most success, I encourage you to spend 30 minutes a day practicing.  I found it helped to break that half hour up into 5- or 10-minute chunks.  Powering through it can cause burnout. You don’t want that.

Session Check-in

  1. Have you completed the CW Academy homework for the session?
  2. Have you done the bonus homework? For the first half of the beginner class, this will be coming up with some additional words to send during your turn to send.
  3. Do you have any questions? In the interest of time, we may need give a brief answer and take it up offline. Or sometimes “I don’t know, let me find out.” During each session, I make a list and try to send a follow-up with appropriate reference links.
  4. Are you “CW Happy”? Please explain. Having been through the class material and working as an associate advisor, I may be able to suggest ways to help if you hit a frustration bump.
  5. Tell your classmates something personal about yourself, that they don’t already know, so that they can get to know you better. This is up to you, try to keep it family-friendly.
  6. Are you open to critique? Critique is intended to help steer you towards a positive outcome. Sometimes I can be too helpful and critique sounds like criticism, it’s okay to decline or let me know.

Session time

The rest of class students send and receive code to each other. For example, in session one, everyone sends a word using the letters we’ve learnt so far (A, E, N, and T). The purpose of you all sending to each other is to encourage engagement, maximize your exposure to different kinds of sending, and help you become aware of the receive side – because CW is ultimately about communication. 

After you send, we’ll see how many other students were able to copy, indicated by raising hands. If there were a plurality, I’ll pick someone with their hand up to tell us what they copied and we move on to the next person. 

I may ask you to resend for a variety of reasons.

  • There weren’t a lot of hands up
  • Sending was rough
  • There were sound artifacts, someone wasn’t muted, or your message was clipped
  • The message was sent too quickly – It’s generally easier for students to send than receive. Moreover, it’s exciting and you may send a lot faster than you think. Slow down a little bit.
  • The message had unexpected elements or was complicated We may want to break up longer passages into words with exaggerated pausing.

I won’t lie, sometimes it will be rough, or you’ll get super nervous, and you’ll completely bobble a letter or word.  That’s okay.   You’re among friends.  Take a breath or two, relax, and try again slower.   Adding more spacing between words can help.


  • Please be respectful of each other. In particular, leave politics, gender, religion out of class topics
  • Please mute your microphone if you are not speaking or sending. Zoom has the uncanny ability to pick up awkward background noises when you least want it to.
  • Have fun, try to keep a positive attitude and sense of humor
  • If you know you’re going to miss or be late to class, please let me (or a classmate) know via text or email. Similarly, if you need to make an early exit, let us know during the check-in. I know Real Life comes up.

I will try to follow-up classes with a short email with the bonus homework and any interesting resources discussed. If you think something will be of general interest to the class, I have set up an alias (redacted) to everyone.


  1. Thanks for putting all this up! I’d love to do CW Academy, but the next session isn’t until the fall, and I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to do it uninterrupted. That being said, I was going to try to follow the beginner’s course laid out in the K6BR document you have linked. One question – what Farnsworth speed do you recommend when doing the copying at first?


    1. For beginning, as slow as you need to go. The more important aspect is the letters themselves are sent sufficiently fast so you can focus on the sound rather than counting dots and dashes. (Doing so will make it harder for you going forward.)

      For the basic course, we start off at a Farnsworth spacing of 4.


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