How should I handle my speed for a first QSO?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KT5MR, Oct 17, 2016.

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  1. KT5MR

    KT5MR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi all,

    I was exceptionally privileged to go through the CWOps CW Academy Level One course back in April/May of this year. It was well worth the wait. Unfortunately, a busy summer happened as I wasn't able to keep up my code practice. I've been able to pick it up the past few weeks, thankfully.

    In the CW Academy, they have you learn the characters at 23 WPM, both sending and receiving. Right now, I'm probably a month or two away from the point where I can receive 23 WPM characters consistently as long as they are sent 5-7 WPM apart. Any closer and it all falls apart for me.

    My question is which would be the better thing to do for my first QSO:

    1) Wait until I can receive 23 WPM, both intra-character spacing and word spacing,
    2) Keep my keyer at 23 WPM and send at 5 WPM spacing
    3) Slow down my keyer to a speed for which I can copy a consistent speed for both intra-character spacing and word spacing (probably to 13-15 WPM). (And keep practicing at the higher speeds)

    Option one seems a little difficult, probably would push my first QSO off to 2020 or later. :D I thought option two might make sense, but then considered that someone would hear my character spacing and naturally send faster than I could copy. So, in my mind, option 3 makes the most sense?

    --Michael / KT5MR
  2. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Send no faster than you can copy comfortably.
    WA7PRC, KP4SX and W7UUU like this.
  3. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I would add to Eric's comment: Don't send characters slower than about 15WPM - super-slow characters are a PITA to copy when dit's get really long and dah's longer. Send minimum 12-15 WPM actual characters, and just space the letters out to keep your speed where you yourself can copy back. Hopefully the chap on the other end follows suit - but if he doesn't simply send "PSE QRS" and he should oblige to slow down.

    Good luck!!

    AG6QR likes this.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Did you know there was a song by Pearls Before Swine about Morse code?

    I remember when this first came out and was on the radio many times (broadcast radio, that is), in the 60s.

  5. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    I couldn't wait for that qso to end!
  6. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That's pretty much what I did, a couple of years ago when I started getting on the air with CW. Set the keyer to 17 WPM or so, and left extra space between letters so that the overall speed was what I was able to copy, maybe 8-10 wpm at first. It seemed to work, and others were able to follow my example. Maybe I've just been lucky, but in my experience the people operating CW are all very patient and kind.

    Do your best to keep the letters coming at a steady pace, even if that pace is slow -- if you're adding extra space between letters, keep it a fairly consistent amount of extra space. In order to help the other guy separate your letters into words, make sure the between-word space is significantly longer than the between-letter space within a word.

    Having said that, don't worry about perfection. Get on the air. Also, listen to QSOs on the air. Many may be too fast for you at first, but go ahead and try to listen as much as you can.

    I'm fortunate to have a local club with a few very seasoned CW ops who agreed to hold a weekly slow speed scheduled CW net. One of the most helpful things about that was to hear the experienced operators make mistakes. They all make mistakes, even when operating slowly. You will too. No worries.
  7. K7MEM

    K7MEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, I vote for option 3.

    It doesn't have to be those exact WPM. Just a speed that you are comfortable copying. Faster operators will generally slow down to match your speed. What you initially need is confidence, not a blistering fast, or painfully slow, QSO.

    It's natural to be nervous when you first start out, but this subsides after a few QSOs. Then you can worry about getting your speed up. Everyone on the air is not running a 25 WPM. So the speed of your contacts will be all over the map. So don't depend on your QSOs to get your speed up. Continue with your off-line practice. After a while you will start recognizing words, rather than just characters. It will be small common words at first (like "name is", "rig hr", etc.) but it will get better, making a QSO that much more enjoyable.

    You might want to make a recording of your sending, to make sure you sending is up to your receiving. Whether it's slow or fast, bad sending is hard to read.
  8. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You don't get to choose the speed/spacing the other guy comes back with until you ask him QRS! And he may have a poor fist.

    I can receive 23 WPM characters consistently as long as they are sent 5-7 WPM apart

    That indicates your initial on-air speed should be 5-7 wpm.
  9. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Don't see the puzzle here, and you only send at the speed you can copy and if the other operator is slower then slow to his speed.

    Just get on the air and do it, hesitation doesn't do any good. JMO
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think it pays to just get on and make contacts.

    Log 500 CW contacts, making maybe 5/day for 100 days, and get back to us about your speed.:)

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