New Ham on learning CW

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KD2SVR, Oct 29, 2019.

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  1. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I ALWAYS suggest FIRST learning to use a straight key. it helps form muscle memory to get the timing of dah and dit and spacing between characters and words. This Is VITAL to having a better sounding and readable fist when you start using a Bug or a paddle for the keyer.
    There are some Very expensive and fancy straight keys, but just for learning you can get an older and plain vanilla straight key for a very resonable price.
    Good luck on CW. ( I am about 99 % on cw here)
    W9RAC and KA0HCP like this.
  2. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    John you know I kinda of agree, then I kinda of don't. I learned on a j38. Problem is when your learning code at 20 wpm and your new at learning a straight key I do not think you can ever learn to send it properly. (I have in 1000's of QSO's heard a straight key at that speed that was good maybe 3 times). That is, producing code sounding like what you are hearing and trying to imitate. I do not want to sound argumentative John. Things have changed somewhat since the days past when we learned. Now days the learning techniques are those of a faster character speed, meaning its unnecessary to relearn the sounds again and again. So starting at 20 makes it very EZ to copy at 15. Additionally all that's ever needed to increase the speed is working on shortening the recall time.

    I learned a 5 wpm. I'm not sure anyone can learn at 5 wpm without counting, but certainly not me. So then of course not only do I not know what a G sounds like at 15 wpm, its too fast to count and its nothing like 5wpm. I wasted lots of years, learning to uncount and relearning the sounds as I should have at the start. Head copy was out of the question. Try counting and head copy......... So, at the risk of sounding in opposition with you I'm really not. Mainly because lots of folks like mechanical keys which in general are used at a much lower speed maybe learning with them is OK. Im not sure as a beginner one could actually decide what they will end up liking as a key/paddle/bug or speed/slow. Now days I operate at around 20/21 wpm. I did get over the counting and I do head copy. At speed of around 12ish I struggle to hear the character. The rhythm sound does not resonate with me, so I have to count even now. I try to stay away from the slower speeds for that reason. If the character speed is 20ish and we are doing Farnsworth at 12 so the Op can copy Im ok. Just sayin......... 73 Rich P.S. I'm a cat guy too.
  3. W5WTH

    W5WTH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Disclaimer: I'm somewhat new.

    I prefer a straight key, but I find that when I switch to a paddle it improves my straight key performance. The paddle lets me listen to myself sending 'perfect' code that I get to emulate when I switch back to the straight key.

    So, IMHO, both can help with the learning process.
    KD4ZFS and K7TRF like this.
  4. KN4CQB

    KN4CQB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am really glad I found this thread as I am just starting on CW. I still need to find the resources that work best for me but for now have been using the Mixtela site. Got 8 letters under my belt with almost 100% accuracy at 8WPM and adding more every day or two.
    The advice on straight keys here was very helpful (as always on QRZ).

    My question is this: what can be done to practice sending before trying it in a real QSO? I would think there is some type of device you could hook a key to and then see the accuracy of what you are sending but have not really found one. Like most folks I would not want to get on air without knowing how I am actually transmitting.

  5. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Download and install a free CW decoder software for your computer then run the audio from whatever you're using as a code practice oscillator into your computer's audio input jack (mic or line input to sound card). Run the app and you'll see how well it can decode your CW and also things like what speed you're actually sending. It's a very good way to test your sending abilities, if the decoder can follow your code then it's likely other hams will as well.

    Google 'Morse decoder software' or 'CW decoder software' or even 'Morse decoder apps' if you want something for a smartphone or tablet and you'll get many hits but here's a decent list:
  6. KN4CQB

    KN4CQB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think I am missing how the key interfaces to the computer...
  7. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    There is probably software out there that uses your keyboard or mouse as a 'key' and completely generates tones inside the computer. But what I described above assumes you use some form of code practice oscillator which can be an actual oscillator designed for that purpose or a keyer with audio output to a speaker or headphones or even a rig that generates sidetone where you can disable the VOX so the rig doesn't actually get keyed or transmit anything but just generates tones when you close the key contacts.

    If you have some form of code practice oscillator like that (and they're really easy to build and available in kit form) then you run a cable from the speaker/headphone output from that code practice oscillator to your computer's audio input whether that's a mic input as found on most laptops or an audio line input as found on many desktop computers or even an outboard USB sound card that can be used with any computer that has an available USB port. Once you get the practice oscillator tones into the computer then the decoding software linked above can decode what you send.

    Here's a nice code practice oscillator kit, but there are many out there:

    There are also many fully assembled code practice oscillators available on eBay and Amazon.

    Many, if not most CW keyers work as code practice oscillators if you're using paddles and some like the old Heathkit HD-1410 keyers work as code practice oscillators even when a straight key is plugged into them and has a headphone jack that provides a convenient way to get audio to your computer.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
  8. KN4CQB

    KN4CQB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks so much!
  9. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX Ham Member QRZ Page

    My FT-817 can be placed in "practice" mode at the push of a button. Perhaps your rig has the same feature?
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  10. KE0GXN

    KE0GXN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the link. Just ordered the printed book version online. I have decided I am interested in learning the code and from what I can tell this book should get me started in the right direction!


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