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Author Topic: Learning to send CW  (Read 2010 times)
K5TAT
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Posts: 5




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« on: June 02, 2009, 11:58:10 AM »

I received my license several weeks ago and am making good progress copying CW thanks to G4FON. Now I’m ready to develop my sending skills.

Nearly all the advice in this forum appears to focus on copying CW, but little on learning to send even though there is a general consensus that there are many poor fists on the air.

 While I plan to graduate to a keyer soon, I think it’s important to develop solid straight key skills. How did most of you do it? Just sending to yourself using a code practice oscillator or did you record/playback your code?
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K5END
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Posts: 1309




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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2009, 12:07:07 PM »

I'm new at it too.

You may find sending *good* code just as challenging as copying.

It does take practice.

If you consider using a practice oscillator you might want to check the Picokeyer at hamgadgets.com It's very affordable and will serve as your keyer whenever you move to twin paddle. This kit is very easy to assemble and solder. From the time I opened the package until it was working was 45 minutes...including 20 minutes looking for that dang roll of solder.

Because of some minor arthritis and tendonitis in my elbows, I went straight to the twin paddle. I practice sending by picking up a newspaper or magazine and sending the text. Finally there is a use for junk mail!

Hope this information is helpful to you.
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2817




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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2009, 04:29:19 PM »

K5END:  "Finally there is a use for junk mail!"

Bravo!
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KC2MJT
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Posts: 59




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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2009, 05:06:11 PM »

I think you have a great plan. Start with the straight key, despite what others may say, I truly believe those that start with the key develop better sending skills. With that said, I'd recommend you just get on the air and do the best you can to send perfect code. Listen to the ops that you can decode with ease, chances are they are sending properly spaced code without a St. Louis Swing. If they sound like G4FON, emulate them. If you sense they want to put some 'English spin' on their code - avoid them.

After a few months or a hundred QSOs I'd dump the sk and go to the paddles and iambic keying. The sk is fun at times, but it does add another element of stress.

Hope to cu on the bands.

73
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DG3YCC
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Posts: 28




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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2009, 12:38:53 PM »

Congratulations! Starting with a keyer has the advantage that you hear the right rhythm from the start. After a few month you can switch to a straight key. This way you will sense every mistake you perform with the straight key very quick. It is much more difficult to erase a false rhythm after one has got used to it. Just my five cents.

73!

Chris
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K5TAT
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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2009, 02:36:14 PM »

Thanks for all your comments.

Chris, you bring up an interesting point for starting with a keyer so that I can “hear the right rhythm from the start.” That addresses my original concern in that sending code with a sk does not provide accurate feedback of one’s sending ability. The student only hears his own sending without comparison with proper sending.  Human nature usually results in the student thinking his skills are better than they actually are as he operates in ignorant bliss developing bad habits. As Robert Burns once remarked, “Oh, that God the gift would give us, To see ourselves as others see us.”

My hope was that there was a teaching aid for sending that would provide real-time feedback such as sending code in unison with a G4FON-type program that would graphically display/compare a perfect code set with the senders, like a dual trace oscilloscope displaying the dits, dahs, and spaces.  Apparently that does not exist.

I still plan to master the sk first, but my new rig which is scheduled for delivery Friday has a built-in keyer. I’m sure I will play with the keyer while I’m learning the sk.
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AJ4MJ
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Posts: 48




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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2009, 02:38:27 PM »

I found sending to be pretty easy and copying was the challenge.  Perhaps my days as a rhythm guitarist helped with that.

I started with a straight key and then went to a keyer.  After using the keyer a while, I tried the straight key again and found that I was doing a much better job with it than before.  I attribute it to knowing what I was supposed to sound like when I was using the keyer.

Your mileage may vary.

73
de AJ4MJ
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KC2MJT
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Posts: 59




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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2009, 03:58:32 PM »

I respect the comments with respect to using a keyer to hear the correct spacing. Unfortunately, many people just spit dits properly spaced, then strings of dahs properly spaced. The dits and dahs in juxtaposition to each other still require the skill of the operator and the keyer accentuates any bad keying, lack of finger control - you add to the list. Just my experience listening to people trying to start out with the paddles.

If you have musical talent and/or training I'd expect you shouldn't have trouble starting with either method as your ear will 'know'. I'd get on the air and listen to good ops and mimic their spacing back at them.
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AD7WN
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Posts: 113




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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2009, 06:25:45 PM »

I learned to send in an army radio school back in 1952.

In addition to learning to copy at 25 wpm coded groups, we were required to learn to send well at that same speed.  For the sending instruction, I was positioned at a table with a straight key screwed down to it, the key connected to an audio oscillator.  Across the table sat a stern-faced master sergeant.

I would send a string of written characters, and the sergeant would bark at me whenever I screwed up.  Then he would reach across the table, grasping the key I'd been using, and he would demonstrate how to do it right, sending like a code machine.  After ten minutes of this harassment, he would move on to bother the guy at the next table while I practiced alone, but he would be back in an hour to torment me for another ten minutes.

At times the crusty old sergeant would threaten to train me to be an army cook if I didn't start taking his instruction seriously.  That had the intended results.  By the end of the course, I was sending pretty good-sounding code at 25 wpm with a straight key.

Hope this helps, 73 de John/AD7WN
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W4YA
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Posts: 317




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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2009, 10:57:01 AM »

Why do you think the emphasis is on copying rather than sending? Why are you going to try to send Morse code with any type of key before you know what it should sound like?

Stick with G4FON, and hook up your key after you can copy your target speed without errors.
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W4YA
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Posts: 317




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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2009, 05:29:40 AM »

I think you are missing my point when you say that a program for real time feedback does not exist. Certainly it does, and the feedback is in your head!!

If you stick with a good program like G4FON, and forget about a key or keyer, you will learn what "good code" sounds like. When you finally reach your target copying speed and hook up your key, you will tend to imitate the G4FON spacing, timing, etc.

The payoff will be when people ask you "What type of keyboard you are using" instead of "I hope your arthritis gets better soon."
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W5ESE
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Posts: 550


WWW

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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2009, 07:54:44 AM »

Listen to the W1AW code practice transmissions.

You can listen to them on the air, and/or download
mp3 files.

http://www.arrl.org/w1aw.html

This is really what code is supposed to sound like.

I agree that it's best to begin with a straight key.

Many beginners with a keyer and paddles let too many
"dits" slip through. The "dits" and "dahs" are
perfect in duration, but the number of them is just
incorrect. A real pain for the poor slob trying to
copy them. Beginners starting out with a straight
key don't seem to have this problem as much.

Don't be too much of a perfectionist, and delay
for long getting on the air. Your sending will
improve as you gain on-the-air experience, which
is the most fun way to improve.

Field Day is coming up; a great opportunity to get
a lot of sending experience.

73
Scott
W5ESE
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VA7CPC
Member

Posts: 2397




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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2009, 04:18:41 PM »

You want a feedback loop?

Any software code-reader ("CWGet" is my choice, but there are lots of others) will be an excellent "feedback loop" for your straight-key sending.

Set up the rig as a code-practice oscillator, feed the output to the computer's sound card, and see if CWGet (or DM780, or CWDecoder) can understand what you're sending.

If software can read your code, you're doing well.  It's pretty sensitive to dot/dash ratio and inter-character and inter-word gaps.  

             Charles

PS -- I'm not asking _why_ you think it's important to send with a straight key.  That leads into a religious argument I want to avoid.  So don't tell me.<g>
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K5TAT
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Posts: 5




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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2009, 07:17:39 PM »

All your suggestions are appreciated.

I see from your comments and the forum archives that there are several strong views on how to approach cw: straight key vs paddle, learn to copy first vs learn copy/send concurrently, Koch vs Farnsworth, etc.

Several of your comments alluded to what I now think is 80% of success: motivation and actually putting in the practice time (instead of worrying about the approach.)  I venture to say that the approach doesn’t matter much and a person should use what keeps him motivated.  For example I started copying using the Koch method, but now and then I revert to Farnsworth. Koch can lead to boredom quickly with its focus on a few characters. Farnsworth lets you learn the complete symbol set early on so one can copy text and get on the air faster. You may think my method is not efficient, but it keeps me motivated and practicing.

I noticed that some articles say that two or three 10 to 15 minute sessions daily are adequate for learning code. While I agree that short sessions are good, putting in 90 minutes to two hours minimum probably is much more effective. I burned a few CDs of custom code using G4FON and play them for about 20 minutes on each leg of my 45 minute commute to work.

Per your suggestions, I will focus primarily on copying with G4FON but still learn to send adequately so I can get on the air. I plan to use a CW decoder later to test my sending.

Some of you implied I will know that I am sending good code after I learn good code via G4FON. Probably correct, but do the bad fists know they are bad? I think many don’t know.

Thanks again for your comments. I hope to be on the air by Field Day. Got my rig Friday, copied two slow CQs which gave me a shot in the arm. However was disappointed by all the QRN across the bands. Was using a very temporary 40m dipole of 18 gauge insulated wire stapled along ridge line in my attic. I think I’m getting a lot of RFI. That’s a problem for another day.

73
K5TAT
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W7ETA
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Posts: 2527




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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2009, 11:01:53 PM »

what you initially need to do is practice writing down what you copy.  Don't start off by printing.  I couldn't get past 15 WP, or so printing.

For me, getting past 5 minute sessions, took a LOT of will power.

73
Bob
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