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Thread: Straight key or paddle/keyer?

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Posted: 2017-08-18 16:27
For learning to key Morse, is it better to start with a straight key or should I use a paddle/keyer if that is where most people ultimately land? Opinions?

Posted: 2017-08-18 18:09
There are quite a few opinions on this. Ideas range all over the board. The consensus seems to be that, especially early on, the most important thing is only hearing perfectly sent code. This includes code you might send during practice. You don't want to train your brain with poor timing and develop one of those annoying CW 'lisps' that seem all too common.

I use a variety of keys. Using a paddle is difficult for me and will take me a long time to master. The hardest part is getting the dits right. Sending an 'i' when I meant to send 's' is quite common. The advantage is that spacing and timing are pretty easy to keep consistent. I find I make the most sending errors with a paddle.

With a straight key, I don't miss dits or dahs. However, I have to be careful to keep the spacing and timing correct. Just like any instrument this takes practice. I often find myself speeding up or slowing down instead of keeping a nice smooth flow of code going. I make fewer sending errors with a simple straight key.

On air listening has begun to teach me the value of good sending. With QSB, static crashes, or interference it can be nearly impossible to follow poorly sent code. Consistent spacing and timing will allow more people to hear and understand what you are sending. OPs who send those oddly timed letters, like a 'c' with extra long dahs, drive me crazy! I tune elsewhere when I hear that. It is like listening to someone mumble their words. Perhaps with more experience I won't mind as much.

Posted: 2017-08-21 13:28
Hello Ken,

you may want to try out both straight key and paddle and see what suits you best.

Try the straight key first. Good videos on youtube on how to send (e.g. N1EA). For timing you may just play a morse text with PC or memory keyer and use straight key to send the same, simultaneously. Start slow enough to key precisely.


Posted: 2017-08-23 19:23
Preppers use sraight keys
Cultural heritage conservers use straight keys.

Contesters use QWERTY keyboards

QRQQ rag chewers use Dvorac keyboards {https://learn.dvorak.nl/ )

Posted: 2017-08-25 00:16
For learning to key Morse, is it better to start with a straight key or should I use a paddle/keyer if that is where most people ultimately land? Opinions?

It is easy to use a straight key - you are just tapping, and you can practice without they key.

For most people, usefull up to 25/35 wpm excepting this bloke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPsgEdmlUf0

Up and down isn't as easy a hand motion as side to side though . . .

You will probably find side to side single keys without electronics are quicker and easier than straight keys,


but more effort than double paddles with an electronic keyer.

Side-winders are easier to make up yourself though . . .


Paddles with an electronic keyer need less physical effort, particularly as you get faster - but you need to practice a bit to get used to them, so it's oft
en easier and cheaper to start with something else . . .

U choose

Posted: 2017-08-25 00:43
Preppers use sraight keys
Cultural heritage conservers use straight keys.

Contesters use QWERTY keyboards

QRQQ rag chewers use Dvorac keyboards {https://learn.dvorak.nl/ )

Electronics experts use a speech recognition unit to feed a morse RF synthesizer.

Computer nerds program it in C on the sound card

AI enthusiasts let the cluster do all of it, but it always starts talking among its-self in baby twins language . . .


Posted: 2017-09-19 20:04
There are so many opinions....

I think it is good to start. I started on a straight key. Both take practice. I want to get better myself on the straight key to participate more in SKCC. I do have a Bug but I find they are hard to copy and I can slow mine down to about 13wpm.

Practice with both. I never really learned iambic. Nor can I get the cootie key with just left right motion. Maybe someday?

There is a speed limit with a straight key at least for me. Higher speeds can be done with paddles.

I have watched videos, tried and often my arm gets sore using a straight key. I used to run traffic nets so lots of keying.

I really enjoy listening and copying code from on the air to my spiral binder. It is good practice, also head copy and just write down the call sign and other important info to verify later on QRZ. I use QRZ to check myself and love to learn about hams and their shacks.

You will hear good code and bad. A great Op with a wonderful fist on a straight key. Another one runs everything together.

In the end it just makes me want to practice more because once you have heard a good fist you want one too.

I am sure I have made many mistakes. May have had to unlearn bad habits. But being here, being motivated, and practicing code we all move ahead and get better.

Posted: 2017-09-20 05:24
I can hear a straight key better but mainly because you tend to send slower using a straight key because it is harder. I had someone tell me one time to learn on a straight key because you tend to send slower and you will get an answer at that slower speed.

Posted: 2017-09-20 12:32
Long ago I learned using a straight key and joined FISTS. I had a code buddy to get on the air. I did read that you should learn on a straight key first.

I have always tried to slow down and work slow stations. I hear good and very bad Morse code as I listen often as practice - I need to transmit more.

Bad code is hard for me, especially if the Op runs words together. And at some speeds that I listen to we are not talking new to Morse code Ops. I don't mean to speak ill of anyone.

This is just a note to myself that practice and learning Morse code never ends. And I need to practice sending on my code oscillator.

Working new Ops is fun, and at slow speeds I can normally understand all.

I think if you are motivated, one could learn to send very good code via Bug, Cootie Key, Iambic, and Straight Key. Might be hard to do all but one could pick a few.

All that said, and a huge reminder to myself "Practice". Practice sending, practice receiving. I don't see the day when I can say I have arrived, no more practice.

Just like everyone here, I want to get better. And the journey is so much fun. And celebrate the progress even though it can be hard to measure at times.

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