Morse Code Timing

Image above shows Timing relationships in the word, “PARIS:” Red arrows above the code show how long each sound is, green arrows below show how long each space is. Each arrow is one unit of time. There are 50 arrows in all.

Listen here to the sound of the word, “PARIS” sent four times over, at 18 WPM and compare the visual spacing above to the sound.

Well-sent Morse code is a pleasure to listen to. If the timing is right, the Morse code engine will run well. This page will cover timing. It takes some practice but it is possible to be mistaken for sending on a keyboard when doing it by hand. One way of accomplishing it is to send at a slower speed and concentrate on perfection.

Chapter 3: Timing Counts!

Properly-sent Morse code has to do with timing — the short story is that accuracy should take precedence over speed. Practice sending well-spaced code at a slower speed. Speed will pick up in time, while accuracy continues to carry the day. Like good music, your “fist” will be a pleasure to listen to.

Timing Detailed:

Up top, is a display of the word, “PARIS” with the dot-dash pattern set to a scale of time units of equal length.

  • Please note the green arrows pointing to silenced units of time:
  • Each element-space contains one block of silence beteen the dit-or-Dah elements within a letter.
  • Each letter-space contains three blocks of space between letters.
  • Each word-space contains seven blocks of space between words.
  • Please note the red arrows indicating sounded units of time:
  • Each Dah sound contains three blocks of sound.
  • Each Dit sound contains one block of sound.

The word, “PARIS” and the word space that follows consume fifty units of time, the standard word length used to calibrate sending speed in Words Per Minute (WPM).

If “PARIS” is sent five times in one minute, with the sixth “PARIS” leading off at the start of the next minute, the code speed is five words per minute.

This timing is called the Paris method and is the standard for faster code speeds.

Farnsworth Method

At slow speeds, one should send letters at rates between 15 and 20 words per minute and stretch the space between letters and words to produce an overall slower pace of, say, 5 WPM. With the faster-sent characters, the student has to recognize the letters by sound. The slower overall pace allows the student the time needed to identify the sounds.

As time passes, the student recognizes the sound much more quickly and can eventually reach ever-increasing overall speeds.

Some people recognize Morse code sounding at 20 WPM with the Farnsworth spacing set at 5 WPM. One told me when I was teaching that he has difficulty copying slowly-sent code but can copy 20 WPM with ease.


Sending code at 1/25 word per minute?!

Yes, the world’s radio amateurs said “HI” to a passing spacecraft in Morse code.

The NASA Juno spacecraft fly-by of Earth

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained the purpose of the fly-by: “When NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on Oct. 9, 2013, it received a boost in speed of more than 8,800 mph (about 3.9 kilometers per second), which set it on course for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.”

And during that fly-by, the ARRL said the amateur radio community was invited to celebrate: “[The] Juno mission is inviting Amateur Radio operators around the world to say ‘HI’ to Juno in a coordinated Morse code message. If enough operators participate, Juno’s ‘Waves’ radio and plasma wave experiment should be able to detect the message.” And the ARRL reported that it was a success.

At an incredidibly slow pace of four words per every 100 minutes, radio amateurs sent “di-di-di-dit, di-dit” in a coordinated fashion beginning at the exact same minute, to-the-second. Each “dit” was sent for 30 seconds. Inter-element spaces were 30 seconds off time between dits, and 90 seconds off between the letters H and I. Three and a half minutes off for the word space resulted in each “HI” lasting 10 minutes from the start of the word to the next start.

By the way, NASA released this YouTube video, with what the spacecraft heard in passing the Earth. Based on an experiment I ran, the video was speeded up about 450 times real time, shortening those 30-second dits down to the short bursts heard here. The pitch of the space noise and Morse code was similarly raised about 450 times their originally recorded pitch, bringing the sounds up into the audible range from single-digit cycles-per-second.

My experiment involved recording the sound off the video into a 192 kHz sample-rate audio file, and reducing the sample rate by a factor of 400 to 500 times. I was able to stretch the time back into the 9-to-11-minute time frame from the start of an H to the next start of an H. Actual time was 10 minutes. In real time, all of the weird noises heard on the speeded-up NASA recording are all too low in pitch to be heard. And of course, by speeding it up, the Morse code can be heard at a normal speed and pitch.

Next page: Chapter 4: Morse Code Practice Guidelines Previous page: Chapter 2: A language of SOUND! First page: Morse Code For the Radio Amateur