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 red arrows indicating sounded units of time and green arrows pointing to silenced units of time. Each dit or Dah is followed with one block of silence within the letters. There are three blocks of space between letters. And finally, count seven blocks of space before the next word.

Additionally, there are three blocks of sound in each Dah and only one in each dit.

The word, “PARIS” and the word space that follows consume fifty units of time. It is the standard word length that is 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 5 words per minute.

This timing is called the Paris method, and for faster code speeds is the standard. I will mention the Farnsworth method further down this page.

To recap:

  1. Each dit, the short sound of Morse code, is one unit of time long, as is the space between each sound within a Morse character.
  2. The DAH sound is 3 units long or three times as long as a dit. The space between chracters is the length of a DAH, therefore three times as long as the spacing within each character.
  3. The space between words is 7 units long, more than twice the space between letters. You can hear this spacing in this clip of the word PARIS repeated at 15 words per minute.

Farnsworth Method

At slow speeds, it is preferable to send the letter at between 15 and 20 words per minute and stretch the space between letters and words to produce an overall slower speed. The code practice files on this site produce overall 5 words per minute while sounding the letters at 15 wpm.

Using Farnsworth method keeps the speed up to where the student has to recognize the letter by sound. As time goes by, the student is recognizing the sound much more quickly and can be pushed at ever-increasing overall speeds.

I might add, some people can recognize Morse code sounding at 20 WPM with the Farnsworth spacing set at 5 WPM. One tells me he has a hard time copying slowly-sent code, but can copy 20 WPM much more easily.


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