I want to eventually use a CW paddle and built in keyer in my Yaesu FT-890. What are the merits of each style. Single or Dual Paddle. Does it make any difference if I start with say a dual paddle then later use a single paddle? Any disadvantages of switching from the one that I may have learned on?


4 Answers 4


Single-lever paddles have a single lever that generates dots when pressed to one side, and dashes when pressed to the other. Dual-lever paddles have two paddles, one of which generates dots and the other generates dashes; when connected to a keyer in iambic mode with both levers pressed, a dual-lever paddle generates a stream of alternating dots and dashes. There are some paddles that look like they have two levers, but the two levers are securely fastened together, so mechanically they are actually single-lever paddles.

The single-lever vs iambic debate seems to be perpetually hot. (There is also the iambic-A vs iambic-B vs ultimatic debate.)

The styles of keying a single-lever paddle vs true iambic keying are very different. Single-lever paddle users generally have an energetic style, because the paddle has to move fast and change directions quickly. Iambic users generally have a gentler style. Note that many dual-lever paddle users don't bother to use iambic mode, and are perfectly happy sending as though the paddle had a single lever. Switching from a single-lever paddle to true iambic mode, or vice-versa, is difficult but can be done. Most people stick with the method they first learned all their lives.

There are many articles on the internet that attempt to prove that single-lever is better than iambic for all people in all circumstances, or vice-versa. The truth is, most people use the keying method that their elmers used. In my opinion ham radio is a hobby, no one keying method is best for everyone, and people should use the keying method they enjoy most. For people new to Morse code who don't have elmers, my advice would be to watch videos of people using both methods, try both for yourself, and pick which one feels best.

Single-lever paddle pros:

  • Almost all competitors in high-speed Morse code competitions (faster than 40 wpm) use single-lever paddles
  • Former "bug" users have an easier time with single-lever paddles
  • Single-lever paddle users can also use a dual-lever paddle when necessary, but may make keying errors until they become accustomed

Single-lever paddle cons:

  • More motion, more "work" is required than a dual-lever paddle in iambic mode

Iambic mode pros:

  • Less motion is required than a single-lever paddle; "feels more comfortable" or "feels like less work" to people used to iambic

Iambic paddle cons:

  • Not as accurate at very high speed (faster than 40 wpm, say)
  • More accurate timing is required; a modest amount of regular practice is required to stay proficient
  • People used to iambic have a very difficult time when confronted with a single-lever paddle
  • $\begingroup$ An informative article about the morse modes, but the Ultimatic mode is, typically, given short shrift. It is mentioned but not discussed, despite being far more intuitive to learn and use and clearly more efficient than any Iambic mode. It deserves far more popularity than it presently enjoys. $\endgroup$
    – KA5QMA
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ I hear you @KA5QMA (and sorry to take two years to reply), but in my opinion a discussion of the different iambic modes is beyond the scope of this question, which is about paddles. Please feel free to ask a new question! $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:22

Usually (but not always) a dual-paddle key is iambic. An iambic paddle is one where you can key in characters by using: dashes in one direction of paddle, dots in the other direction, and alternating dots and dashes by squeezing the two paddles. The alternating dashes and dots begin with the dash if squeezed first on the dash side of the paddle and dots if opposite to that.

Some people will use an iambic paddle and never make use of the squeeze technique of the paddle. I started this way with my paddle but slowly I taught myself various characters using the squeeze method. The first character I learned was Q and then I learned Y and then C and other similar characters like K. In my experience, the longer strings (length four) are easier to learn at first.

I use a Bengali Magnetic Classic Paddle and it is shown in my avatar image.


I suggest a dual-paddle iambic keyer cos it's more versatile. -- from a veteran CW operator from India, VU2TS, @Ganesh Subramaniam, India

  • $\begingroup$ This is purely an opinion and doesn't answer the question, which is looking for the "merits of each style". $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 3:06

I am sorry, while good answers are given; the posted question screams for another answer...

Straight key the one key to rule them all

  • $\begingroup$ this does not answer the question of pros and cons for each style. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ON5MFJurgen you are absolutely correct. This answer was given with a bit of "tongue in cheek" humor, with a reference to "the one ring to rule them all" of the lord of the rings, calling to our inner-geekness. It seems that there are (at the time of writing this comment) 3 positive votes, and 3 negative votes, so the humor intended is received, perceived, and appreciated by at least 50% of the voters. -- "humor adds to a conversation as condiments to a meal" -- your opinion of this may vary, with respect. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 7:55

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