For those of you who are new to the electric guitar, sometimes it can become pretty difficult to decipher the terminology of various parts, especially the electronics. So it is no surprise that we are often asked what the differences are between “Coil-Splitting” and “Coil-tapping”. Well, we’re here to break it down for you…
The process of building a humbucker requires wrapping copper wire around a series of coils. Depending on the desired output of the pickup being developed, the wire can be wrapped anywhere from 500 to 1500 times. The more the coils are wrapped, the “hotter” the output of the pickup. Coil-tapping involves routing a wire about half-way through this series of windings in addition to the wire at the end of the windings. For example, if a pickup was being wrapped 1250 times, then this coil tap wire might be added at 750 spins. This essentially creates a pickup with two different outputs when wired to switches. Furthermore, you can achieve more tonal variations with a pickup wired like this.
When it comes to coil-splitting, a similar process is involved. However, instead of routing a wire halfway through the windings, a wire is routed from each single coil, allowing you to deactivate one of the coils at your leisure. Additionally, the pickup will still continue to “buck the hum”, and you won’t receive any noise that you would normally get with a single coil. Although you may not sound completely identical to a “true” single coil, coil-splitting a humbucker definitely offers the best of both worlds for guitar players!
How do you do it? If your humbucker has four wires coming out of it, it is relatively easy to do. Find what are referred to as the “center link” wires of the pickup or the “finish” wires of each coil (refer to the manufacturer for color codes). In the illustration to the right, they are the green and black wires. Attach these wires to a switch and attach the other side of the switch to ground. You can use a separate switch, a push-pull pot, or a button to accomplish this. You can tie the center links of both pickups to one switch, or switch them separately depending on your preference and wiring setup. Now you will have the flexibility of both single coils and humbuckers.