Coil Splitting and Coil Tapping

In this article, Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars gives an in-depth explanation of humbucker coil splitting and tapping.    You may also find my earlier posts useful:  Humbucker Wiring and Coil Splitting.

Thanks again to Pete for the permission to post this here!


October 2012


The topic for this tech tips newsletter will be Coil Splitting and Coil Tapping.

Coil Splitting and Coil Tapping are two methods which can be used to extend the range of tones on can get from a magnetic pickup.

First, a few definitions:

Coil splitting refers to disabling one of the two coils of a humbucking pickup by shunting that coil’s output to electrical ground.

Coil tapping is most often used to describe a single coil pickup which has a coil start and more than one coil end (output tap).

Because I intend to devote most of this article to Coil Tapping, let me start with Coil Splitting.

Read the rest of this entry

Splitting The Coils

Humbucker Construction

Following up on my previous post about humbucker wiring, here is a quick look at how humbuckers work, and how to split the coils and use parallel wiring.

A humbucker pickup is really just a a pair of single-coils, electrically out of phase and magnetically reversed from each other.  The two coils are wired in series, and the end result is that electromagnetic hum/noise is phase-cancelled.   

You may have heard this idea referred to as RWRP – Reverse Wound, Reverse Polarity.   With a humbucker, one of the coils is RWRP relative to the other.

Three Single Coils


On many Stratocaster style guitars (three single coils), the middle single coil pickup is RWRP relative to the other two pickups.  So when you blend the middle pickup with the neck or bridge pickup, you get the same kind of hum cancellation you get with a humbucker.


It is possible to wire up a humbucker with a switch to allow you to isolate (“tap”, or “split”) one of the coils, silencing the other coil.  Listening to one of the coils in isolation will achieve more of a strat-type single coil sound. 

You can also wire up the two humbucker coils in parallel instead of in series, which will sound more like a pair of single-coils on a strat, rather than a single humbucker.  You’ll still get hum cancellation, but you’ll get less output power than the series wiring- a unique and useful voicing you might like.

You can go crazy making your guitar über-flexible with switches and push/pull pots to control series/parallel and splitting.   Check out the the humbucker circuit diagrams at

And here’s an article by Kevin Smith for more in-depth information on coil splitting. 
Here’s another useful article at guitarnutz.