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Making Humbucker Out Of Single Coils And Deciding Where To Put Them


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I love the idea of splitting humbuckers, but the reality seems to be that the split sound never really seems to have any character. It's always like 'generic single coil'. So I thought I'd get some proper single coil pickups - which sound mint on their own - and push them together and wire them up like a humbucker.

But which pickups to use? It seems that each coil of a bucker is usually of a lower output than a standard single, so perhaps I should get one hotter and one fairly cold? Perhaps it's an issue of choosing a 'main' coil which I like on it's own, and a 'top up' coil for a humbucker sound. I tried it once with some lace sensors (a red and a blue) but they don't really have very much character either way.

As it's an experiment I'd prefer to use fairly inexpensive pickups, like gfs or tonerider or something.

Another issue is where to put them. Should I put the 'main' single coil where it would normally be, and put the second coil next to it? or have the humbucker 'straddle' the normal single coil position? I hear mixed opinions over the importance of matching pickup position with vibration nodes etc.

And, seeing as I'm using separate coils, there's nothing stopping me from having them an inch (or whatever) apart, if it would aid matching to vibration nodes. I could have 4 or 5 coils spread across the whole body of the guitar. I'll probably do this on my strat, but I might also be tempted to do it on the tele.

Any thoughts?

ps Oh yeah, I play a big variety of sounds (hence the crazed modding) but basically jangle-rock like the smiths, rem, smashing pumpkins... :D

Edited by hessodreamy
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series wiring on a strat gives you a humbucker, from experience it takes a lot of messing about to get usable tones from just swapping the wiring from parallel to series, doubling up 2 singles doesnt always work, as it can be hard to get proper bucked (reduced) hum if the magnet polarity is wrong and the resistance (winds) is very different per coil.

for instance a vintage set (pre 5 way) of fender pickups probably wont have a reverse polarity middle pickup so that will be useless for posistions 2/4 in parallel (classic hum reducing posistions on a 5 way), these type of pickups will also be difficult to use in series to get the humbucker sound, generally they will be thin and sound crap.

i tried the dave gilmour wiring (series switch) on my strat with custom shop 69's (all same polarity) and found that the wiring worked ok but had little effect in hum cancelling, swapping one of the pickups to be Reverse polarity cured the problem but it means im only using 2 pups out of the set (gilmour uses mixed pickups as well).

im not sure if the lace sensors in the "dualies" sets are different polarities, id expect they are but i wasnt sure lace made reverse polarity pickups (the dualies look just like regular sensors joined together by a backplate).

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Duncan StagMag: Two singles on a HB base plate:


Have tried it, sounded dull and boring, bot in HB mode and SC mode. Got a "better" singe sound from a SD Jazz when I accidentally shorted "wrong coil and used the slug side coil, not the screw side one. I also had the opportunity resently to have a similar pickup to listen to in a guitar in for service, a Teddybear, hand made from a Swedish winder soem 20 years ago. Also sounded dull and boring. But by all means. Try it. It migth be the thing for you

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Also, at this stage I'm not too worried about the hum cancelling. I'm more concerned with getting a series combination that has a decent character. So not, strictly speaking, a 'hum bucker'.

I did manage to bastardise some cheap single coils and flip the magnet and the bobbin (I think - it was a while ago) to make an actual hum bucker. But for now it's tone I'm chasing.

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I'd be interested to see how it goes and it has been done by a few people and in commercial guitars to some extent (the original jeff beck strat for instance, a PRS guitar who's name escapes my memory)...

A bit of this would be "experimentation" and as such you need to find your own answers. I have heard some positive stories and a lot of less than satisfactory ones.

However, there are many aspects to consider, one that immediately comes to mind is that to get a humbucker you must wire the pickup in series, reverse wound and reverse magnetic polarity. Having another pickup of a different polarity, or either polarity right next to the other will by necessity change the magnetic field and qualities of the pickups. A magnet of the opposite polarity will necessarily attract the field of the other for a start, regardless of any wiring.

Different HB's will have different qualities, many can sound quite good split but in general there is some compromise...

It is possible that you have not considered other options. Parallel wiring can be very effective as I recently found, completely humbucking but similar in qualities to a split. Another is splitting with a capacitor, a value selected to taste. This involves effectively cutting the highs out of one coil in a way similar to a tone control giving a "split" plus the body and bass of the other coil and some humbucking qualities as well. You can even wire a tone control to variably cut treble on one HB coil leaving the single Even a 'treble bleed' circuit on the volume controls can give a good result, giving a bright sound when the volume is turned down very effectively, and again full humbucking and noiseless.

Splitting a pair of singles a bit apart may negate some of the magnetic effects, but then consider how a pair of singles work in a strat when the neck or bridge is combined with the middle pickup. Generally a hollowed "phased" sound because of the physical locations along a string and so canceling frequencies. You can get an interesting HB like sound by reversing the wired phase of such combinations.


Still am interested and making some plans for a future project, considering GFS lipstick humbuckers which are a pair of true single coil jangly pickups perhaps and maybe a rotary switch in place of tone controls to wire up different options.

My resent guitar has some unusual HB's, very high powered and all slug coils and they seem to sound very good in parallel and split and the two inner coils split even has a touch of strat quack to them...I prefer this sound to their more conventional series wiring as I play very clean these days.

So, it would be good to see what you come up with, but the results are likely to be a little unpredictable...

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