Guitar Pickups

Author: Wikipedia

Single coil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A 'single coil' or 'single-coil' is a type of pickup for the electric guitar. As its name indicates, it is composed of wire wrapped in a single coil around magnets.


The single coil is the simplest form of the pickup; single-coils for the guitar have six poles, one for each string. The traditional single coil design is the one found in guitars such as the Stratocaster. Because Fender mainly uses single-coils, they have come to be associated with Fender, similar to the humbucker's association with Gibson. (Although there are some Gibson single coils, the most notable being the P-90.)

The classic single-coil tone is crispy, bright, and clear, as opposed to the "fatter", darker sound of a humbucker. Classic examples of single-coil "twang" include "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Brown Sugar", and the solo to "Stairway to Heaven".

Single coils have the tendency to produce more feedback and noise than humbuckers. This capability has been used to great effect by guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A humbucker is a type of electric guitar pickup. It was invented by Seth Lover, a Gibson employee, in the 1950s. Because of this, and because of its use on the Gibson Les Paul guitar, the humbucker is strongly associated with Gibson, although humbuckers have been used in many different guitar designs by many different manufacturers. Humbuckers are also known as dual-coil, double-coil, and hum-canceling pickups.


Magnetic pickups are generally divided into two types: single-coil and humbucking. They are made of copper wire spun around one or more magnetic cores. (For a more complete treatment of how magnetic musical-instrument pickups work, see the article, pickup.)

All magnetic pickups are sensitive to electronic noise, emitted from everything from light bulbs to computer screens. This noise can be quite pronounced, and sounds like a constant hum or buzz.

Humbuckers get their common name because they amplify less of this hum (they "buck the hum"), since they consist of two standard single-coil magnetic pickups, usually side by side, with opposing electric and magnetic polarity. (This wiring is sometimes mistakenly referred to as being wired "out of phase".) Common-mode signals -- that is, signals that radiate into both coils with equal amplitude -- tend to cancel each other out when they travel through both coils.

Using two coils also affects the tone of the guitar. The output to the amplifier is twice as powerful, but because the coils are at slightly different positions along the string some higher-frequency harmonics are diminished or cancelled out. Guitarists often debate the relative merits of this "fat", "dark" tone versus the "bright", "clear" tone of single-coil pickups (more typically used on Fender guitars such as the Stratocaster).

Inventors have tried many other approaches to reducing electrical noise in guitar pickups (from stacking the two pickups of a humbucker vertically in a single-coil size, to radically different pickup technologies altogether), but the humbucker design remains the most successful lower-noise design. Those who prefer the brighter sound of single-coil pickups often simply live with the extra hum and buzz in order to get the tone they prefer (or, as was the case of Jimi Hendrix, use the noise as part of their music).

Companies such as Seymour Duncan make "rails" pickups - these are merely humbuckers built single coil-size. The nickname is derived from the fact that these pickups often use not individual pole pieces for each string, but rather two thin, blade-like magnets that run the length of the pickup. Rails have become popular for "fattening" the sound of single coil guitars such as the Stratocaster or Telecaster without having to modify the pickup cavity. There is another type of humbucker manufactured by some pickup makers (such as Kent Armstrong), humorously named a "motherbucker". This is a humbucker consisting of not two single coils, but two rails pickups side-by-side. The sound is said to be even thicker than that of a humbucker. These pickups are actually quite uncommon and few artists make use of them (see Matt Bellamy).

Some guitars which have humbucker pickups feature coil taps, which allow the humbucker pickups to act as single coils.