Guitar Pickups 101 Series: Part 5 - Humbucker Wiring and Push/Pull Pots

We continue our Guitar Pickups 101 Series with Part 5 about the different ways to wire a humbucker, and some interesting ways to modify your tone with push/pull pots. If you need to know some basics about pickups and how they affect your tone, be sure check out the other installments in Guitar Pickups 101 Series!

2 knob-type pots and 1 push/pull switch

Humbucker Wiring – Series, Parallel and Coil-Splitting

There are three different ways that a humbucker can be wired, and these wiring methods will effect the output and tone of your pickup.

The standard way to wire a humbucker is called Series wiring. What this means, is that the two coils of the humbucker are strung together one after the other, like links in a chain. The signal goes through one coil, straight into the other coil, and then out of the pickup.

Another option is called coil-splitting which is when one of the coils in the humbucker is turned off. This is done in order to get single coil sounds out of a humbucker. Of course, with the second coil shut off, you will get some of that electric hum of a single coil, as both coils are needed to cancel the hum.

The third option in humbucker wiring is called Parallel wiring, where both coils are wired independently of one another, and simply sit next to each other. This allows you to get single coil sounds and to cancel the hum that is normally associated with a single coil pickup.

What Are Push/Pull Pots?

Exposed Potentiometer

A push pull pot, works in a similar way to a normal pot used for volume or tone, but it uses a two-way switch rather than a knob. You can actually replace any pot on your guitar with a push/pull pot, giving you the ability to do wiring modifications. Usually to do wiring modifications, you would need to drill a hole into the guitar to add switches, but by replacing existing pots, you could avoid drilling holes into your guitar.

The most common wiring mod you can do to a guitar is called coil-splitting. By shutting off one of the coils in your humbucker pickups, you can then have access to single-coil sounds.

Another cool thing you can do using a push/pull pot is adding a phase switch. A phase switch flips the phase of a pickup, which allows you to get a high, shrill sound similar to Jimmy Page or Brian May, when combined with another pickup. This type of tone can also sound good when playing funk or reggae, or when you need your guitar to stand out amongst various other instruments or sounds.

Check back tomorrow for part 6 of the Guitar Pickups 101 series! If you still haven't seen the other parts, be sure to check them out here:

Guitar Pickups 101 Series Part 1

Guitar Pickups 101 Series Part 2

Guitar Pickups 101 Series Part 3

Guitar Pickups 101 Series Part 4