Do You Know the Difference Between Coil Splitting and Coil Tapping?

Hey guys, I need to make a confession here. I may run Gear Gods and all, but I was totally ignorant as to the difference between “coil tapping” and “coil splitting.” How about you? I’d always used the terms indiscriminately. So praise be to Seymour Duncan, because this blog post sent the scales falling from my eyes.


Coil splitting mode that most people probably are familiar with. It’s when you set a humbucker to bypass one of its two coils, effectively turning it into a single coil pickup with a brighter, more vintage tone.

But coil tapping? Totally different:

…you can install a switch to select between a single coil pickup’s full output or a lower output, giving you two distinct levels of power from one pickup. The tapped output level will give you a more vintage-like sound, while a hotter, more modern voice is available from the full-powered setting.

If you have pickups that are already single coil your guitar might have an option to tap them. It could be done with a push/pull, a mini-toggle, or it might be two of the positions of a five-way selector.

So now you know. Or maybe you already did. But I sure as hell didn’t. Tune in next week when we segue into little known facts about root beer tapping.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.

Latest comments
  • Sometimes I read the word “humbucker” but in my mind I see “hamburger”… does this mean I’m a fat kid? Or just an idiot that can’t read. #iloverootbeer

  • Does coil split ever sound better? I have a couple guitars with it but haven’t found a use for coil split. Own a tele and like the sound of that but splitting my les Paul’s pickups has never sounded that great to me. Anyone else feel the same?

    • It depends on what kinda music you play. Single coils sound outright foreign these days in most kinds of rock, punk, metal, etc because of the dominance of high-gain, humbuckered tones. And modern high gain tones need humbuckers because of the natural noise cancelling.

      But if you ever use clean tones, give your single coils a try. You get lots of good snap, and the same kind of definition that humbuckers give distorted tones.

      • Yes I agree, I use my tele (with a standard single coil) for a lot of the clean stuff I play, which I love the sound of… I just have never really liked the tone of when I split the coil in my les paul style guitars.

    • I have an Ibanez 7 string with a Fastback Beardcomber in the bridge. It has a 5 way selector switch, and the 2nd position uses a combo of the neck split and bridge split. It sounds incredibly Strat-like and bright, which is amazing for cleans. I’ve played Strats and Teles, and I actually like this combo better. My 2cents worth!

  • Gibson doesn’t.

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