What are coil-splitting and coil-tapping?

Sometimes seen in the specifications of electric guitars, and often used interchangeably (incorrectly!), coil-splitting and coil-tapping provide a means of increasing the range of sounds you can get from an electric guitar pickup.

These functions are often activated by pulling out the volume or tone controls, but what are they and what do they do?

Coil-splitting applies to humbucking pickups and allows you to use only one of the two coils, giving you a single-coil sound from a humbucking pickup. Now, it’s not going to make your Les Paul sound like a Strat (there are a few more differences than the pickups…), but gives you a choice of tones, and also tends to lower the output, so you can use it as a great way of switching between a lower-output rhythm sound and a higher-output, thicker tone for solos.

Coil-tapping is used to reduce the output of a single-coil pickup by ‘tapping’ the coil of wire meaning that the sound is coming from fewer windings of the pickup coil; this can often produce a more ‘vintage’ sound, with a lower output.

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

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