Mixing Single Coils and Humbuckers - Fralin Pickups

How To Mix Single Coils and Humbuckers

Combining Single Coil and Humbucker pickups in a guitar brings some challenges, often overlooked by guitar players looking for different sounds. Guitars like H.S.S. Strats, Telecasters, and others with mixed pickups present a puzzle that requires careful consideration. Let’s look at some simple solutions for musicians seeking diverse tones.

Breaking Down The Challenge:

Think of Single Coil Pickups (like Vintage Hot or Stock Telecaster) and Humbuckers (such as Pure P.A.F. or Standard) as two different characters in the world of guitar sounds. A single coil, with about 8-9,000 turns of wire on one bobbin, gives off a bright sound. On the other hand, humbuckers, which are essentially two single coils wired together, have a louder output and a darker tone. Here’s a quick look:

Single Coils:

  • Are usually brighter than humbuckers in tone
  • Usually need 250K Volume Pots due to their brightness
  • Are a lot less output than humbuckers


  • A lot darker than single coil pickups
  • Usually need 500K Pots
  • More powerful than single coils

Confused on Pot Values? Check out our Volume and Tone Pots 101 Post.

When balancing these different pickups using just one volume pot, the challenge arises. It’s like a puzzle: do you use a 500K pot for the louder bridge humbucker and risk making the brighter single coils too loud, or vice versa?

Know Your Style

The trick is to understand how you play. Do you mostly play with the Strat neck Pickup and occasionally use the bridge? Or are you someone who rocks out with the bridge humbucker often and rarely plays the single coils? Knowing this helps you pick the right pickups that match your style. Now, let’s look at some simple solutions:

Solution #1: Pick The Right Pickups

This is our most recommended solution. Choose the most compatible pickup outputs and tone. 

Choosing pickups that work well together is the best solution. Selecting the proper combination might mean using a brighter humbucker with your single coils or getting darker single coils to match the humbucker. Examples include using Blues Specials or High Output Single Coils with a Pure P.A.F. bridge. You can also explore humbucker-sized pickups like Sunbucker, Big Single (42 Gauge), and Twangmaster – all bright and snappy, and they use 250K pots.

Split Blades Give you a lot of options here. For instance, Blues and Super High Output Split Blades sound best with 500K pots, making them perfect for HSS guitars and Telecasters. You can use a 500K Pot on the whole guitar, and your pickups won’t be too overly bright.

Solution #2: Embrace the 300K Pot

When the standard 250K and 500K options don’t quite fit, a 300K pot can be a middle-ground solution. It’s brighter than 250K and darker than 500K, helping balance the tones of your humbucker and single coils.

Solution #3: Try The “Bright Switch” Push Pull Mod.

Imagine you have a Telecaster with a dark-neck humbucker and a bright bridge pickup. The Bright Switch mod can help remove the dark tone from the neck pickup, brightening it up. It’s like flipping a switch to change the sound.

A diagram of a Bright Switch

Solution #4: Use a Resistor.

Adding a resistor to your pickup can change how it “sees” the volume pot. For example, in a Telecaster with a P90 in the neck and a Single Coil bridge, using a 500K pot with a resistor can help balance the tones. Here’s how to wire it up in a Stratocaster:

Using Resistors in a Strat

You can see two 500K Resistors in this diagram – on the Neck and Middle terminals of the switch, and the other legs are to ground. This fakes out the Single Coils so they see 250K, and the Humbucker sees 500K.

Each solution has pros and cons, so think about what works best. Whether trying a 250K/500K Concentric Volume Pot or using two volume pots, there are different ways to solve this puzzle and find the ones that suit your playing style.

Written By:

Tyler Delsack

👋 I'm Tyler Delsack, the Manager of Fralin Pickups. I've been a guitarist for 26 years, and along with managing the shop and working on this Website, I love tinkering with things!

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