Fralin Pickups - How Coil Splitting Works

How Does Coil-Splitting Work?

Last Updated: April 22nd, 2020

Coil Splitting is a simple, usable way to add another dimension of tone to your guitar. You can essentially double your tone, with a flip (or pull) of a switch. You can use this to clean up a beefy humbucker or get your tone to “cut through” a lot more. If you want to understand what’s going on when you split your humbucker, read on!

THE BASICS:

A Humbucker‘s two coils are wired In Series. This means that the output of one coil is entering another coil. Series wiring is what makes a humbucker sound so loud and strong. Humbuckers have a darker, beefier tonal quality to them – but what if you want Single Coil clarity? Enter Coil Splitting:

Coil Splitting involves changing where your humbucker’s leads go. Essentially, Coil Splitting involves connecting both leads of the Slug Coil to ground, essentially canceling out the coil. Let’s take look at how a regular Humbucker is wired:


NORMAL HUMBUCKER WIRING:

Normal Fralin Pickups Humbucker Wiring
Standard Fralin Pickups Humbucker Wiring

Let’s look at the above image. As you can see, a normal humbucker is wired by connecting the Outside Leads of each coil together, and sending the Slug Inside Lead to ground, and the Screw Inside Lead to the switch (hot).

LEADS:

Note that you need to have either 3-Conductor Wiring or 4-Conductor Wiring to split a humbucker. These conductors have each coil it’s separate output, all the way down the lead. If you have a humbucker wired with Gibson lead, your humbucker is already wired like this. There’s no way to split the humbucker with a Gibson Lead.


SPLIT HUMBUCKER WIRING:

As stated earlier, when you split a humbucker, you’re rewiring the leads of the coils. Here’s what your humbucker looks like when it’s split:

Split Humbucker Wiring
Split Humbucker Wiring

Two things have happened:

  1. You’ve connected the Red Lead of the Slug Coil to ground. As the Black lead of the Slug Coil already connects to ground, the entire coil connects to ground.
  2. You’ve also connected the Green Lead of the Screw Coil to ground. This allows the Screw Coil to remain functional.

HOW IT WORKS:

Using our Push-Pull Pot, we’ve connected out Red and Green leads to ground when we pull up. Here’s what’s happening under the hood:

Normal Humbucker Wiring - Coil Splitting Operation

As you can see, when the push-pull pot is in the down position, the Red and Green wires are not connected to anything else – the humbucker is in full-functioning mode.

What happens when you coil split a humbucker

When you Pull Up: Both the Red and Green lead now connect to a ground jumper to the casing of the pot, sending the finishes to the ground as illustrated above.


COIL SPLITTING VARIATIONS:

Depending on the lead you have, and the set-up you want, there are a few options you can perform. On a 3-Conductor Lead, Red refers to the Tap (coil finishes). On a 4-Conductor Lead, You have Red and Green As the coil finishes.

Also, depending on your guitar, you can coil tap two humbuckers at once, with one push-pull pot. Here are the variations listed below:

Coil Splitting Options

Let’s look at the bottom two images. You can split two humbuckers simultaneously by the same push-pull pot. As soon as you pull up, both humbuckers split at the same time. If you want independent control over your humbuckers, you need to use two separate push-pull pots, one for each humbucker.

Note: In the first two examples above, we’re using the “left” side of the switch. It really doesn’t matter which side you use – as long as the Ground connection is above it.


Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned next month for our next article on Resistors in guitars, and Happy New Year!

Written By:

Tyler Delsack

Tyler Delsack is the Manager of Fralin Pickups and spends his time editing and maintaining the website, designing graphics and ads, and making pickups. He's powered by Jazz Guitar, Vietnamese Food, Hiking, and Beer.

Author's Note: These blog posts are for educational and information purposes only. We do not offer custom wiring diagrams or wiring help or troubleshooting. For this, we recommend going to a local luthier or tech.

12 Comments

  1. Actually it can be done with little tinkerig… I’ve bought cheap HH guitar, managed to dissasemble the pickups, solder2 wires to previously connected coil bridge and turned my pickups into 4 conductor set. It works great now and I can do any switching that I want. Serial, paralell, split coil etc. I wouldn’t recommend it for enyone who hasn’t vast knowledge in guitar electronics and how pickups work…

    Regards,
    Josip

  2. Instead of a push pull i have a switch..
    Also, if you would label the wires it would help? can the red and green be wired together then ?
    Also, how do you ground the pot? my switch connects to a plastic scratch plate, is that ground?
    Could you screw this up and be out of phase?
    thanks, nick

  3. Hi,
    The generic image for this specific webpage shows a humbucker, out of which, aside from the 4 conductors, 2 more conductors out of each coil show up: a black one & a white one.
    What are those for?
    Thanks!

    1. Hey Adrian,

      There are 8 leads in that image – 2 from each coil (start and finish), and the 4-Conductor wire, ready to be wired up.

      In this case, our Humbucker Tech would wire each appropriate Coil Wire lead to the corresponding 4-Conductor Lead, allowing you to solder in easily.

      Tyler

  4. Hey Tyler, I have a set of active humbuckers (Tesla AH-4) with 4 conductors which Im thinking about putting into a schecter guitar with a push-pull pot. My question is, is it possible to coil split active pickups?

    1. Hey Johan,

      Based on your humbucker’s specifications, I don’t believe it’s possible to split these. Green Shield = Ground, White Black = Hot (slightly confused on this), and Red is the DC power. I don’t believe you can split these, sorry.

      Tyler

  5. Hey thanks for the awesome article, but i still have a doubt… I am looking foward to make this wiring in my Semi-Acoustic Condor JC- 501 but i’m suspecting that i’ll have to replace the pick-ups, cause there is only one cable getting out of the each humbucker with white and black wiring inside (i supose it is one ground and one hot). So therefore i would have to buy a set of pick ups that have 4 wires exposed? Or i can still do this with my actual pick ups..?

    1. Hey Marc,

      Yes – you need at least 3-Conductor lead to perform the Coil Split modification. You simply can’t separate half of the pickup with 1 or 2 leads.

      Tyler

  6. Tyler, GREAT explaination of coil splitting. The pictures are worth a thousand words! I have a PRS SE Standard Santana with StewMac Golden Age humbuckers. I installed a push/pull on the tone control and, instead of going straight to ground when pulling the switch up, the signals from the 4 wire pickups (red and green) go through a 2.2k resistor to ground. This has the effect of leaving some of the grounded coil in the circuit making the volume difference less obvious, and still getting a really sweet single coil sound. I’ll be the 2.2k resistor values will be different for pickups with different overall resistive values, but some experimenting might yield some unexpectedly delicious results.
    Thanks.

  7. Hey Tyler, I’m trying to use a blender pot to blend a HSS strat humbucker. I have a 4-conductor wire but am not sure which leads attach to the starts and finishes of the bobbins, especially since I want the active single coil (when the humbucker is blended out) to be on the slug side, not the screw side. Any ideas?

    1. If you have a Fralin humbucker – with our color codes – you simply reverse the entire coil direction to make it split and keep the slug coil. So, Black would be Hot, White would be ground, and Red and Green get tied together.

      Tyler

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