How Does Coil-Splitting Work?

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 is a pickup containing two coils that are wired In Series. This means that the output of one coil is entering another coil. This 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 cancelling out the coil. Let’s take look at how a regular Humbucker is wired:

Normal Humbucker Wiring:

Normal Humbucker Wiring - Fralin

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).


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:

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 has already been connected to ground, this means the entire coil is connected 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:

Coil Splitting - Fralin Pickups

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

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


Depending on the lead you have, and the set-up you want, there’s a few options you can perform. On a 3-Conductor Lead, the Tap (coil finishes) are coded Red. 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’s the variations listed below:

Let’s look at the bottom two images. These are two separate humbuckers being tapped by the same push-pull pot. As soon as you pull up, both humbuckers will be 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!

Tyler Delsack - Fralin Pickups

Tyler is an avid guitar player for over 20 years. He spends his days at the shop making Hum-Cancelling P-90s and Big Singles, as well as editing and maintaining the website. He loves hiking, cooking, and beer. At any given moment, somewhere, he's eating a bowl of Pho.

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