Humbucker Pickups: Series vs Parallel Wiring

Even though humbucker pickups are good are reducing or eliminating hum, some players are not happy with the sound of a humbucker, by nature, a humbucker cancels out some high frequencies, which give the pickup a less bright sound. The standard humbucker sound is great for some types of music, and a lot of players are happy with the sound especially when dealing with overdriven amps. There are ways of getting humbuckers to sound more like a single coil pickup, which this article will discuss. 2 wire humbucker pickups cannot be re-wired without taking the pickup apart. It is not recommended to do this. These wiring diagrams assume the pickup has 4 wires.

Of course, one way to make a humbucking pickup sound more like a single coil is to use a coil cut. By simply grounding one of the coils and leaving the other active, itís easy to achieve this. The disadvantage here is that the pickup is no longer humbucking, and the volume will be less than if both coils are active. Here is a diagram of the wiring for a typical coil cut.

If you need or want to keep the pickup humbucking, there is another way to get a brighter sound.

A stock humbucker is almost always wired in series. They can also be wired in parallel, which gives the guitar a different sound. Itís brighter, more like a single coil sound, but is still humbucking. The volune is a bit less, but itís not as drastic as using a coil cut. By using a DPDT switch that is on in both positions, you can have either sound at the flip of a switch. Here is a diagram of how to wire a switch for that purpose:

Using 2 or 3 pickups, there are many combinations of wiring possibilities. Single coils and humbuckers can be used together, and one popular version is a humbucker in the bridge position with 2 single coils in the middle and neck positions.

Humbuckers also come is single coil sized pickups. These are direct replacements for strat-type guitar. and most of them allow the pickup to be wired in serial or parallel.

I hope this article helps builders understand humbucking pickups better.

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