Humbuckers have been immensely popular ever since they hit the market. Their fat, juicy tone allows for easier playing, their higher output makes amps crank out more dirt and with all the various humbuckers around you can easily season your guitar to taste. But some players feel the need to go a bit further. Using the P-Rails is a great idea to get a wide range of unique tones. But what if you already have a great humbucker in your guitar? Or you are looking for a humbucker with ‘conventional’ looks but with some of the added versatility of what the P-Rails offer? By adding a coil split you will be able to coax more sounds out of your guitar, often getting amazing sounds with a coil-split humbucker. I want to guide you through my favorite humbuckers that have a great tone when split.
The SH-3 Stagmag is a unique single coil in that it was specifically designed with coil splitting in mind. It’s got two true single coils, side by side on a baseplate. Humbuckers usually have a bar magnet under the coils, but here the pole pieces are the magnets, Alnico II to be precise. When you put the pickup in its normal mode, the coils wired in series, you get a nice output with a lot of beef in the lower mids, singing highs and solid lows. But split it and the magic happens. It will chime and sparkle, drop in output and if you’re not careful even make you forget you have the humbucker-mode as well!
One of my favorite pickups of all time, the 59/Custom Hybrid is of course the love child of the users of the Seymour Duncan User Group Forum. In its normal mode you get a nice, sizzling hot humbucker tone with a sweet vintage vibe to it, because that’s exactly what it was designed to do! But split the coils and you get the coil of the Custom, and you can expect a ballsy, pushed sound with huge mids, a sparkly top-end and a nice bite.
A tried and tested pickup. What else can be said about the JB that hasn’t been said before? Perhaps it’s new to you that the JB sounds amazing when split?! You might expect a hot single coil tone when you split a JB but that’s not really what you get. Instead it’s a more funky, chimey tone! Lots of highs, a very clean sound which is extremely useful in a plethora of situations. To me, the JB is the cornucopia of tone!
The Screamin’ Demon is an amazing pickup. It was designed with George Lynch to give an organic and defined tone in the bridge position, but it works amazingly as a neck pickup too. When you split it you get a clean, slightly honky tone that begs to be used for funk. Never short on definition and dynamics, the woody character of the Screamin’ Demon persists even when just one coil is being used!
Perhaps the most underrated pickup in the lineup of Seymour Duncan, but one of my favorites. The Jazz is the ‘natural’ companion of the JB but it stands its own just fine when put in the bridge position of a SG, Flying V or heavy Les Paul. The brightness cleans up the natural fat, thick tone of those guitars. When you coil split it, expect a very clean, sparkly tone. The output isn’t that strong but it doesn’t need to be. You may also like to use a push pull pot dedicated to this pickup to wire it in parallel or series instead of using it for a coil split. By putting it in a parallel mode, the mids get a bit more ‘beef’ than when split. The highs become a bit sweeter as well. Strangely enough, I like this pickup more in parallel than split!
By the looks of it you might not expect this pickup to sound great or maybe even just good when split, but it does! Due to its unique magnet configuration, a split Invader has a vibe very similar to a P-90. It’s got a bit more transparency than a real P-90 due to the narrower coil, but it’s got all the dirt you may need. Just give it a go: you may be surprised!
Have you found any pickups that you think sound great split?