String Spacing Explained: Humbuckers vs Trembuckers

Posted on by Peter

If you’re upgrading your guitar’s pickups for the very first time, here’s a tip which will help you maximize your tone and get the most out of your investment: Seymour Duncan offers most humbucker models in two sizes: Humbucker and Trembucker. But what do these mean, and how do you know which is right for your guitar?

Humbuckers and Trembuckers are actually both versions of the same pickups, and most can be easily identified by their model numbers. For example, the Humbucker version of the Alternative 8 model is named the SH-15, while the corresponding Trembucker variant is the TB-15. But why is a Trembucker called a Trembucker, and how is it different to a Humbucker?

A standard Humbucker’s pole pieces are built according to a traditional Gibson string spacing of 1.930″ (49mm), measured from the center of the high E string to the center of the low E string at the bridge pickup location. But guitars with tremolo bridges – particuarly Floyd Rose style locking bridges, six-screw vintage types or two-point fulcrum bridges – have a wider string spacing of 2.070″ (52.6mm). This means that a pickup designed for a tremolo guitar (or one with the same string spacing) needs the pole pieces to be spaced slightly further apart in order to more accurately sense the vibrations of their respective strings. An early solution to this problem was to simple angle a regular humbucker slightly so that at least one pole piece would pick up each of the outermost strings, but this was a stopgap solution until wider spacing was developed.

This only applies to the spacing for the bridge (sometimes called treble) pickup. By the time the strings pass over the neck (or rhythm) pickup, their spacing has narrowed down, so a Humbucker will be properly spaced for your needs whether you have Gibson or Floyd Rose spacing at the bridge.

If you’re not sure which spacing your particular guitar requires, simply measure from the centre of each of the E strings. If the spacing is two inches (50mm), you require a Humbucker. If the spacing is greater than two inches, you need a Trembucker.

There are a few instances where these rules don’t quite apply: Blackouts don’t have exposed individual pole pieces, so there’s no need for separate Humbucker and Trembucker versions. Ditto for the Dimebucker, Scott Ian’s El Diablo and the Invader. And three models are only available as Trembuckers: the Parallel Axis Trembucker Blues Saraceno, the Parallel Axis Trembucker Distortion and the Parallel Axis Trembucker Original.

As for why guitarists still often use the term ‘tremolo’ (meaning rapid changes in volume) instead of the more accurate vibrato (rapid changes in pitch), that’s a mystery for the ages!

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  • Vampy

    now I know……♫♫♫

    Vampy did not rate this post.
    • Bloke

      Dear Jesus, I love your posts. They sound so irascible, so impatient, so annoyed and so lacking in empathy, that I can’t help laughing when I read them. You might be a bit short on friends though. BTW it’s interesting to note that Leo Fender didn’t know what ‘tremolo’ meant but was the greatest electric guitar building genius ever. No one can be good at everything :)

      Bloke did not rate this post.
      • Duckbasher

        Poor Jesus seems to be in a bad mood. Must be those nails in his hands acting up again.

        Duckbasher did not rate this post.
        • Jesus Christ

          they’re in my wrists you dumb ¢unt.

          Jesus Christ did not rate this post.
          • Duckbasher

            Have you ever thought of becoming a writer for say… Dice Clay? Oh yea, I forgot, no one believes in his existence any more either.

            Duckbasher did not rate this post.
      • Paul Arias

        In my opinion, Les Paul was the best american desingner (was a musician too) and ingineer for musical instruments, and the Les Paul Model, is the best guitar desing EVER, (in my opininion again) by that matter, good thing Epiphone desings the original Model, becouse Gibson abuses on the prices, today you can find awesome gear for 1000 usd, poeple don’t realice that they are been cheated by paying 4000 usd for a guitar.

        Paul Arias did not rate this post.
  • Daniel Thomson

    i think they say tremolo because its like its trembling, kinda makes sense. 

    Daniel Thomson did not rate this post.
    • Jesus

      No. No it doesn’t actually. You’re just a complete idiot that knows nothing about etymology.

      Jesus did not rate this post.
      • daddy0h

        In music, tremolo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtrɛːmolo]), or tremolando ([tremoˈlando]), is a trembling effect.

        daddy0h did not rate this post.
      • Bobbydafan

        Having the correct answer is completely invalidated when someone is so overtly nasty. Ignore him, Daniel, we know what you meant:)

        Bobbydafan did not rate this post.
      • Satan

        You’re such a nasty person. Can’t you just correct a person without putting him/her down?
        No wonder you got nailed to a cross.

        Satan did not rate this post.
      • still rockin’

        Don’t feed the troll!

        still rockin' did not rate this post.
  • Pingback: REVIEW: Seymour Duncan SH-15 Alternative 8 | I Heart Guitar()

  • J4s0nw31r

    I have an LTD EC-256 and measured the string spacing at the bridge pickup to be 51mm.  My current SD Distortion HB seems a tad short, especially on the High E string.  I also have a SD Custom 5 TB and was wondering, would this suit my needs better?  The Custom 5 would pair with my SD ’59 in the neck better, too.  ,,/,

    J4s0nw31r did not rate this post.
    • Gianluca Ivaldi

      both pickups are good and would pair well with a ’59, you will need a trembucker regardless

      Gianluca Ivaldi did not rate this post.
    • Jesus

      Are you that illiterate? If you can measure, then you’d know if 51mm (even though it obviously stated to measure in INCHES, you dumbass) is longer than 2 inches or not. Sounds like you went out and bought a humbucker for a trembucker spaces guitar like an idiot. And like a bigger idiot, whoever installed it obviously was an untalented loser who couldn’t even tell if it was right before installing it.

      Jesus did not rate this post.
      • Your Mom

        You responses are a testimony of your douchiness. Grow up.

        Your Mom did not rate this post.
      • sirebilly

        i am so glad you set em straight

        sirebilly did not rate this post.
      • still rockin’

        Moron troll alert! Please don’t feed the troll!

        still rockin' did not rate this post.
      • phatcat

        your nick is a joke i guess……you’re so far from him…learn to be respectful instead of spit your poison.
        About the tremolo…..i’m italian and tremolo means trembling…..technically the correct term is vibrato as stated from sd tech….but what it seems to be heard is a trembling sound……consider this little advice…..take lessons in humility…

        phatcat did not rate this post.
      • Willy Gee

        Bad Manners Bro!!!! Musicians don’t treat each other this way. For Shame?!?!?!?! How Do You Tolerate yourself Brother Man? It’s Just Not Right!!!! Embarrassing.

        Willy Gee did not rate this post.
  • alex sosa

    i have a epiphone les paul, and i have a super distortion “F spaced” on it, because of the space. i want a SD alnico II pro Slash. i see it has no trembucker version… is there a problem with that??

    alex sosa did not rate this post.
    • Jarrett Lewis

      No. F Space pickups don’t make any difference in sound or whatever; just the poles line up with the strings.

      Jarrett Lewis did not rate this post.
  • Felipe Fernandes

    What’s the spacing of the Antiquity JB Model?

    Felipe Fernandes did not rate this post.
    • Jesus

      Are you that stupid? Can you read? It just stated all models come in a Hum and Trem version. Huns are 2″. Trems are slightly over. You’re welcome. Dumbass

      Jesus did not rate this post.
      • Felipe Souza

        Antiquity hums don’t have trem version.
        Anyway, you need a pussy to relieve all this stress, bro.

        Felipe Souza did not rate this post.
        • CMG

          Or a giant joint.

          CMG did not rate this post.
  • soumyajit acharjee

    I have a sh4(bridge).
    But I think it is not for 25.75 scale,there is some spacing problem.
    Is it for short scale fretboard?

    soumyajit acharjee did not rate this post.
    • Jesus

      You’re an idiot. The spacing difference is horizontal not vertical. How wide the spacing is over the bridge pickup is the only thing that matters. Can you even read? Obviously not I don’t even know why I’m typing this you obviously won’t comprehend it.

      Jesus did not rate this post.
      • still rockin’

        Please don’t feed the troll!

        still rockin' did not rate this post.
      • Sancho Rodríguez

        Because the spacing at the bridge is not the same as the spacing at the nut, scale length plays a direct role in the horizontal spacing at the pickup. This especially comes into play with a hot rod guitar in which the scale length, bridge, and nut have all been altered or swapped out.


        Sancho Rodríguez did not rate this post.
  • soumyajit acharjee

    Sh1n vs sh10n which one is the best for getting some killer distortion sound.
    plz help me out.

    soumyajit acharjee did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      The 59 neck (SH-1n) and Full Shred neck (SH-10n) are actually very similar in output, but the SH-10 set was voiced with more distortion in mind (it’s brigher-sounding with a higher resonant peak), so it may be closer to what you’re looking for.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • god

    Holy Jesus, you need another slap upside the head,like your brother said nail to the cross, don’t listen to Jesus he’s traps bait for a living can’t play a thing cause he’s a master baiter….lmfao..

    god did not rate this post.
  • George

    I have a sh-4 on my fender HSS. I know it is wrong, the write choice is the tb-4, but it still hearing much better than the dh-1 of fender.. If anybody knows a solution ,please help me… sorry about my bad English..

    George did not rate this post.
  • Giovanni Serratos

    awesome post! thanks for the info

    Giovanni Serratos did not rate this post.
  • Ben Goude

    From what I’ve seen, when it’s referring to volume, it’s tremolo, and when it’s referring to a bridge, it’s tremelo.

    Ben Goude did not rate this post.
    • Alejandro Fuentes

      No, that’s just poor spelling. The word has always been Tremolo.

      I think the misconception stems from how in the early days of electric guitars, Leo Fender designed vibrato systems for his guitars, and applied patents using names such as “Fender Synchronised Tremolo” and “Fender Floating Tremolo”.

      Alejandro Fuentes did not rate this post.
      • SeymourDuncanBlog

        This is the widely-accepted explanation. The actual name for what is happening when you use a dual-fulcrum bridge is “vibrato,” but Leo wasn’t a musician himself, and for whatever reason, he dubbed his designs as “tremolo” bridges. It’s been that way ever since.

        Note that some manufacturers, like Bigsby, do refer to their designs as “vibrato” devices, but most have stuck with tremolo – ironically – to avoid confusion in the marketplace.


        SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
        • TVulgaris

          I’ve heard tell from some ancient sages that Leo, a VERY

          canny business guy in the beginning, used it as a branding tool to distinguish his guitars, as well as calling the tremolo circuit in his amps “Vibrato”.
          This was obviously one of the major nails in the English language’s coffin…

          TVulgaris did not rate this post.
          • SeymourDuncanBlog

            Interesting take… Leo Fender was a brilliant man.

            SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Neil Pincus

    I have a narrow spaced bridge humbucker in a Tele and it’s fine. Most tune-o-matics are 52mm and 49.2mm pickups work just fine. Trembuckers look a bit better with wider string spacing…

    Neil Pincus did not rate this post.
  • Deebz270

    Regarding the last sentence… Perhaps then, given that Seymour Duncan are one of the top manufacturers of pickups, with a wealth of history and guitar wisdom behind them, should set a president by renaming their ‘Trembuckers’ as – ‘Vibruckers’ (?)

    Deebz270 did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      We do what we can, but despite all our history and influence, the president is still set by the electorate.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Deebz270

    ….And regarding the comments….. Why, oh why, do people have to resort to such banal and facile commentary? All those responsible should try employing some humility and manners! Comments are useful, when written intelligently, in gauging peoples views on a given subject or post. Senior musos like myself, do not seek out these sites to indulge pathetic diatribe. Have some respect for the company whose name heads the forum, but also have some respect for each other. And finally…. This post was well written and informative, but I would hardly regard it as ‘awesome’…. sigh…

    Deebz270 did not rate this post.
  • Sébastien Degorce

    Just bought 59 MODEL BRIDGE BLACK SPLIT – SH1B4C, but I wonder if the string spacing is right for an Stratocaster Deluxe HSS… Is anyone know?

    Sébastien Degorce did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      That appears to be the model designation for the 4-conductor SH1 ’59 Bridge used by French retailers. It looks like that is standard spacing, which would mean that the pole spacing is somewhat narrower than the standard Fender tremolo string spacing. It’s OK, the pickup will still fit, work, and sound great, but the 1st and 6th strings will not line up exactly over top the pole pieces.

      If you want everything to line up perfectly, you will want a pickup with the “Trembucker” designation, which uses a matching wider spacing.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Paul Arias


    Paul Arias did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      Hi Paul, thanks for your comment.

      With regards to the origin of the “tremolo bridge” misnomer, the term actually originated with Leo Fender to describe the fulcrum-based bridge of the Stratocaster. Like many things, despite being factually inaccurate, it just kind of stuck.

      Gibson, to their credit, has always referred to the Lyre, Maestro, and Bigsby designs used on some of their guitars as “vibrato tailpieces.”

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • McDylbot

    Typical, just purchased a Seymour Duncan SH-6 and installed it only to find I need a trembucker as the SH6 is too small (all the middle strings line up, but the top and bottom E strings are noticeably misaligned). Oh well, I suppose you live and learn…

    McDylbot did not rate this post.
    • Marco Rossi

      I have done the same thing. I put an SH-6 on my GJ2 arete and I discover that I need a TB-6….. Have you noticed any difference in sound?

      Marco Rossi did not rate this post.
      • SeymourDuncanBlog

        I haven’t noticed a sound difference (it may be different for other pickups), but my OCD suffers with misaligned poles. Anyone who go the wrong pickup should be able to exchange it for the right one.

        SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
      • McDylbot

        I didn’t even plug in with the SH6, I just uninstalled it immediately and sent it back to get the TB6 instead. As far as I know it’s not supposed to have any adverse effect to the sound, but the obsessive compulsive in me won out on this occasion.

        McDylbot did not rate this post.
        • Marco Rossi

          Thanks for the answers. Unfortunately I live in Italy, so I haven’t the possibility to send back the pickup for an other one. Anyway the guitar seems to sound very good, the duncan distortion is a great pickup. Very aggressive and punchy sound, perfect for metal and hard rock. Next time I will pay more attention during the choose of a pickup……:-)

          Marco Rossi did not rate this post.
  • Matt Mtz

    What pickup spacing will fit an epiphone custom pro with pro bucker pickups?? Want to put a gold covered custom in one

    Matt Mtz did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      Just a normal standard humbucker should work.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Mikey Shoafy

    I wondered about this for a while now, glad to see this info.

    Mikey Shoafy did not rate this post.
  • barry creed

    For the new standard Jazzmaster HH, which should I be looking at? Humbuckers or trembuckers?

    barry creed did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      The best way is to measure, using the dimensions in the article. My guess is a trembuckuer, but measure that spacing to know for sure.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Paul Cullen-Wright

    Firstly, this post has been a great help in understanding string spacing requirements. Thank you! However I am looking at upgrading the pickups in a Squire Super-Sonic I have recently picked up. The string spacing is approx 55mm, meaning I would normally require a Trembucker. My query is due to the fact that the bridge pickup is angled as mentioned above to overcome the wider spacing. Should I replace with a Trembucker or a Humbucker?

    Paul Cullen-Wright did not rate this post.