String Spacing Explained: Humbuckers vs Trembuckers

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……♫♫♫

    • 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 :)

      • Duckbasher

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

        • Jesus Christ

          they’re in my wrists you dumb ¢unt.

          • 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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1297465733 Daniel Thomson

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

    • Jesus

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

      • daddy0h

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

      • Bobbydafan

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

      • 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.

      • still rockin’

        Don’t feed the troll!

  • 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.  ,,/,

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702669151 Gianluca Ivaldi

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

    • 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.

      • Your Mom

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

      • sirebilly

        i am so glad you set em straight

      • still rockin’

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

      • 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…

  • 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??

    • Jarrett Lewis

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

  • Felipe Fernandes

    What’s the spacing of the Antiquity JB Model?

    • 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

      • Felipe Souza

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

        • CMG

          Or a giant joint.

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • still rockin’

        Please don’t feed the troll!

      • 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.

        Jackass.

  • soumyajit acharjee

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

  • 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..

  • 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..

  • Giovanni Serratos

    awesome post! thanks for the info

  • 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.

    • 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”.

  • 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…