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!

Written on June 1, 2012, by Peter

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Comments (65)

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    now I know……♫♫♫

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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 🙂

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

        • Peter • 7 years ago

          they’re in my wrists you dumb ¢unt.

          • Peter • 7 years ago

            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.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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. http://www.epiphone.com/Products/Les-Paul/Les-Paul-Classic-T.aspx

  • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        Don’t feed the troll!

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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.  ,,/,

    • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        i am so glad you set em straight

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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…

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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??

    • Peter • 7 years ago

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

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    What’s the spacing of the Antiquity JB Model?

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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

      • Peter • 7 years ago

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

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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?

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        Please don’t feed the troll!

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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..

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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..

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    awesome post! thanks for the info

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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.

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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”.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

        Cheers!

        • Peter • 7 years ago

          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…

          • Peter • 7 years ago

            Interesting take… Leo Fender was a brilliant man.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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…

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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’ (?)

    • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      For the most part the proper term is F-Spaced pickup (Fender). The Gibson spaced ones are G-Spaced. Besides, what would you call a G-Spaced single coil? a G-String perhaps??? Anyhow as a Luthier I see a need for a few other spacings, but no one wants to get into it because the need is not that great. Imagine Andre’ the Giant trying to play anything but a tailor made guitar.

      Anyhow, the term Trembucker should be reserved for a pickup with 3 coils, and yes there are some out there! I guess after making such a solecism, it’s hard to change it into something more sensible, or just using the already established terminology, just like Fender with “Tremolo”.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    ….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…

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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?

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    IS NO MYSTERY, GIBSON STARTED USING THE TERM TREMOLO, SO THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT LIKE THAT, ISTEAD OF THE PROPER NAME, VIBRATO. (ITALIAN WAS STANDARD FOR MUSICAL TERMS)

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.”

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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…

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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?

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        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.

        • Peter • 7 years ago

          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……:-)

  • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      Just a normal standard humbucker should work.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

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

  • Peter • 7 years ago

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

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      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.

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    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?

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    I have a Jackson JS32T, hardtail, with stock Jackson pickups. I also have another Jackson, unknown model, with a Floyd Rose. The piskups in it are SH-2N and TB-4. Would there be a difference in sound between the TB-4 instead of buying an SH-4 as I have seen recommended? I did not see any difference in pole spacing between the stock Jackson bridge pickup and the TB-4.

    • Peter • 7 years ago

      There is no sound difference but you will notice that the pole spacing is an exact match. Go for the TB-4 for ALL guitars, whether they are hard-tail or have a trem. The ONLY guitars that actually use the closer spacing of the SH series (SH-4, etc.) are traditional spaced ACTUAL GIBSON LES PAULS. Epiphones and ALL imports use trem spacing, whether stop-tail or not. At least that’s been my experience over the last 20+ years…

      • Peter • 7 years ago

        This is not true for me. I own a 1987 Charvel Model 6 (aka Jackson soloist, but made in Japan). I got rid of the pre-amp and original pickups, so put an 49mm SH-4 on it, and it lines up great. I recently picked up a vintage Jackson j100 single-coil and installed it. I didn’t even notice anything until I started playing it, and I noticed the high E wasn’t as “loud” as it should be. Here’s a pic.

        And hey, this may be true for a lot of guitars, but it doesn’t seem to be for this ’87 Jap Charvel https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/470a443efa892eda00f7185b2c1e2b25597f57f94c048ca4b1a01bf715a7a923.jpg

  • Peter • 7 years ago

    “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!”

    Because Leo Fender or one of his cohorts didn’t do their research, and made a mistake. They ran with it, and I guess no one corrected them, or they just didn’t care…

    Now if people would stop using the term “Coil Tapping” when they mean coil splitting. A tapped pickup coil has one or more additional leads: The coil is wound partially, then the coil wire is attached to a lead and then the coil winding continues from there. When done you can have the pickup use lets say 8600 windings and switch from one lead to another, and viola’ you get 1200 windings for your metal madness! Sad that no one does that anymore, or at least it’s very rare these days. It doesn’t have the drawbacks of volume controls.

    How about it Seymour, any plans for some?

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