Magazine article Guitar Player

Gary Brawer on Maintenance: Fun with Humbuckers

Magazine article Guitar Player

Gary Brawer on Maintenance: Fun with Humbuckers

Article excerpt

TWO-HUMBUCKER GUITARS are great, but with just a 3-way switch, you might think that the tonal options are somewhat limited. There are, of course, many things you can do to get more sounds out of dual-coil pickups. This should give you an idea of what some of the options are and what they sound like.

The most common mod is to cut one of the coils. That will certainly give you a different sound, but remember: Half a humbucker does not a single-coil make. A split coil rarely sounds like the sweet single-coil pickup you wished it did--it's usually too thin, too bright, and not as loud as a true single-coil. So, what can you do about it?

The easiest thing to do is to modify the coil you are cutting. There are two ways to cut a coil: You can ground one of the coils out by moving the ground or you can move the output to select the opposite coil. When you ground out a coil, you can choose to not fully ground out the entire coil. You can run the coil through a capacitor to ground. Try values around .Olufto .05uf for starters. This will filter off the treble frequencies of the one coil, allowing the bass frequencies to interact with the existing coils. This leaves you with a little more volume and a tone closer to a P-90. Unfortunately anything short of matching coils begins to lose the hum-canceling benefit.

Another trick is to put a resistor between the coil cut point and ground. This will control how much of the coil you are removing. I like to put a trim pot at that point so I can tune it by ear. Once I have it dialed in, I can measure the trim pot and replace it with a resistor or just leave it in place for further adjusting. If you have an extra control on your guitar, you can set that up for an onboard variable coil cut. On any guitar with two tone controls, it's easy to convert one tone control to a master tone and then use the other one for a variable coil cut knob. …

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