April 4, 2019

Know the Difference between Coil Tap and Coil Split

Ever seen people asking for a coil split for their guitar and when what they actually need is a coil tap? The scene sounds familiar? Yes indeed. The scene is familiar to most of us; well most of us who understand guitars at least! These two terms are used interchangeably and therefore, many a time people think they mean the same. However, these two terms differ greatly from each other. They are NOT the same thing.

Today, let’s try to understand a few major differences between these two terms. We will also debate on which technique (coil tapping or coil splitting) is better towards the end of the article.

Coil Splitting

Before even going to Coil Splitting, we need to understand the term humbucker or humbucking. The coil splitting is, in reality, a part of the whole humbucking process. Bucking means canceling. Humbucking is a process through which you can reduce or remove unnecessary noise and hum; in other words bucks (cancels) the hum. Humbucking gives you a thicker and heavier sound output which is "hotter" to hear.

Humbucking pickups, as they are called are made of two magnets and two coils of opposite polarity. Thus, it cancels (bucks) the unwanted hum. In the coil splitting process, you break the connection between two coils. This disables one of the coils and allows the other coil to function smoothly. A wire is connected from each of the coils in the guitar which allows the guitarist to activate and deactivate any of the coils as per his or her wish. If your humbug pickup has 4 coils coming out of it, you are the luckiest person because it makes the coil splitting work a piece of cake!

This is a useful feature which most guitarists wish to have in their guitar. So you may want to keep an eye for the guitars which allow coil splitting. Few guitars have this feature and they have maintained the process with a coil board that allows switching between coils. Go through our other article which mentions about best guitars in 2019; you may well end up getting the guitar made just for you!

You can make your coil split at home by tying the center links of both of your humbucker pickups to one switch OR depending on the wiring setup and your personal preferences, switch the coils separately. The end result in either way is a hot heavy single sound. 

Coil Tapping

In coil tapping, you build a humbucker by wrapping a copper wire around another series of coils. Once, you have decided and zeroed in upon the sound output you need, you can use this technique to fine-tune your desired output. Coil tapping refers to single-coil pickups only. In the coil tapping process, the signal is taken from a particular point within the coil. This is the primary difference between coil tapping and coil splitting. Coil splitting process takes the signal from the end of the coil.

With coil tapping, you can convert the high output of a single coil to a comparatively lower output. Like coil splitting, coil tapping is also done with the help of onboard switches. The actual process is as follows and is easy. You can start off by winding or routing a wire about half-way into the series of coil windings. This will be in addition to the wire at winding end. For e.g., if your pickup is wrapped 1000 times then, you can add the coil tap at 500 spins. When they are wired to switches separately, you get a single pickup with two wired outputs. The more coils you wrap, the hotter and heavier your sound becomes. 

Few Arguments and Realities

Coil splitting is almost always more prominent and prevalent than coil tapping. This is because of the ease of the process. Well, you get ready-made guitars with coil splitting facility these days. But, let's face it; we do not get guitars in which you can tap your coil as per your need and necessity. While people get confused between these terms, no one can make a mistake once they get the concept clear. They would go for the easy and convenient option; coil splitting!

One may argue that coil splitting is for experts and coil tapping for amateurs or vice versa. In reality, both these processes give outputs which differ totally from each other. So, don’t boast if you are using the coil tapping technique to enhance your music. You are NOT in any way an expert or one step ahead of coil-splitters!

You can continue the fight and say coil splitting only re-introduces the noise and the hum. But hello, the whole purpose of the coil split is to enhance or make the hum heavier and “hotter” so to say. Who, in the world ever said, we will make a new hum introduction through coil splitting? No, we are not. We are just going to re-introduce the hum. And, let me add, coil splitting is not for those boring slow musicians, it’s for the noise-makers! It’s a perfect recipe for noisy remixes.


Coil tapping will create a dual mode which helps to optimize both the humbucking pickup and the single tone coil. You can also, shift between modes with lesser noise. Tapping the coil on the pre-defined point will create a sharper and better noise. But how many of us know which point is pre-defined and accurate? Only a few like JBE can continue to fight the case and stick to where coil tapping is better than coil splitting. It may enable so-called Strategic Players to give better performances but it is a 10:100 ratio.


To conclude, you can go for coil splitting or coil tapping technique as per your wish and style. Your reputation as a guitarist will not go down or come up based on your decision to go with any one technique. Coil splitting is by far the most prominent and easiest technique to go for. It has been used by some of our guitar legends for ages to give life to their music. If you ask our opinion (keep it between us), coil splitting is the technique we adopt!

Your music is your personal signature whether you stick to originals or you are a remix jockey- your music makes and breaks you. So, in today's age of remixes, coil splitting is the best option to awaken your musical genes. However, if you want to be the original artist who creates only classics, tap your coils; re-define yourself and begin the era of classics once again!

Whatever you do, whichever technique you chose, we hope that this article will help you find and zero-in upon your style. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and rock the band!

Mario

Mario@rockoutzone.com