Ask HBS – Split Humbucker North Coil Setup

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READER QUESTION:

Thank you for the article on splitting a humbucker using a push-pull pot. I’m doing the same thing, but the humbucker is in the neck position and the single-coil is at bridge position with a 3-way selector. One volume pot and tone pot with a push-pull. I also have an open spot for a toggle switch if needed.

Would it be best to use the north coil on the neck humbucker instead of the south coil like in the article? I’m hoping to get the out-of-phase funky clean sound (SSS 5-way position 2 & 4) when splitting the humbucker in use with the single.

Thanks again for all you do.

Edward

Follow-up Message:

I did it as shown and it worked perfectly with the north coil being the farthest away from the single-coil bridge pickup. I don’t know what I was thinking earlier. One strange thing, though, is that the volume pot isn’t working. The tone pot on the single-coil works as it should, but when the humbucker is selected it’s functioning more like a volume knob and does a weird jump, like 0-8 is one level and when you turn the knob to 10 the volume gets super loud and full. I like quirky and strange behavior in guitars but it would be nice to understand why it’s doing that.

RESPONSE:

Hello Edward, and thank you for the great question. Sometimes electronics behave strangely for all sorts of reasons, including a faulty component. However, still having sound with the volume turned down is usually a sign of a ground problem.

The signal suddenly jumping from quiet to loud usually has to do with the taper of the pot. You can get two types of pots, linear and logarithmic. Logarithmic pots are audio taper pots because they have a taper more like the human ear. Experts usually recommend a logarithmic for the volume and a linear for the tone, but we recommend experimenting to see what works best for you. The two pots look identical, so if you uninstalled them and then reinstalled them, it’s easy to get them mixed up.

The wiring code of the humbucker might also be wrong. You didn’t mention what pickups you are using, so I could double-check, but since you know the north coil from the south, I’m going to assume you know the wiring code. I’m using a Seymour Duncan in my diagram, so if you are using another brand, you’ll need to modify the diagram accordingly. Also, since you have one volume and one tone, I’m assuming you are using a Strat-style switch, but if you are using a Les Paul-style toggle switch, the diagram will still be the same except for that, and it doesn’t sound like the switch is the problem.

Here’s the wiring code for a Seymour Duncan.

Example 1



Once you know your wiring code, you can apply it to the following diagram.

Example 2



Hopefully, this diagram makes things work the way that they should.

Thanks again!

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker Our resident electronics wizard came by his skills honestly — first as an apprentice in his father’s repair shop, later as a working musician and (most recently) as a sound designer for film. His passion for guitar led him to Humbucker Soup, where he continues to decode the wonders of wiring and the vicissitudes of voltage. Ed has never taken his guitar to a shop — he already knows how to fix it.