I recently noticed I have heard guitar players talk a fair bit about coil taps but don't actually know what it means for a guitar to have coil taps?

What is the science behind it and why would a person want coil taps in a guitar?

2 Answers 2


There's a very good description of coil tapping in this article on the Seymour Duncan site:

Coil tapping is when a wire runs off of the pickup windings at a certain point, somewhere short of the full amount. This means you can install a switch to select between a single coil pickup’s full output or a lower output, giving you two distinct levels of power from one pickup.

This differs from coil splitting, described as:

Coil splitting is the practice of shutting off (or otherwise fading out) one coil of a humbucker, leaving behind a single coil for a brighter tone. Coil splitting is often confused with a single coil option known as coil tapping

Although I've often heard people referring to coil splitting on humbuckers as 'coil tapping'.

  • 1
    Expanding slightly on the "science" part: the wire itself is called a "winding," the number of times it is wound around is called a "turn." The greater the number of turns, the greater the current. When a tap is attached and connected (i.e. attached to a switch and the switch is closed), the extra turns beyond the tap are bypassed.
    – Yorik
    Jan 10, 2017 at 20:27
  • 1
    Perhaps more important than reducing the “power”, it reduces the inductance of a pickup if only some of the windings are used. Lower inductance means higher (usually also stronger) resonance frequency, which should generally make for a brighter, clearer sound. Thus coil tapping would have a very different effect on sound as turning down the volume poti. Jan 10, 2017 at 22:52
  • 2
    Interestingly (at least to this silverball addict :-) ), a coil tap is used exactly in reverse of this for pinball flippers. When the full AC is applied to the tap point, the flipper is driven powerfully. At its end stop, a switch opens to break the tap, and a much smaller force is used to hold the flipper up. Jan 11, 2017 at 12:33
  • learnt something new today. I've always called coil splitting coil tapping. I shall no more...
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:32

The reason why you would want taps is to emulate single coils or to get phasing effects. For example, humbuckers are wound so that one coil is the reverse of the other. On a stratocaster, the middle pickup is also reverse of the neck and bridge. On a strat, the 2 and 4 switch positions mix the neck or bridge pickup with the out-of-phase middle pickup and create a 'quack'-like sound. To get this with humbuckers, you could have a bridge and neck humbucker and a single coil middle and use coil taps or coil splits to split a single coil from the neck or bridge to mix with the middle. There are lots of other variations.

  • Paralell connection of of humbucker coils is not coil tap
    – teodozjan
    Jan 11, 2017 at 10:37

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