Single Coil Vs. Humbuckers: Choosing The Right Pickup

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Have you ever wanted to sound like your all-time favorite musician, but could not understand how exactly they get their guitars to sound so good? Then oh, how I have been there too.

I have tried changing my guitars, changing my amplifiers, but little did I know, it was all in the guitar pickups all along!

No matter what kind of brand guitar you get, if you do not have the right pickups, your guitar will not sound the way you want it to.

So, if you too want to live your dream life by sounding like a legendary guitar player, and want to choose between humbuckers or single-coil pickups then tag along with me to get more information and comparison.

Key Takeaways

  • Single coil pickups are more versatile than humbuckers. They are used for blues, country, and rock, but can also be altered to be used for hard rock, metal, and screamo.
  • Humbuckers are louder, can produce a more powerful sound, and are heavier sounding than the single coil.
  • Single coils produce a noisy humming sound because they are affected by electric devices in the surrounding area, and humbuckers do not produce that hum.
  • Noiseless and high output single coil pickups exist if you want them not to have a hum and be loud, but do not want a humbucker.
  • Pickups can be replaced easily by a professional or at home by yourself.

What are guitar pickups?

In short, guitar pickups are little devices that are installed in your guitar, and with their help, the guitar strings are able to send their sound vibrations directly to the cable leading to your amplifier.

In the guitar industry, there are two main types of pickups: single coil and humbucking pickups or humbuckers. Depending on which type you use, you will get different sound results.

Let us dive in deeper to see the main differences between single coil and humbucker pickups!

Also Read: The Finest Humbucker Pickups

Differences between single coil and humbucker pickups

Single coils are pickups that, as the name suggests, have one single coil. This coil consists of a copper wire which is carefully wrapped around the pickup bobbin.

It is connected to 6 magnetic pole pieces that are used for the 6 strings on your guitar where the vibrations are formed.

Single coils produce more hums because they are sensitive to interferences from electronic devices like your amplifier, your pedals, TV, and so on.

The humbucker, derived from the ability to cancel noisy hums that the single coil can produce, consists of two coils that are wired around two bobbins.

What is interesting about the coil duo, the humbuckers, is that because they are made up of two coils, they are able to produce a more powerful and heavier sound than the single coil pickups, which produce brighter sounds.

Also Read: Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups

What genre are they good for?

The single coil pickup is mainly used by people who are interested in indie music, blues, and folk or country music because of their softer sound.

However, they can also be used for rock, hard rock, metal, or screamo music. The humbucker pickup on the other hand is mainly used for jazz, hard rock or punk rock, and metal.

Also Read: The Finest Guitar Pickups For Metal Music

Which one is more versatile? Single Coil and Humbucker Pickups

Single coil pickups are more versatile because you can get more genre options out of them. You can easily sit down and do a little blues session or country if that is what you are into.

But with a little adjustment to your amplifier, you can also easily do metal and hard rock and enjoy the deep and rough sounds that will come out of your guitar.

The humbucker can also be used for softer genres like blues, but they are not preferred because they sound heavier.

However, jazz players love them for this aspect the most because they mix well with other instruments and, as mentioned before, do not produce the noisy hum sound that the single coil produces.

But in the end, you can still get more options with the single coil pickup because you can make it sound like a humbucker pickup. And, if you do not like the single-coil hum, noiseless single-coil pickups exist as well.

Are humbuckers louder than single coils?

Yes, humbuckers have a higher output which means they will cause a higher distortion level on the amplifier making it sound louder.

Combined with the overall deeper and more powerful tones that come out of the humbucker, it is no doubt louder than the single coil pickup.

Subsequently, there are many people who have started to experiment with single coils by trying to make them an all-rounder pickup. So, single coil pickups that have a high output can also be found on the market these days.

Can you replace your guitar pickup?

Indeed, you can. Guitar pickups are detachable, which means that you can easily remove the coils and put in a new one that will fit the exact sound that you want to create. This can be done by a professional or on your own at home.

However, considering that I tried to replace mine at home and failed, maybe it would not be the greatest choice, but if you are up for the challenge, there are many tutorials that can teach you on the internet!

Also Read: The Finest Single Coil Pickups


Pickups are one of the most essential elements that will determine how your guitar will sound, and if you do not have the right pickup then you might end up unsatisfied with your guitar-playing sessions.

I know I was when I first started playing electric guitars. Something just never felt right when I played with humbucker pickups, then after I switched to a single coil one, everything made sense, and for the first time, I started to be more satisfied with my late-night guitar jam-outs.

Plus, I am happier now that I can mimic the exact guitar tones of my favorite artists! So, if you want to do the same, try switching your pickups and see if you like the results.

Whether you want to learn about guitars, guitar equipment or other instruments, Guitarsquid has all the answers.