Contrary to popular belief, coil split and coil tap are not just two ways of saying the same thing. There’s quite a big difference in the way they function and the resulting sound.
A lot of players like to have the option of reducing the output from guitar pickups in order to broaden their available sound palette. This is most prevalent when your guitar is equipped with hot humbuckers or high-output single coils and you’d like to reign them in on occasion.
Modern music has more tonal crossover than ever before. It’s not as linear as using single coils for ‘softer’ music genres and humbuckers for ‘heavier’ music. You could easily incorporate single coil or vintage pickups into metal or jazz and humbuckers into pop and folk – especially with the number of effects on hand. So why not dabble in a bit of both?
Unless you’re dead set on a particular type of sound, it’s worth having the extra tonal options. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
What is Coil Split?
Coil splitting only applies to humbucker pickups. Humbuckers use two coils and magnets of opposite polarity to cancel hum and produce a high output. To split a humbucker is to cut out one coil from the circuit, leaving only a single coil to work its magic – just like you’d hear from your run-of-the-mill Strat or Tele.
Why would you want to split the coils of your pickup? Sometimes it’s just a bit of tonal relief from the thick low-end nature of humbuckers. Single coils are arguably richer in character and dynamism, sitting in a more prominent position on the frequency spectrum. They’re ideal for more nuanced playing or soulful leads – whatever adjective takes your fancy.