From Academic Kids

A humbucker is a type of electric guitar pickup. It was invented by Seth Lover, a Gibson employee, in the 1950s. Because of this, and because of its use on the Gibson Les Paul guitar, the humbucker is strongly associated with Gibson, although humbuckers have been used in many different guitar designs by many different manufacturers. Humbuckers are also known as dual-coil, double-coil, and hum-canceling pickups.

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This closeup shows three pickups on an electric guitar. From left to right they are a humbucker and two single coils.

Magnetic pickups are generally divided into two types: single-coil and humbucking. They are made of copper wire spun around one or more magnetic cores. (For a more complete treatment of how magnetic musical-instrument pickups work, see the article, pickup.)

All magnetic pickups are sensitive to electronic noise, emitted from everything from light bulbs to computer screens. This noise can be quite pronounced, and sounds like a constant hum or buzz.

Humbuckers get their common name because they amplify less of this hum (they "buck the hum"), since they consist of two standard single-coil magnetic pickups, usually side by side, with opposing electric and magnetic polarity. (This wiring is sometimes mistakenly called being wired "out of phase".) Common-mode signals -- that is, signals that radiate into both coils with equal amplitude -- tend to cancel each other out when they travel through both coils.

Using two coils also affects the tone of the guitar. The output to the amplifier is twice as powerful, but because the coils are at slightly different positions along the string some higher-frequency harmonics are diminished or cancelled out. Guitarists often debate the relative merits of this "fat", "dark" tone versus the "bright", "clear" tone of single-coil pickups (more typically used on Fender guitars such as the Stratocaster).

Inventors have tried many other approaches to reducing electrical noise in guitar pickups (from stacking the two pickups of a humbucker vertically in a single-coil size, to radically different pickup technologies altogether), but the humbucker design remains the most successful lower-noise design. Those who prefer the brighter sound of single-coil pickups often simply live with the extra hum and buzz in order to get the tone they prefer (or, as was the case of Jimi Hendrix, use the noise as part of their music).

Some guitars which have humbucker pickups feature coil taps, which allow the humbucker pickups to act as single coils.

See also

da:Humbucker de:Humbucker it:Humbucker pt:Humbucker


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