Type of guitar pickup where two seperate single coil pickups are aligned opposite each other to cancel electromagnetic intereference. The dual coil pickups have a fat tone and "Two humbuckers and a Marshall stack" was the sound of 70's rock.

I'm pretty sure Les Paul invented the humbucker, and if he didn't he sure used the heck out of it as almost all Gibson guitars have humbuckers.

If you need to play your guitar near flourescent lights you want a humbucker on your guitar.


Hey fricto,
From guitar.com
These pickups are legendary in rock guitar. Developed by Gibson guitar guru Ted McCarty in the late 1950's, these first-generation humbucking pickups revolutionized the electric guitar by eliminating unwanted hum and generating a sweet sound. PAF (Patent Applied For humbuckers)'s didn't really become popular until Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and others introduced the Les Paul into the popular culture. Today, most pickup manufactures make a pickup based on the PAF, which is good news since the originals fetch a king's ransom on the vintage market.

It wasn't Les, but it was Gibson.

Humbuckers were invented by Seth Lover in 1955, who was working for Fender, trying to get rid of the hum in electic guitars.


Seth Lover invented the Humbucker. His original design is referred to as the "PAF" Humbucker, because the early ones were put into production on Gibson Les Paul guitars before the patent was granted, and they were all stamped "Patent Applied For". Seymour W. Duncan's collection now includes the late Mr. Lover's prototypes, and the machine used to wind the coils in the original plant in Kalamazoo Michigan.

The two previous writeups describe the history of the humbucker, but neither of them explain how it works.

As mcSey says, a humbucker is a pickup (or for that matter, a microphone) with a second coil inside it. Conventional microphones are essentially loudspeakers in reverse - a coil with a magnet inside it that's connected to a diaphragm (the speaker cone). When current changes in the coil, the magnet moves in and out, moving the cone, and making noise. In reverse, if noise moves the cone, the magnet moves, and current is induced in the coil.

However, as well as current being induced by the moving magnet, general electromagnetic interference in the air can also induce current in the coil. This is most common when a microphone cable is run nearby a mains cable, giving a 50 hertz (or 60 in the USA hum.

Adding a humbucker removes this. The second coil sits behind the first coil, and is exactly the same size. However, it has two differences.

  • It's connected up backwards - this means that any induced current is induced with the opposite polarity.
  • It has no magnet inside it connected to a cone - this means that the only current induced in it is from interference, and none from sounds in the air.

So, we now have two signals. One is "positive" sound and "positive" interference, and the other is just "negative" interference. Add the two signals together - and hey presto, we have interference-free sound!

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