Blues Guitars – Single Coils or Humbuckers


Blues is a very versatile genre of music when it comes to recommended tone and gear setup. Just about any type of guitar is acceptable, given it has enough range and fidelity. You can find these features in a large number of guitars, except in some models which are clearly optimized to have a greater output. All of this makes it really hard to pinpoint the perfect blues guitar, only adding more confusion when beginners start asking for advice. On the other hand, that is o another beauty of blues.

In general, both single coils and humbuckers can be used for blues. Both of these pickup types have their pros and their cons. Which one will be closer to what you need will largely depend on your playing style, and the specific tone you are going for. This article’s purpose is to find out what are some of the benefits of each of these pickups have to offer, and how you can determine whether or not one type is better for you than the other. With that said, let’s jump right in.

Single Coils or Humbuckers

humbuckers-2-300x300Most of the old school blues players will tell you that nothing can replace a good set of humbuckers. There are several reasons for this line of thinking. Even though most guitar players think of a heavy sound when someone mentions humbuckers, this type of pickup has a range that allows it to produce a lot of warmth when used at lower volumes, or on clean channels. For this reason alone, you will generally see far more guitars with humbuckers than single coils used in blues music. However, what if you don’t want a fat vintage blues tone?

In that case, single coil pickups might be a better solution for you. If you think about it, some of the most popular legends of blues have used – and still use – the Fender Stratocasters. In comparison, the tone of a decent set of single coils will be increased definition and overall clarity.

Despite a large number of popular blues players using it such as Eric Clapton, Sonny Landreth, and others, Strats are generally a minority. One of the main issues people have with single coil guitars like Strats is the pickup hum. This is an inherent fault of single coils no matter who makes them. Having to deal with pup hum requires you to exert more control and care in order to minimize these effects. Some people are fine with this while others aren’t. Once again, it depends on what kind of sound you’re going for.

If you are just starting out and you want to buy a guitar that is also capable of playing blues among other things, we definitely suggest you take the route of a humbucker. They will give you a lot more space to work with as you build up experience and develop your taste. Check out this article about shopping for a blues guitar.

single-coils-2-300x300Aside from that, humbuckers are generally great for just about any genre of music. If you decide that blues is not really something you want to pursue, having a guitar with a decent set of humbuckers will allow you to transition to a whole different genre with the least amount of issues.

Once you develop as a guitar player, and more specifically a blues guitar player, the choice of a guitar will slowly become to shift one way or another. At that moment, you will know exactly what you want your tone to be like, and you will explore your options in a way that is aligned with your new taste.

The choice of pickups is definitely important, but not in every single scenario. Following the unwritten standard of guitar community, you know that beginners will buy an affordable guitar and take it from there. In this price range, the quality of pickups you have to deal with is hardly going to be something you would want to build your tone upon. Most low-cost new guitars will sound somewhat artificial when used for blues. In this kind of situation, both pickup designs will be severely limited and that is a factor you should pay a great deal of attention to.

Trying to figure out the best guitar for you at this point is borderline impossible, but like we said before, humbuckers will give you the best bang for the buck, period. Once you become more experienced and decide to renew your collection, chances are you will know exactly what you are looking for in terms of blues tone.



The choice between the single coil pickups and humbuckers is often times hard on some guitar players. Following the rule of thumb, a set of humbuckers will perform much better than single coils. On the other hand, if you value sonic clarity and definition, a Strat of some kind will probably be exactly what you need.

Before you make a decision, there is something that you definitely need to keep in mind. The type of tone you will end up with will largely depend on your playing style and ability to fully utilize the potential of your guitar.

In this grand scheme of things, your choice of tone will be the deciding factor in the whole process. If you are afraid of changing your mind somewhere down the road, don’t be. That very change is exactly what separates good blues players from mediocre ones. The former won’t have an issue selling their current gear to get something that is more aligned with their taste. Experimentation is definitely good, and you should absolutely keep all of the options on the table.

With all this stuff out of the way, feel free to delve right into the juicy bit and take a look at our top list of blues guitars. Rock on, folks!

Reader Interactions


  1. The Epiphone Riviera Custom P93 has single coil humbuckers. How is this different from the Strat or is tone difference achieved by two single coils per pickup in the P-90s?

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