Single coils and guitarists in studios


Silver Supporting Member
Why do I get the feeling that guitar players who are often seen onstage with humbucker guitars actually use single coil equipped axes more often than what people would assume.

Jimmy page is a famous example; a huge chunk - if not the majority - of his guitar tracks, including the Stairway To Heaven solo, are recorded with his famous psychedelic Tele and Danelectros.

Billy Gibbons. You would think every ZZ Top song is recorded with Pearly, judging from his professing that Pearly's the perfect guitar in existence. But I have heard rumors that Jesus Just Left Chicago, among other songs, was recorded with a Tele.

Slash also mentioned in Vintage Guitar magazine that he has a fondness for Strats and Teles and used them on a few Velvet Revolver songs, even said that the Strat is the "best guitar for rock n' roll, hands down."

I'm sure there's nothing wrong with humbuckers, but do you reckon it's because the sonic qualities of single coils shine through better in a studio but not that conducive for playing live because they're relatively weak compared to humbuckers? Especially for those playing Rock.

Inversely, there are guitarists famous for using single coils who sometimes play through humbuckers in the studio, but not as much as the first trend, from what I noticed.


Great thoughts. I think you may be right. It may be because live, single coils have the noise issue going on and controlling that live comapred to in the studio can be hard.

Having said that, there are a lot of great noisless single coils today and using humbuckers live for the noise difference between single coils may not be the issue it once was.


Great question - I respectfully disagree with mcalldp ... I think more musicians would be concerned about noise in a studio setting compared to live.

I think single coils are often used in recording because of how they fit into the final mix. Humbuckers tend to take up more space in the mix, which can be exactly perfect in some songs, but not in others. It's not that they're good or bad, they're just different.

If you have big drums / big bass (Zep, Who), the relatively smaller sonic impact of single coils can fit better in the mix.


It can depend on the Studio also. Some of the older studios in Nashville have old, noisy wiring. Some of these structures are old as dirt. I keep a parts-o-caster with Fender Noiseless units just for that reason. They sound fine, I've never had a complaint. Live, I don't care, they only hum when I'm not playing, so I just kill the rig with a volume pedal between tunes.


Senior Member
I think a lot of it has to do with the clarity afforded by single coils. Lets just say you like single coil tone.... but in a live context humbuckers just sit better in the mix for some people.

then there's the other way around. Eric johnson records plenty of tracks on a 335, but most often you see him with a strat.

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