GuitarsMark Knopfler gear

Inside the Schecter F500T pick-up – What is a tapped pick-up?

The Schecter-F400 loaded pickguards normally came with Schecter’s F500T pick-ups. The ‘T’ stands for tapped. So, what is meant with this, what is a tapped pick-up?
A normal Strat pick-up consists of six individual magnet pole pieces wrapped by a coil of thin wire. The original Fender design had about 8,000 turns (varying to some extent, the vintage ’54 pick-up was specified to 8,350, while a 1978 Strat pick-up had about 7,600 turns). This will result in a coil of about 6 kOhms. Compared to a humbucker like Gibson’s PAF the Strat sound is rather thin and weak with lots of treble, which is not ideal to get a heavy distortion from most vintage amps. Adding more turns will result in a louder and at the same time fuller sound (more midrange, less harsh treble). This was the reason why pick-ups like the DiMarzio FS-1 or SDS-1 were invented in the early 70ies. They had a coil with almost twice as many turns, which means about 12 – 13 kOhms. Great for distortion, and a great fat and warm sound for clean stuff. However, you cannot recreate the crisp original Strat sound with these.

The solution that combines the best of both worlds is the tapped pick-up. David Schecter was probably not the person who invented these, or used them for the first time, but probably the one who made them popular in the late 70ies. The idea of a tapped pick-up is to make a coil with the standard number of turns first. Next a second coil is added around the first one, wired in series with the first. Consequently a tapped pick-up has three cables: ground, normal coil output, and the output of both coils in series (which is equal to one coil with the double number of turns). Of course you need some switching system to select the normal or double coil, ideally individually for each pick-up. Here the three mini toggle switches of the Schecter Dream Machines came in. Each of them has three positions: up is the first coil for a standard Strat sound, in the middle position the pick-up is off, and in the down position you have the full coil. As you can combine the three pick-ups in any coil position, you will get 27 individual sounds this way.

A tapped pick-up has two coils, an inner (blue) and an outer coil (green). The inner coil gives you the standard Strat sound, adding the outer coil will result in a higher output.
A tapped pick-up has three connectors

For my loaded Schecter-style pickguards, I use handwound pick-ups by Germany’s pick-up specialist Harry Häussel that are based on the F500T design. Check them out in this site’s shop.

13 thoughts on “Inside the Schecter F500T pick-up – What is a tapped pick-up?

  1. Hi Ingo,
    do you think it’s possible to hear on which songs Mark could have used the PU with both coils on his schecter strats ?
    Are they any close-up on Alchemy, On the night or A night in London where we could see the switch position on the CAR strat ?
    I guess if the both coils are used on only one PU in e.g. the middle-bridge combination, the sound difference is very subtle ? So it would be very difficult to say for sure what position of the PU was used on a song ?

  2. On most videos it is hard to see the switch positions, but on some you can of course, e.g. the BBC Tunnel of love version from the Alchemy bonus clips has first the middle PU alone with both coils, then in the slow part middle and neck, and later bridge&neck, all PUs full.

    And you are right, remember there are 27 different comninations, so it is indeed almost impossible to tell what you hear.

  3. Hi Ingo!

    In the section in which you have all of the gear used for every album on every song you say that Sultans of swing was recorded using the middle pickup on a strat. Are you sure this is correct? I thought it was bridge and middle.

  4. @ FJOG :
    it’s me who wrote this, because I found the studio sound less nasal than sound used later live, so that’s why I thought it was only middle PU.
    we had a very long discussion about this on the comments in the article about solo track from guitar hero.
    Ingo’s attemps is very close to sultans’ original sound

    So I edited the gear page and wrote “middle + neck (FS1) ?” but of course we will probably never know

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