In general, a pickguard is not required on guitars. If you play with a pick and want to keep the guitar’s finish, one is needed. If you don’t utilize a pick or don’t mind minor scratches from strumming it, a pickguard isn’t necessary.
In this article, I’ll go over some of the more common pros and cons of using a pickguard on your guitar.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
What Is A Guitar Pickguard?
A pickguard (also known as scratchplate) is a plastic or other (often laminated) substance that is put on the body of a guitar to protect it from scratches and dents.
The pickguard serves as a barrier between the guitar’s finish and the picking hand’s nails, as it was on guitars that were not played with a plectrum.
When used correctly, the pick does not usually come into contact with that area of the guitar.
Traditionally, the pickguard has been used as a purely cosmetic element on electric guitar bodies and usually consists of:
- Acrylic glass
- Mother-of-pearl/Pearloid varieties
The more expensive guitars out there have a number of pickguards to choose from, as it is an interesting aesthetic touch.
As a side note, the pickguard is also a very popular autograph location since the signed pickguard can be removed and sold as a piece of memorabilia.
The Pros of Having A Pickguard
Now that we have got the obvious question out of the way, let’s talk about some reasons you may want to install one on your guitar.
The most obvious reason to use a pickguard is for the protection of your guitar’s finish.
As I mentioned earlier, if you play with a pick but don’t want to see any wear on your guitar’s body, this is an easy way to cover up those scratches.
Another reason is purely cosmetic.
If you have an unusual or fancy body style, having a pickguard is not only functional but also gives the guitar another layer of protection to its finish.
Lastly, some people may be using their guitars in a specific genre that requires a pickguard.
For example, if you are playing an instrument for country music or jazz music, it is very common to see two knobs and a pickguard on the guitar.
The Cons of Having A Pickguard
Pickguards weren’t always used to protect guitars from wear and tear.
In fact, back in the 1950s and 60s, many major guitar manufacturers weren’t using them at all!
This caused many guitars to have very thin finishes.
The thin finish not only gave the guitar a more aged look but also made for some extra resonance in the sound.
They soon realized that using a pickguard would act as a barrier between the guitar’s body and the strings.
Without this, the guitar’s finish would wear down less than a year of playing.
That being said, most guitarists nowadays view pickguards as purely cosmetic accessories and not as a necessary item to protect your guitar from wear.
Some people also say that it can muffle the sound of some high-end guitars.
Q: Does a pickguard do anything?
A: The pickguard’s main function is to protect the guitar’s finish from being scraped by the picking hand’s nails, as it was on guitars that were not played with a plectrum.
Q: Does a pickguard affect the sound?
A: Pickguards have a big influence on the natural sound of a guitar, and thus, the amplified sound. The more resonant or ‘alive’ a guitar is, the more a pickguard can influence its natural tone.
Q: How much does a pickguard cost?
A: A guitar pickguard costs anywhere from $50 to $150 dollars depending on the style, type of material being used to make it, and any additional features that are not included in the standard pickguard.
Q: Can I get custom pickguards?
A: You can get custom pickguards made if you have a unique guitar with an unconventional design. However, keep in mind that most manufacturers won’t do custom orders for pickguards, mostly because it is not 100 percent necessary.
Q: Can I take the pickguard off my guitar?
A: Yes, most pickguards can be taken off your guitar in a simple, quick process. All you have to do is remove the screws that attach it to your guitar, and carefully pull it off. However, if you do take the pickguard off and decide that you want to put it back on; make sure that you keep track of all the screw holes. This will save you a lot of trouble when putting it back on.
Q: Does acoustic guitar need a pickguard?
A: Most acoustic guitars don’t need pickguards. Acoustic guitars are usually made with thicker finishes that won’t wear down as quickly as electric guitars. The exception to this rule is if your guitar store has used a store-bought pickguard on it, or if you decide to put one on yourself.
Q: Does a metal pickguard affect tone?
A: Metal pickguards and control plates have the benefit of lowering tone circuit interference. Furthermore, the shielding helps to prevent tone circuit noise induced by external sources of EMI.