Ever wonder “Do I need a pickguard on my acoustic guitar?” Here’s everything you need to know.
You may have seen pickguards on a cheap guitar or a budget acoustic guitar, and no pickguards in top-range acoustic guitars or vice versa which may lead to the questions in your mind: are they for sound versatility each of the guitars offers? Or, is it for some aesthetic reasons that individual guitar makers want to achieve? And, most importantly, Do You Need A Pick Guard On Your Acoustic Guitar for whatever reason?
Well, in this article, we’ve all the answers related to the above questions perfectly baked for you. So, keep reading!
What Is A Pick Guard? [A Short Description]
As this is a beginner-friendly article, we would like to put a little light on knowledge of what a Pick Guard really is.
So, here it goes…
Positioning behind the strings and protecting the guitar surface from aggressive strumming, a pickguard is a laminated material, usually made of plastic.
The pickguard is also known by another name called “The Scratch Plate”.
What Is The Point Of A Pickguard?
As it is somewhat clear now about the point of a pickguard from the above definition, but we want to forward one step further to the actual purpose of a pickguard.
As the name suggests, the point of a pickguard is to guard the polished guitar top from scratches caused by strumming, using a pick.
Guitar tops are usually made with a softwood like Spruce in most cases (Koa is one exception). These are exception woods that typically have a ratio of high strength to weight.
As a result, it’s easier to get scratched the polished surface around the Sound Hole with a pick during hard strumming and sometimes normal strumming too, which may happen for a beginner guitar player.
Besides this, there are other vital reasons for using the pickguard as well, such as decoration, accessibility, and so on.
You can also use pickguards for finger-resting purposes while playing.
Are Pickguards Necessary?
The answer is: It depends. You might not have seen pickguards on classical guitars probably because classical guitars are made for fingerpicking for fingerstyle guitarists. They don’t even use the pick. So, why would they even need a pickguard? Doesn’t make any sense, right?
On the other hand, most acoustic guitar players use the pick for smooth strumming. Picks generally enhanced the crispiness in the sound quality produced by a guitar, because of the hardness and sharpness of pick edges. These are the natural characteristics of the picks. So, getting scratched is natural. Therefore, it’s important to put a Pick Guard on your acoustic guitar. It’s definitely a necessity for an acoustic guitar player like you.
For electric guitar, the case might be the same as well even though most electric guitar players don’t strum their strings too hard at the time guitar playing as acoustic players do because playing style matters. Of course, it varies from different personnel with different backgrounds and characteristics (e.g. an aggressive strummer).
Does Pick Guard Affect The Sound Of An Acoustic Guitar?
The answer to this is pretty controversial as of now. The debate goes on and on among industry experts for a long time on this, and there are different opinions. Luthiers usually suggest that the guitar sound difference or the difference in tone is very minimal when it comes to a really well-made guitar with a decent tonewood.
Although, when you install one, the size of the top decreases, dampens vibration, and adds weight. Theoretically, these are enough reasons for affecting the sound and difference in tone.
But, here’s the good news, this difference is hardly noticeable to human ears. And as long as it is so, you don’t have to worry. An acoustic guitar will sound decent, good, or worse depending on its material and built quality.
Bonus Advantage Of Using A Pickguard
There are, of course, some bonus advantages of having one besides protection. And that is the design and cosmetics. Pick Guard really adds value to the aesthetics and cosmetics of an acoustic or an electric guitar.
The guitar design will be pretty noticeable after installing one to your guitar without question. If you invest in a good-looking pickguard, it’s never a waste of money.
What If I Don’t Like Pickguard
Many of you may don’t like pickguard for whatever reason. Maybe you like the original finish or rawness of your acoustic guitar, and if you install a pickguard, it’ll ruin the outlook, or maybe, you dislike the way they look.
In that case, you have the option of having a clear and transparent pickguard.
You can definitely take this under consideration, if you’re a hard strummer, and don’t want to ruin your guitar top with scratches while maintaining the rawness.
Do I Really Need One?
Get a pickguard if you:
- Use pick while strumming
- Consider yourself a hard strummer of your guitar
- Play on larger size acoustic or electric
- Want to add value to the guitar aesthetics
- Want some peace of mind while giving an entire focus on playing
- Own a fender Stratocaster because it will hide the wirings from the guitar’s pickup
No need of using a pickguard if you:
- Are a fingerstyle guitarist
- Own a classical or small size acoustic
- Consider yourself a soft strummer
- Confident enough not to touch the top
- Concern about the cosmetic rawness of the guitar
Why Do Some Acoustic Guitars Don’t Have Any Pick Guard?
Many top-range guitars don’t have any kind of built-in or custom pickguard. Probably because most strummers don’t use the pick for strumming, in that case, the point of using is completely for cosmetic reasons.
How Do You Put A Pick Guard On An Acoustic Guitar?
See this video from Jayvee Gaudia to get an idea:
Can You Change It Later?
Absolutely, you can change your pickguard anytime you want. It’s recommended to change it when it becomes really old, get scratched all around it from years of playing. It’s easier to change when you change the strings because you have to loosen or might have to uninstall strings depending on the situation while installing your pickguard.
How Hard Is It To Change?
Changing the pickguard in a pure acoustic guitar is comparatively easy than changing it in a semi-acoustic or electric guitar. You only have to uninstall your strings in the case of an acoustic guitar.
But, when it comes to an electric guitar, you have to remove the pickups, tone, and volume knobs. Although, you don’t have to uninstall your pickups entirely and the process varies from guitar to guitar.
For example, if you own a Stratocaster by fender, changing or removing may seem really easy to you. You just have to remove the screws and eventually, it’ll come off. In the case of other acoustic guitar brands, they use glue.
We highly recommended taking a professional help or getting your guitar to a store and getting it done if you’re not confident enough.
Q. Does The Acoustic Guitar’s Sound Have Anything With The Pick Guard Shape?
You don’t have to concern if you own an acoustic guitar with a floating pickguard. But in the case of a fat-top acoustic (usually use glue to attach the pickguard), it’ll affect the sound a bit depending on the thickness and size. A relatively thin pickguard has less effect.
Q. How Can I Break My Habit Of Frequently Hitting Pick Guard While Strumming?
One trick that might help to overcome this is that while you strum, try to rest your pinky finger on the pickguard (pinky of your strumming hand of course!). It may be uncomfortable at first. But later, you should overcome your problem of frequently hitting your pickguard.
Q. Should I Remove Plastic From Pick Guard?
Yes, definitely, you should.
Q. What Is The Thickness Of A PickGuard?
For acoustic guitar pickguards, the thickness is usually 0.2 mm.
Q. Why Did John Lennon Remove The Pick Guard From His Guitar?
From his Epiphone Casinos, it was just more than removing. During the White Album making, the guitar got an eminent facelift. First, the sunburst finish was changed to bare wood. Then, it got two coats of clear lacquer. John Lennon believed the strip-down had improved the sound drastically.
In summary, if you are a heavy strummer, care for your guitar finish, and want to take the bonus advantages of using a pickguard, you definitely do need a pickguard on your acoustic guitar. Otherwise, you don’t and you will be good to go.
And now, finally, we have come to the end of this handy article about “Do I need a pickguard on my acoustic guitar?” And hopefully, you have a fun time and found all your desired answers as we covered every possible aspect of it. Keep strumming!
James B. Laskowski was born and raised in Fresno, CA. He has been working as an acoustic and classical guitar expert at Instrument Insight for over 5 years. In this time, he has gained a great understanding of acoustic and classical guitars and gears, their materials, build quality, playability, and versatility. James also has an in-depth knowledge of the history and origins of many acoustic and classical guitar brands.