For many beginning guitarists, the question of whether or not to use a pickguard is something to seriously consider, particularly if they’ve purchased a guitar that doesn’t come equipped with one. Most modern guitars already have a pickguard attached, but some guitarists prefer removing it completely, or replacing it with one of their own selection. Likewise, some guitarists opt to dispense with a pickguard altogether, especially if they prefer the look of their guitar without the pickguard.
For those who really love the surface of their acoustic guitar and feel that a pickguard may ruin the looks, some luthiers recommend using a clear static pickguard which adheres to the guitar by using static cling; the advantage is that it can be removed after every use without damaging the surface of the guitar. Because of its versatility, the clear static pickguard is becoming increasingly popular amongst guitarists.
In vintage guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments, you’ll often see pickguards made of celluloid or Bakelite, an early plastic-like material, as well as pearloid, a synthetic plastic made to resemble mother-of-pearl. Today’s pickguards are primarily made of durable plastic; however, some guitars have see-through acrylic pickguards, while more expensive models sometimes have pickguards made from exotic woods and other non-traditional materials.
When properly installed, a pickguard should not interfere at all with a guitar’s tone quality or volume; however, it’s important that a pickguard be placed in the right area along the soundhole, and that the right type of adhesive is used to keep the pickguard in place. In addition, the pickguard itself should be of a proper thickness and weight so as not to interfere with the vibration of the soundboard. Toward this end, it’s crucial that a pickguard be installed by an experienced luthier.
While it’s purely a matter of personal preference, there are a number of reasons why guitarists generally prefer to use a pickguard:
• A pickguard, first and foremost, protects the finish and surface of the guitar from getting scratched up by the guitar pick. This is the obvious first consideration, and is also the primary reason why pickguards were invented in the first place.
• Depending on your particular playing style, a pickguard can also provide a place to brace your hand while you’re playing. By using the pickguard as a finger and hand brace, you’re further protecting the finish from damage and wear.
• A pickguard can really add to the look of the guitar. While this isn’t necessarily a primary consideration, it’s still a fact that an attractive pickguard can make a guitar look even better. In fact, some manufacturers make designer pickguards for players who want to enhance the beauty of their guitars.
If you’re still trying to consider whether or not a pickguard is right for you, you might want to consider using the clear static type of pickguard; it’s as easy to apply as a decal, and using it will give you an idea of how a pickguard feels before you make your ultimate decision.