Are Pickguards Really Necessary? Why Some Don’t Have?

Have you ever wondered if pickguards are truly necessary for guitar players? And why do some guitars choose to go without them?

In this insightful article, we will explore the purpose and benefits of pickguards, factors influencing their usage, and their impact on the tone of the guitar. Whether you’re concerned about protecting your instrument’s finish or curious about the aesthetics and functionality of pickguards, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the necessity and reasons behind their presence or absence.

Let’s dive in and uncover the truth about pickguards in guitars.

Key Takeaways

  • Pickguards are necessary to protect the guitar finish and prevent scratches and wear.
  • The need for pickguards depends on factors such as the type of wood, guitar finish, and personal preference.
  • Pickguards have minimal impact on the tone of the guitar, especially on electric guitars.
  • Pickguards serve additional functions such as providing a graphic element in the guitar’s appearance and offering support for players’ fingers.

The Purpose and Benefits of Pickguards

One of the main benefits of pickguards is that they protect the guitar finish from scratches and wear caused by the plectrum during strumming. Pickguards provide a hard surface for the pick to come in contact with, instead of the softer wood, thus preventing damage to the guitar top.

When it comes to pickguard materials, you have the option of choosing between plastic and wood. Plastic pickguards are more common and come in various colors and designs. They’re durable, easy to clean, and provide a sleek look.

On the other hand, wood pickguards offer a more natural and vintage aesthetic, enhancing the guitar’s overall appearance. Customizing pickguards with different colors and designs allows musicians to personalize their instruments and showcase their unique style.

Whether you prefer the classic plastic or the timeless wood, pickguards offer both protection and customization options for your guitar.

Factors Influencing the Need for Pickguards

Factors such as the type of wood used and the desired aesthetic appearance of your guitar can influence whether or not you need a pickguard.

The type of wood used in the construction of your guitar can affect its susceptibility to scratches and wear. Softer woods like spruce are more prone to damage, while denser woods like maple are more resilient.

Additionally, the material of the pickguard itself can impact the tone of your guitar. Plastic pickguards have a minimal effect on tone, as wood is generally better for resonance and sustain. However, the impact on tone is even smaller on electric guitars, where the pickups have a greater influence.

Ultimately, the decision to have a pickguard or not depends on your personal preferences and the specific characteristics of your guitar.

Pickguard Usage in Different Types of Guitars

When it comes to different types of guitars, you’ll find that pickguard usage varies.

Classical guitars, for example, typically don’t use pickguards since they’re played with fingers rather than picks. However, flamenco-style classical guitar playing may require a golpeador, which is a flamenco pickguard installed above and below the soundhole for protection.

For those who dislike the appearance of the golpeador, clear pickguards can be installed as an alternative.

On the other hand, pickguards on electric guitars serve multiple functions, including protection against the player’s picking attack. They also serve as a strong graphic element in the guitar’s appearance. Many electric guitar players even customize pickguard designs to suit their personal style and preferences.

The Impact of Pickguards on Tone

When it comes to tone, pickguards have a minimal impact on your guitar’s sound. The material of the pickguard can affect the resonance and sustain to some extent, but the difference is barely noticeable. Wood, being a better material for resonance, can have a slight advantage over plastic pickguards. However, this impact on tone is even smaller on electric guitars, where the pickups play a more significant role in shaping the sound.

While pickguards don’t have a significant impact on tone, they offer customization options for players who want to personalize their instrument. Different materials, such as tortoiseshell or custom graphics, can create measurable changes in sound. So, while the impact on tone may be minimal, pickguards serve as both a protective and aesthetic component of your guitar.

Additional Functions and Considerations of Pickguards

Pickguards offer various benefits and considerations that go beyond their protective role. One of these functions is enhancing the visual appeal of a guitar. Pickguards come in a variety of colors, materials, and designs, allowing players to customize the look of their instrument. Whether it’s a sleek black pickguard on a vintage-style guitar or a vibrant patterned pickguard on a modern electric, these accessories can greatly enhance the aesthetics of a guitar.

Another important function of pickguards is providing finger support. Many players rest their fingers on the top of their instruments for reference or support while playing. The pickguard acts as a solid surface for the fingers to rest on, helping to maintain stability and accuracy during intricate passages. This is particularly useful for players who use fingerpicking or hybrid picking techniques.

Changing Pickguards: Process and Considerations

To change the pickguard on your guitar, you’ll need to consider the process and various factors involved.

First, let’s talk about the advantages of different pickguard materials. Traditional pickguards are typically made of plastic, which is durable and provides decent protection for your guitar’s finish. However, if you’re looking for a more premium option, you can opt for materials like tortoiseshell or mother-of-pearl, which add an elegant touch to your instrument.

Now, let’s discuss some tips for choosing the right pickguard for your guitar. Consider the style and aesthetic of your guitar, as well as your personal preferences. Think about the color, shape, and material that will complement your guitar’s overall look. Additionally, make sure to choose a pickguard that fits your guitar’s specific model and dimensions.

Lastly, take into account the function of the pickguard and how it will affect your playing experience.

Iconic Guitars With Notable Pickguards

If you’re a fan of rock music, you’ll instantly recognize the iconic pickguards on guitars like the Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, and Gibson SG. These guitars have become synonymous with the rock genre, and their pickguards play a significant role in their visual appeal.

Over the years, pickguard designs have evolved to reflect the changing tastes and preferences of guitarists. From the classic white pickguard on the Stratocaster to the black pickguard on the SG, each design choice adds to the uniqueness of these instruments.

Famous guitarists have also made their mark with unique pickguard choices. Jimi Hendrix’s upside-down Stratocaster with its white pickguard is an iconic image in rock history. Similarly, Jimmy Page’s dragon-embellished Telecaster and Frank Zappa’s mirrored SG stand out for their unconventional pickguard designs.

These guitars and their notable pickguards have become symbols of rock music and continue to inspire musicians today.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Pickguards Affect the Sound of an Acoustic Guitar?

Pickguards on acoustic guitars have minimal impact on sound. Wood is better for resonance and sustain. Plastic pickguards dampen sound, but it’s barely noticeable. Pickguards can be installed using adhesive or screws, depending on the guitar.

Can Pickguards Be Added to Classical Guitars?

Yes, pickguards can be added to classical guitars. They provide protection against scratches and wear, preserving the guitar’s appearance. Adding pickguards to vintage guitars can help maintain their value and prevent damage.

Are There Any Downsides to Using Pickguards on Electric Guitars?

Pickguards on electric guitars have pros and cons. They offer protection and add to the visual appeal, but some players find them intrusive and claim they affect playability. It ultimately depends on personal preference and playing style.

Are There Any Alternatives to Pickguards for Protecting the Guitar Finish?

Alternative solutions for protecting the guitar finish include using protective films. These films adhere to the surface and provide a transparent layer of protection against scratches and wear. They are a popular choice for those who prefer a pickguard-free look.

Can Changing the Pickguard on a Guitar Affect Its Resale Value?

Changing the pickguard on a guitar can potentially affect its resale value. Some buyers may prefer the original pickguard, while others may appreciate customization. It’s important to consider the preferences of potential buyers when making changes to maximize resale value.


In conclusion, pickguards serve a vital purpose in protecting the guitar’s finish and preventing damage from scratches and pick marks.

While not all guitars have pickguards, their absence can be attributed to various factors such as aesthetic choices or the use of alternative methods for protecting the instrument.

Additionally, pickguards can have a subtle impact on the tone of the guitar, and they may also offer additional functions like holding pickups or controls.

Ultimately, the decision to use a pickguard or not depends on the individual preferences and needs of the guitarist.

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