Why Do Guitars Have Pickguards?

Why Do Guitars Have Pickguards?

For those who have never played the guitar, the idea of a pickguard may seem strange. Why would you need to protect your guitar from being scratched by a pick?

But for some guitar players, pickguards are an essential part of their instrument’s design and function.

The main purpose of the pickguard is to provide protection against damage caused by picks or fingernails that could scratch the finish on your guitar.

Pickguards are most commonly found on acoustic guitars, but they can also be found on electric and bass guitars as well.

With that being said, pickguards on electric guitars can differ in their location, color, and general function.

The truth is that pickguards are really more for looks and decoration than they are for protecting your guitar. Even guitar manufacturers will tell you that pickguards are more for the cosmetics of the guitar. 

Most people don’t require a pickguard on their guitar because they are not that rough with their guitar picks.

Also, most regular guitar picks are made out of celluloid or other soft material such as polyethylene, which has a lower risk of damaging your guitar’s finish.

If you’re one of those guitarists that use the thicker and stronger types of picks that are made out of materials such as bone, glass, or metal, then having a pickguard will be more of a requirement. 

Can You Remove the Pickguard?

If you absolutely do not want a pickguard on your guitar, then yes, by all means, you can remove it. The ease with which you can remove a pickguard will highly depend on the type of guitar you have. 

For example, a pickguard on a Les Paul is a lot easier, in my opinion, than removing one from an acoustic guitar, unless your acoustic was super cheap to begin with. The reason is that a Les Paul has what is called a floating pickguard.

Removing a pickguard from some electric guitars will usually require you to remove the strings, knobs, and pickguard screws.

From there you will need to remove the pickups from the pickguards. Reinstall a new pickguard by reversing the instructions above. 

When it comes to certain guitars like Stratocasters, the pickguard not only protects the finish from guitar picks but also holds in your guitar’s pickups. So, it’s generally a good idea to leave this type of pickguard on your guitar. 

To remove a pickguard from an acoustic guitar, my suggestion would be to use a hairdryer to heat up the pickguard area. And then use some string or other soft material to gently lift up the pickguard.

One thing to keep in mind is that if your guitar is older or has dirt and grime on it, the pickguard will likely leave an outline on your guitar after you have removed it. 

Clean this up by using something specially made to clean the finish of a guitar. If you don’t have that, you can use white vinegar to clean the area, but your guitar will smell like a jar of pickles when you are done. 

It’s important that you never use alcohol to clean your guitar as it has a tendency to dry out your guitar, and this can cause permanent damage to your guitar’s finish.

Also, when you are removing the pickguard, never use too much heat. Only use enough to loosen the adhesive that is underneath.

In other words, don’t use a heat gun or a fan heater as these could produce enough heat to damage your guitar.

Can You Replace a Pickguard?

In short, yes you can absolutely replace the pickguard on your guitar if you really want to. Whether you decide to replace it yourself or hire someone else to do it, it’s usually a pretty inexpensive procedure to have done.

When replacing the pickguard yourself, it’s important that you make sure the area you are installing the pickguard is clean and free of any debris. 

Usually, there are specific instructions that will come with your new pickguard. It’s best to always follow the manufacturers’ directions for the best result. 

What Are Pickguards Made Out Of?

A pickguard is usually (but not always) made out of a hard plastic material such as PVC.

Because the pickguard’s main purpose is to protect your guitar’s finish from wear and tear due to picking, any hard material will usually be sufficient.

The most common pickguard material used on vintage guitars is celluloid. Most manufacturers these days no longer use this material, because of its flammability and its tendency to shrink.

Should I Remove the Plastic From a Pickguard?

The answer to this question is really a matter of personal preference. Some people like to keep the plastic on the pickguard so the guard lasts longer. 

I, personally, like to take the plastic off because I like the way a new pickguard has the tendency to shine. Leaving the plastic sheeting on it will leave the pickguard looking much duller.

You might be wondering why a pickguard even has a plastic covering on it to begin with. The reason is quite simple. It’s to protect the pickguard during the shipping process. 

It’s also important to note that if you decide to take off this plastic sheeting from your pickguard, you should do so very carefully to avoid scratching the pickguard with your fingernails

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I love playing around with various types of guitar gear so I started this website to share my guitar gear knowledge with the world. Enjoy!

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