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Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?

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marty D 06 Mar 02 - 01:56 PM
Gary T 06 Mar 02 - 02:07 PM
Clinton Hammond 06 Mar 02 - 02:10 PM
SharonA 06 Mar 02 - 02:11 PM
Clinton Hammond 06 Mar 02 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,Van 06 Mar 02 - 02:14 PM
Clinton Hammond 06 Mar 02 - 02:24 PM
SharonA 06 Mar 02 - 02:30 PM
Jeri 06 Mar 02 - 02:32 PM
marty D 06 Mar 02 - 03:53 PM
Murray MacLeod 06 Mar 02 - 04:03 PM
M.Ted 06 Mar 02 - 04:46 PM
Murray MacLeod 06 Mar 02 - 04:49 PM
Kaleea 07 Mar 02 - 01:32 AM
JohnInKansas 07 Mar 02 - 02:36 AM
Steve Parkes 07 Mar 02 - 03:24 AM
mooman 07 Mar 02 - 03:41 AM
van lingle 07 Mar 02 - 03:57 AM
JohnInKansas 07 Mar 02 - 04:28 AM
Rick Fielding 07 Mar 02 - 10:19 AM
tandrink 07 Mar 02 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Les B. 07 Mar 02 - 11:30 AM
M.Ted 07 Mar 02 - 11:43 AM
53 07 Mar 02 - 08:23 PM
Rick Fielding 08 Mar 02 - 12:21 AM
53 08 Mar 02 - 02:28 PM
Murray MacLeod 08 Mar 02 - 02:42 PM
Rick Fielding 09 Mar 02 - 11:30 AM
catspaw49 09 Mar 02 - 11:45 AM
Jeri 09 Mar 02 - 11:53 AM
53 09 Mar 02 - 10:56 PM
Ned Ludd 10 Mar 02 - 05:52 AM
Mooh 10 Mar 02 - 06:54 AM
Rick Fielding 10 Mar 02 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,sid bonfire 02 Oct 10 - 02:49 PM
Little Hawk 02 Oct 10 - 03:02 PM
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Subject: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: marty D
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 01:56 PM

At first I wasn't going to ask this because it seemed stupid, but the more I thought about it, it seemed legitimate.

Maybe not the small thin pickguard on my Martin, but what about some of those big jobs on Framus guitars or even Gibsons? I've even seen a Gibson where the pickguard was SCREWED into the guitar. Any reason why a company would put something heavy on the top of a guitar? Is it JUST decoration?

marty


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Gary T
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:07 PM

Properly placed, a pickguard is more than decoration, it's protection against scratches (or in Willie Nelson's case, holes) in the top of the guitar. I would think it has to affect the sound to some degree. It may be a very small effect with a thin pickguard. It seems obvious that if the pickguard covered the whole top it would change things tremendously. It would be interesting to see if anyone has studied how much difference it makes in the sound.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:10 PM

ANYTHING stuck to the surface of the guitar is gonna impede sound... whether it be a pick guard, a happy face sticker or a lacquer finish...

It's a question of trade off...

So for instance, for my Twin Seagull A-folks, I went with classical pick-guards... really just a sheet of thick plastic with a sticky back that you can cut to shape with scissors...

Minimal sound impact... plenty of protection for the 'danger zone' under the sound hole...

And they're clear, so you can't see 'em but when the glare of lights play off 'em...

:-)


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: SharonA
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:11 PM

"Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?" Probably not as much as one's hand in front of the soundhole! ':^)


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:12 PM

Oh ya... when I say "Thick plastic", I mean like a thick plastic WRAP... kinda like maybe say 2 layers of book tape...

So really, NOT thick at all!!

LOL!!!


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: GUEST,Van
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:14 PM

I've always felt that it makes some sense to protect the table if it is a soft wood - mine is spruce - and if you use a pick. I can't see the point if you fingerpick or play in a way that doesn't risk damaging the guitar.

There is a reason to thicken up the treble side and thin down the bass side so perhaps some companies use thick pick guards to save them the trouble of making a good job of the table. I doubt if Martin would do this.

If it sounds good to you just enjoy it.

Van the luthier


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:24 PM

"if you fingerpick"

1)Who says fingerpicking is safe?? Ever seen Don Ross play??

"or play in a way that doesn't risk damaging the guitar"

2)Where's the fun in THAT!!!???!!!

LOL!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: SharonA
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:30 PM

What about the raised pickguards, such as on the old f-hole Gibsons? There, the metal "feet" are screwed into the top of the guitar but there's nothing lacquered to the surface. Does that improve the sound, or is the sound impeded somewhat by the slab of plastic hovering above the top of the guitar?


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 02:32 PM

With me, the pickguard serves mainly to keep finger-slime off the finish of the guitar. I'd guess that any effect to the sound would depend on the type of material and amount of it. I'll be interested to read the responses to this question.

Fielding has one guitar that's virtually covered with pickguard material. I'd always meant to ask him what that enormous amount of fake tortoise shell was for, and if it muted the sound at all. By the way, did you know that brand new guitars come with a clear plastic pickguard guard that you don't know is there until someone rips it off for you while trying not to laugh at you TOO hard?


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: marty D
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 03:53 PM

Jeri, that happened to me as well! My new Martin D 1 came equipped with a pickgurd cover and it was weeks til I noticed it. And only then because I started wearing a hole in it! You are not alone.

marty


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 04:03 PM

Pickguards impede sound. So does the lacquer on a guitar. So does resting your right arm on the lower bout while playing. Resting it on your knee hampers the sound as well. Also, gripping the neck with your left hand hampers the vibrations.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 04:46 PM

Nothing screw up the sound of a vintage Gibson archtop as much as having someone bolt one of those big kluge Bigsby Vibrato Tailpieces onto it--and nothing is as depressing as finding out that the bastard that did the job nicked the original (and irreplaceable) hardware--


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 04:49 PM

Sounds like you are speaking from personal experience, Ted ...

Murray


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Kaleea
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 01:32 AM

I think any slight loss of sound which is not discernable to the majority of guitar players overshadows by far the damage which could be done to the instrument by picks over the years. Trigger, aside.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 02:36 AM

I wouldn't think there is any real answer to "does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?"

If you ask "does a pickguard affect sound of a guitar?," there's a better chance of formulating some sort of answer. Even for this restated question, sweeping generalizations are risky.

While we tend to think of the "face" plate of a guitar as a "resonant plate," in some ways it's more like a "flimsy bladder" to hold the air. On the inside, the various kinds of bracing look like the "wet dreams of a mad architect." Much, if not most, of the stiffness of the top plate comes from the bracing.

An adhesive pick guard can be made relatively thin, so that it adds little to the local mass of the top plate. Changes in stiffness due to adding an adhesive pickguard should be relatively insignificant unless they are applied where there is significant flexure of the plate. (Think "changes in curvature due to motion.").

There will certainly be an "effect," but the theory is that the adhesive pickguard can be made small/light/flexible enough to keep the effects small. And addition of the pickguard can be anticipated, and to some extent "compensated," in the original design.

The "screwed on" pickguards generally are much thicker and heavier; but, if the screws can be located at "nodes" of the top plate motions, they need not have too much effect. If the pick guard doesn't bend, then it doesn't affect stiffness. It only adds a small amount of mass, which doesn't affect the sound unless the mass moves.

The motions of the top plate are pretty complex, and any "nodal points" probably move around, so that it is not possible to be sure your screws are always at a node, but again - if the pick guard doesn't bend, it doesn't affect stiffness of the parts that have to move around. (And if the screws go into a brace(?) the effects should be much less.)

Two different theories about what constitutes the "best compromise."

As to whether the "effects" are an impediment or a benefit, remember that generally every (small) change that increases volume decreases sustain. Which does your guitar need most?

Take another look inside, at that "Bridgeport Iron and Steel Works" truss structure - and the many variations thereto, and judge the likely effects relative to that mess(!).

John


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 03:24 AM

Don't mention iron & steel just now!

In my case, it's the way I play that has the most effect on the sound of the guitar. There's room for improvement ...

Steve


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: mooman
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 03:41 AM

Certainly a normal-sized pickguard WILL affect the sound in some way, just as will also other factors such as type of bracing, top thickness, type of finish, whether you rest your hand on the table while playing, whether you obstruct the soundhole with your hand, etc. The pickguard will probably have less effect though than these other factors.

But, if the instrument sounds acceptable to you with a pickguard why worry? And it will protect the surface from pick or nail damage for many players.

I only have a pickguard on one of my instruments but it is probably justified there as that guitar sounds fine with it and is subjected to heavy-duty rhythm work where the top would certainly have suffered some damage otherwise.

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: van lingle
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 03:57 AM

the clear plastic pickguard on my lowden started curling up at the edges some 8 years ago so i decided to pull it off at a musical evening w/ friends and poll them as to the effect. i had always wanted to remove one because i'd heard it let the top vibrate more freely but mostly because one of my great heroes, john renbourn, does it. the concenus that evening was that it made no difference.
well i left it off for almost year and the top started to develop willie nelson syndrome where i sometimes anchor my right pinky so i stuck a martin pickguard back on it and i swear i immediately noticed that the sound was a bit muted. i think this was because the martin guard seemed like it was twice as thick as the lowden. at any rate if the lowden ever has to go in for service again i'll try to get an original lowden PG installed. vl


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 04:28 AM

But when I once tried to play a guitar, everyone present agreed that "a little more muted" would be a very good thing!

The point is that - yes, it does affect the sound.

Whether a little or a lot depends on quite a few variables.

Whether it helps or hurts ---- well, just think about your last social infatuation.

It's all in how you feel about herit.

John


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 10:19 AM

Well, pickguards are also identifying characteristics for the various brands. From afar you can always tell a Martin from a Gibson or Guild or Taylor simply by the pickguard. Gibson did indeed use 'screwed in' pickguards for a time. They looked awful, AND they were pretty thick. Silliest guitar pickguard I ever saw was the big white ones on pre-war Stella Twelve strings. They Simply placed it so it covered one third of the sound hole...very strange.

Yeah, don't forget to take the "slipcover" off new pickguards....ya don't want folks makin' fun of ya!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: tandrink
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 11:13 AM

As stated earlier, the pick guard or anything on top of the quitar makes a difference in sound.

Now, if any one of you is a good enough player that the impedence of sound caused by the pick guard is what you are worrying about rather than improving technique, you must be absolutely fantastic and I want to take lessons from you ;)

I know this may be sacrilege to say here, but isn't a little wear and tear on a guitar a bit cooler than it being in pristine condition. Feels like it gives the guitar some soul.

Let's worry about playin 'em more than worrying about their resale value.

But that's just one hack's (a hack with a very cheap guitar, BTW) opinion.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 11:30 AM

I don't know about "impeding" sound, but I've heard that there is a characteristic crack that develops on some older Martins because of the way the pickguards were glued -- the wood wants to shrink or shift as it gets older and the pickguard won't budge, so the wood starts splitting there.

This would be sort of like the characteristic bass bar split seen on older fiddles.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 11:43 AM

Just a theoretical postulation, Murray;-) I'd post the whole story, since a couple of pickguards feature in it prominently, but it makes me look naive, and slightly stupid--as this discussion thread shows, we tend to believe what we want to believe about our instruments, even when common sense and simple physics indicate something else--


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: 53
Date: 07 Mar 02 - 08:23 PM

The Everly Brothers Gibsons had pickgards all over the front of the guitar, they looked nice and if thats the guitars that I hear on their songs, they sound kinda nice also.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 08 Mar 02 - 12:21 AM

Sorry Bob....but those Everly guitars, although they looked SO COOL, sounded like absolute rat shit. I've played about four or five of them and not only were the pickguards as thick as a brick but so were the spruce tops and all the black laquer they used on 'em.

HOWEVER.....and this is the fun part....The original ones are selling for OVER ten grand!!!

Most of the Everly recordings (and I agree..the guitar sound was great) were done on J-200s. The signature models came a bit later, and were used live.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: 53
Date: 08 Mar 02 - 02:28 PM

Thanks Rick for that info about the Everly guitars, I don't think that I'll be buying one, but I just recently took the pickguard off of my Taylor and it makes a world of difference in the sound. I sorta messed up and I took some of the guitar with the pickguard but oh well, you try and learn.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 08 Mar 02 - 02:42 PM

You should have tried warming it with Glenda's hairdryer first, Bob.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Mar 02 - 11:30 AM

Oh, ohhhhh! I also removed a pickguard PLUS part of the top! I felt like a total idiot. Gotta check first if the glue is water soluable or heat soluable. One of the strangest pickguard placements is the one on Gibson F-5 mandolins. Virtually covers the whole bottom "F" hole. Most players seem to remove them completely.

What I've found over the years is that if you ADD a pickguard, the lessening of volume is immediate...If you REMOVE a pickguard, it can take several months to hear the difference (sometimes MORE volume) but it CAN make a difference.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 02 - 11:45 AM

Rick, isn't a part of the reason for "Woody's" twin pickguards is that you are temporarily stopping a top crack?

Anything beyond pristine wood affects sound from that point on although remember too that some finishing can help to enhance sound characteristics as was the case with the true varnish finishes used by Stradavarius. Much scientific testing was done a few years ago on those finishes in an attempt to duplicate the consistencncy and properties inherent in the original.

Bottom line though is of course that less is more. Less finish, less pickguard, etc......all have their effect although the actual materials used in the finish or pickguard means that not only size or gloss are the "telling" factors.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Jeri
Date: 09 Mar 02 - 11:53 AM

I wondered about that guitar-covered pick guard up above, Spaw. I figured there must be some reason for it besides decoration.

I'm just guessing, but I think finishes used to take quite a while to apply, done in multiple layers, and now makers (or maybe just mass-makers) go for something fast and easy. Am I right or wrong?


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: 53
Date: 09 Mar 02 - 10:56 PM

I did that Murray, but I didn't get it all and when I started to pull it off, well then it was to late.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 10 Mar 02 - 05:52 AM

In the '70s there was a fad for removing pick guards and finish to improve the sound(have you ever tried to get the finish off an eko ranger?) Many smaller makers now don't fit guards unless asked.I don't, 'cos I like the look and sound better without.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Mooh
Date: 10 Mar 02 - 06:54 AM

Generally speaking, I think pickguards are uglier than that which they are designed to prevent. I don't care for the generic Martin shaped guards, though faux tortoise ones look okay. Some builders have some interesting and graceful shapes to their guards and as such don't offend my taste. But beyond the science of sound, psychologically the layer of plastic disturbs me. (I know, I know, I was disturbed to start with.) My compromise has been to use the very thin clear plastic guard material. It's not as obvious either tonally or visually.

Those war wound scratches and other marks of age and use are badges of honour, character marks, and features of distinction. I do my best to avoid them, but they happen anyway, so I see then as honest hard-won scars.

Those black plastic guards (the Martin type ones) just look incongruous on a fine piece of luthiery, and don't seem to me a very imaginative way of solving the scratch problem. Rather, they seem to be a continuing nod to tradition. A hard transparent thin film would do the job better on guitars which don't need to observe tradition. On carved top mandolins, I've done without any guard at all.

My 2 cents (Cdn funds, not adjusted for inflation).

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 10 Mar 02 - 08:27 AM

Yah, the double pickguards were:

A. To cover the ungodly wear and tear on the guitar face (It had been "Willy Nelsonized" during it's fifty year life.

B. 'Cause I always kind of liked what Josh White did.

However, both are off now (and I cut out a Martin style totiseshell replacement). Much more volume.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: GUEST,sid bonfire
Date: 02 Oct 10 - 02:49 PM

If your pickin' puts a hole on the top of your guitar you GOTTA work on your technique. That is just sloppy playing.


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Subject: RE: Does a pickguard impede sound of guitar?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Oct 10 - 03:02 PM

Yep. I'm fortunate to have a playing style that causes no damage to the top of the guitar. Still can't play like Knopfler or Fielding, mind you, but you can't have it all.... ;-)


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