Guitar Pickguards

In the middle of a performance or practice, a musician needs to be completely focused on the music, not worried about things like chipped or scratched paint. A guitar pickguard covers the area where the pick may inadvertently make contact, protecting the finish. This component also adds an element of style that makes it recognizable, like the iconic Fender Tortoise Shell Stratocaster.

What is a guitar pickguard?

It is a piece of plastic or laminate that attaches to the body of the guitar to protect the instrument from damage while strumming. The pickguard is usually positioned underneath the strings, right where the hand and pick stop after down-strumming, but it can also cover much more of the body.

What are the different styles of pickguards?

Different types of guitars have specific pickguard characteristics. Some categories include the following:

  • Acoustic: These guitars have pickguards that cover the area directly beneath the soundhole and consist of thin plastic so as not to interfere with the vibration of the body.
  • Arch-top: These guitars are both acoustic and electric with a full body and narrow curvy F-holes on the top and bottom instead of a circular soundhole. They use a floating pickguard, which sits on metal brackets for height adjustment.
  • Solid-body: These electric guitars have pickguards that cover a large surface area. This style is frequently found in Fender instruments. All the wiring and electrical components are behind the pickguard for easy repairs.
  • Carved-top: These electric guitars have the adjustable-height floating style pickguards similar to arch-top guitars.
How do you replace a pickguard?

Guitarists replace their pickguard if it cracks or for other aesthetic reasons, and the ease of the process is variable. On Fender guitars, pickguards are attached with screws, so replacement is relatively simple. On other types, it is attached to the guitar with an adhesive, so the process is more involved. Consulting an expert if you need to replace this piece may be beneficial.

What are some brands of guitar pickguards?

While there is variation between individual models, each brand of guitar has a particular style of pickguard. Some types are interchangeable, especially between different acoustic brands. Others only fit on particular guitars. Some companies also make unbranded guitar pickguards that attempt to replicate the shape of brands like Fender, Epiphone, and Ibanez. More details on some of these brands follow.

  • Gibson: These do not usually encompass both sides of the neck, and they often have a triangular shape covering some of the space beneath the strings, from the bridge up toward the top of the body.
  • Fender: These pickguards cover a large part of the guitar's face with cutouts for the pickups. This style allows for easy access to the pickup wiring.
  • Ibanez: These are similar to Fender and almost covers the entire face.
  • Gretsch: These have a shape like a fin that spans the body beneath the strings, similar to a Gibson but often longer and more rounded.