Pickguards, otherwise known as scratchplates, is usually a plastic piece installed on electric and acoustic guitars to protect the surface of the guitar from scratches while strumming.
Many acoustic guitars have pickguards, however, it is just as common to see an acoustic guitar without a pickguard.
Acoustic guitars benefit from having a pickguard in order to protect the area below where the guitarist will be strumming.
Depending on the style of play, and experience of a guitarist, a pickguard may be a good idea, or unnecessary.
Does a pickguard affect tone on an acoustic guitar
No, a pickguard will not affect the tone of a guitar, or long as it roughly conforms to standard pickguard shape, size and mounting techniques.
Even Bob Taylor agrees, that pick guards will not impact the tone on a guitar, and if there was a change in tone, it would be so minimal it would be unobservable to the human ear.
So whether you want to remove or add a pickguard, or if you’re worried about not having one, you can rest assured that tone will not be affected.
Of course, if you apply an aftermarket pickguard, that covers the entire face of the guitar, and mount it with bolts, yes, you’ll affect tone.
But simply applying an off the shelf standard pickguard will not impact your guitar, other than adding protection.
Here’s a video of a guitarist who likes to remove the pickguards for looks and “improved” tone:
Will not using a pickguard harm my guitar?
No, not using a pickguard will not harm your guitar during typical playing.
If you’re someone who tends to strum aggressively, you may notice light scuffing of the surface of the guitar, below the strings.
Over a long duration, these scuffs can wear down the wood and become more noticeable.
However, it would take a lot more wear and tear on your guitar to actually impact the tone or structure of the guitar, you don’t need to worry.
If you’re concerned about aesthetics, you can apply a pickguard, however, you may prefer the aesthetics without a scratchplate.
You can always play without a pickguard, and if you get bad scratches you can always add a pickguard later, and cover up most of the scuffs.
Can you remove a pickguard from a guitar
Yes, most pickguards on acoustic guitars are held in place by a thin layer of adhesive.
Applying a little bit of low heat, and a plastic scraper, you should be able to remove the pickguard quite easily.
This applies for all pickguards held by glue or adhesive.
For mounted pickguards you will only need to remove the screws holding the pickguard in place.
Can you add a scratchplate to a guitar?
Yes, adding a pickguard or scratchplate to an acoustic guitar is straightforward, and anyone can do this at home.
You’ll need an aftermarket pickguard to install, a clean cloth, spray adhesive, and something to position the pickguard in the correct spot.
Position the pickguard so you know where it needs to go, and mark the location.
Ensure the bonding areas are clean and dry.
Spray the back of the pickguard with the spray adhesive, and place it onto the guitar.
It’s a good idea to place something with some weight to help bond the surfaces, such as a couple of books, or paper weights.
Ensure you wipe any excess adhesive that might squeeze out from the edges of the pickgurad.
Acoustic pickguard VS no pickguard
Playing an acoustic without pickguard vs with a pickguard is entirely personal preference.
Some people hate the look of a pickguard, and it’s hard to argue.
Typically the colors on pickguards are either boring or super ugly.
Why cover up the beautiful wood of your guitar with ugly plastic?
Others don’t want to see the guitar get damaged over time.
You can look up some pictures of older guitars that have strumming damage on the body of the acoustic guitar.
These guitars will still work just fine, even if they have an extra hole in them.
Pickguards are completely a personal choice, based on what you like, don’t let things like tone and wear impact your decision too much!