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Author Topic: Does a pickguard affect the sound?  (Read 1857 times)
Bosco Bear
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« on: January 26, 2017, 09:46:48 PM »

I have read some of the past discussions about pickguard removal.  The one thing I haven't been able to find is any comparison of the sound before and after the pickguard removal.  Since the top of the guitar is so important to the sound, I have to think that the pickguard would dampen it somewhat.  I love the sound of my Larrivee but would I love it even more if I were to remove the guard?  My Simon & Patrick came with no pickguard and I have been strumming (and finger picking) that for almost 22 years without damaging the finish, so I don't really need the pickguard.  It doesn't bother me to have it there and I don't mind how it looks, but if it would enhance the sound by removing it then I would probably go for it.  I would appreciate any feedback!
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Ross J.
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2017, 10:11:52 PM »

IMO, no...

Ed
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George
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2017, 10:21:17 PM »

IMO, anything that impedes the top from resonating to its fullest is likely dampening the sound a bit.  This can even be your hand resting on the top. 

Just removing the pickguard?  I dunno, maybe, maybe not... 

If you do decide to remove a pickguard, just be careful not to damage the top during removal and that there may be a different shade of wood where the pickguard used to be...
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George
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2017, 10:23:06 PM »

First  +1


Next,I removed the clear guard on my OM03PA and have never notice a difference.I have also added guards to guitars without noticing a difference.
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ducktrapper
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2017, 10:25:45 PM »

Not to (most) human ears, anyway.
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George
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2017, 11:11:05 PM »

Not to (most) human ears, anyway.

Really difficult to do a realtime A/B comparison too...
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George
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2017, 02:42:24 AM »

I took the pickguard off my Seagull S6+folk (it was kind of stupid that I had it put on in the first place).  Unfortunately, because it is a satin finish on a cedar top, it did some damage, but wasn't planning to sell it anyway.  Others may disagree, but the sound difference was quite noticeable.  It went from a very subdued and somewhat muffled/muted sound to something much more vibrant and resonant.  Of course, it is a small bodied guitar, so I didn't have a lot of top to spare in the first place.  I don't regret removing the pickguard at all.  My LSV-11 does not have a pickguard, btw.
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2017, 09:10:39 AM »

I haven't played any acoustic guitar that didn't have some kind of pick guard, so I can't comment if there is a significant difference in actual sound.  But I suspect not since almost any guitar you can think of has one.  I would think that if it did make a detectable difference, some makers would exclude it and claim a tonal advantage.  It seems to me the makers give more priority to protecting the top from extensive playing damage over any tonal advantages that might be gained from omitting the guard.  On the other hand, maybe they all do it to compete in the guitar market.  After all, there is a certain esthetic and most consumers probably expect to see a pickguard that looks more or less "standard" from one brand to another.
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2017, 12:24:02 PM »

Depends on the bracing. The lower bought is the main resonator, which is why you don't want your arm resting on the top.  The higher you go up the bought the less affect it has on tone. It amuses me how guys on the Collings forum swear by having no popsicle brace (which is way up top where you get almost no resonance), yet they think nothing of the pick guard. While I have removed them and think they're eye sores, I've come to terms with the fact that they're a necessary evil. After owning a guitar with no pick guard that has its beautiful finished marred, I'm ok with pick guards now.
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D-02-12
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2017, 12:32:17 PM »

I haven't played any acoustic guitar that didn't have some kind of pick guard, so I can't comment if there is a significant difference in actual sound.  But I suspect not since almost any guitar you can think of has one.  I would think that if it did make a detectable difference, some makers would exclude it and claim a tonal advantage.  It seems to me the makers give more priority to protecting the top from extensive playing damage over any tonal advantages that might be gained from omitting the guard.  On the other hand, maybe they all do it to compete in the guitar market.  After all, there is a certain esthetic and most consumers probably expect to see a pickguard that looks more or less "standard" from one brand to another.

There are plenty makers who either don't supply a guard, or include it in the case.  All the special order Larrivee's I've gotten have had the guard in the case.  They are lower end, but I think Washburn and Yamaha ship with no guard.  I agree that I've never heard of any maker claiming a tonal advantage...  There are plenty folks on this forum who hate the look of them, and plenty who like them, and seemingly an even bigger number of folks who don't really seem to care one way or another.  The opinions seem to be mostly visual aesthetics, though.

Ed
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2017, 01:38:39 PM »

For me, I prefer the look of wood to the look of plastic. This is one of the reasons that drew me toward Larrivees, in the first place. However, I've never been one to quibble about things that, at best, make very subtle changes to the sound of a guitar that may or may not make the guitar sound better. A subjective thing, anyway. I don't think the clear pgs do much, if anything, toward altering or deadening the sound. I've always kind of raised an eyebrow at those old double pickguards or Elvis's leather jacket and agree with L07, that if makers like Martin thought a pick guard was a big deal, they'd offer models without. My oldest Larrivee has no pg whatsoever, I have several with clear plastic ones and my D-35 and other guitars have regular plastic ones. They all sound good or I wouldn't own them. Anyway, whatever. Enjoy your guitars.       
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Bosco Bear
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2017, 03:38:55 PM »

Thanks for all the great feedback!!  I have enjoyed hearing different opinions based on the first hand experience some of you have had.  It's not easy to do a comparison without having two otherwise identical guitars side by side.  I wouldn't miss the pickguard if it was gone, because I've been strumming the Simon & Patrick all these years and it never came with a guard.  I wouldn't want to take it off and see visible lines where it once was, especially if there wasn't a significant improvement in the sound.  Since this is the nicest looking and nicest sounding guitar I have ever owned, I'm probably best to leave well enough alone... for now at least.  Thanks again.
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Ross J.
Keswick, Ontario, Canada

Larrivee LV-03 (Maple Leaf Inlays) - 2016
Simon & Patrick Quilted Maple Dreadnaught - 1995
S. Yairi Classical - 1979
Ibanez AEG10NE - 2014
Seagull M4 (Merlin) - 2016
...and lots of harmonicas!
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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2017, 04:20:55 AM »

I wouldn't want to take it off and see visible lines where it once was, especially if there wasn't a significant improvement in the sound.  Since this is the nicest looking and nicest sounding guitar I have ever owned, I'm probably best to leave well enough alone... for now at least.  

Does a pick guard affect the sound? Absolutely.

The only function of a pick guard is to  protect the top of the guitar from un-expected impacts.

No luthier has ever admitted to designing a steel string guitar around provisions for a pick guard.

Modern pick guards are fairly substantial pieces of dull, lifeless plastic - nominally worth about 4 cents. They're frequently affixed to extremely pricey pieces of select solid wood with about 2 cents worth of rubber cement.

Some people have wet dreams about pick guards: their guitar heros had them, so they too must have them. Some people actually need them for protection.

Do you notice that you've put a lot of scratches on your pick guard?

If so, leave it on.

Most modern pick guards can be removed cleanly . . . you should check with Godin to see how they glued the guard on; but unless they used hard core shoe-glue, epoxy, or serious contact cement, pick guard removal should be easy for an experienced luthier.

You can always glue it back on.

The tan lines will go away.

Chances are way better than 50/50 that you'll notice an increase in high mids along with an increase in sustained harmonic resonance across the spectrum.

Whether or not you prefer those increases is a whole other question . . .
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Mikeymac
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2017, 05:43:37 PM »

Read the current thread in this forum about replacing a standard bridge with a  pyramid bridge. In that thread, Walkerman recounts a conversation he had with Jean Larrivee about pick guards and their impact on the soundboard:

"I had a conversation with Jean, albeit after a couple of single malts, about this very thing.  It revolved around changing out the pickguard on my 50th for a clear one.  I said I thought that besides looking better, not having the plastic pickguard would allow the top to vibrate better and hence would get better tone.  He said that he has come to the opinion over time that having some extra "mass" on the soundboard actually improves tone .... and he said that would include both pickguard and bridge.  He likened it to the flywheel on an engine.  Something to keep the vibrations going.  I deferred to his knowledge and experience and kept the pick guard."

An interesting, alternative perspective...

 
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2017, 07:52:05 PM »

Does a pick guard affect the sound? Absolutely.

The only function of a pick guard is to  protect the top of the guitar from un-expected impacts.

No luthier has ever admitted to designing a steel string guitar around provisions for a pick guard.

Modern pick guards are fairly substantial pieces of dull, lifeless plastic - nominally worth about 4 cents. They're frequently affixed to extremely pricey pieces of select solid wood with about 2 cents worth of rubber cement.

Some people have wet dreams about pick guards: their guitar heros had them, so they too must have them. Some people actually need them for protection.

Do you notice that you've put a lot of scratches on your pick guard?

If so, leave it on.

Most modern pick guards can be removed cleanly . . . you should check with Godin to see how they glued the guard on; but unless they used hard core shoe-glue, epoxy, or serious contact cement, pick guard removal should be easy for an experienced luthier.

You can always glue it back on.

The tan lines will go away.

Chances are way better than 50/50 that you'll notice an increase in high mids along with an increase in sustained harmonic resonance across the spectrum.

Whether or not you prefer those increases is a whole other question . . .


FWIW, I didn't hear any change when removing the pick guard from a D03R.  I'm highly sensitive to tonal changes,  and adjustments I did to the bridge did cause a positive change (slotting the pin holes and hide gluing the bridge) but the pick guard was a wash. I really thought it would make a big difference. I think that some guitars aren't very resonant in that area. Probably has to do with the fact that guitars tend to be pretty rigid between the sound hole and waist. YMMV.I'd venture to guess that it would make a difference on some instruments though.
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D-02-12
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« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2017, 08:58:40 PM »


YMMV


Probably the most accurate comment in the thread.  Other than mine, that is...   

Ed
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JOYCEfromNS
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« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2017, 09:19:15 PM »

Other than mine, that is...   

Well of course! 
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2017, 01:48:11 AM »

FWIW, I didn't hear any change when removing the pick guard from a D03R.  I'm highly sensitive to tonal changes,  and adjustments I did to the bridge did cause a positive change (slotting the pin holes and hide gluing the bridge) but the pick guard was a wash. I really thought it would make a big difference. I think that some guitars aren't very resonant in that area. Probably has to do with the fact that guitars tend to be pretty rigid between the sound hole and waist. YMMV.I'd venture to guess that it would make a difference on some instruments though.

I could not hear a difference on my '98 OM-03 when I removed the pickguard (one of the old-school clear kind, peeling off under it's own initiative so after playing out on the deck for a few hours one warm summer day, I helped it along)

But I had the pick guard removed from my SD-03 by someone with a far better skill-set than mine, and I noticed a significant difference in upper mids - a difference that I like.

I agree with BOWIE's thoughts on resonance, the position of the bridge and the broad waist of an SD probably mean that there is a lot more happening under the pick-guard on an SD than on an OM.



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