View Full Version : So... how/why do you scratch the pickguard?

08-09-2005, 12:00 PM

I have kind of a funny question (ha. Ha HA!).

My 26-year-old Guild has a pickguard, which has suffered some scratches over the years. However, I don't think any of them came from me.

My 6-month-old Taylor does not have a pickguard. I actually think I prefer the look of Taylors _with_ pickguards, but was so taken by the looks of mine that I didn't actually notice/care that it did not have a pickguard until after I was smitten. And, I have no desire to add anything to the top (512ce-L30-- a bit less room between the rosette and guitar edge).

I didn't think about the lack of pickguard again until I watched a friend (the only other person to play my guitar so far-- special moment, there) be oh-so-careful with it-- genuinely concerned that he might make a mistake and scratch the top.

Now, I've played guitar for a loooong time, with a pick. I love to strum, and arpeggiate chords; I am _not_ a fingerpicker. And I can't for the life of me figure out why/how one would necessarily strike the top of the guitar with a downward strum. As in, wouldn't that require an inefficient angle of attack?

Are there certain techniques or effects, especially on the high strings, that will inevitably result in a follow-through that would hit the pickguard area?

Or is it a matter of personal style and (lack of) adjustment?

I wasn't nervous, at all, until my friend became so. I've even examined my guitar's rosette and pickguard area under various types of light, to see if maybe I've inadvertantly hit or poked the surface anywhere in these last months of extensive, heart-focused (and therefore not concentrating-on-not-hitting-the-guitar-top) playing. Oh, do I love this thing. Yet, I see no evidence that I've done so.

Do any of you hit or scratch the pickguard as a way of life? Aesthetics aside, do you feel uncomfortable playing a guitar without a pickguard?

Just wondering!

- Sarah

Fishing The Sky
08-09-2005, 12:05 PM
Apparently I'm not a good strummer, because I seem to often hit the pickguard while strumming.

However, I haven't noticed a single scratch on it.

So, take that info for what it's worth.

08-09-2005, 02:39 PM
I wondered the same thing. Though as a young player, I did hit the top often. When I got my first high end guitar (an Ovation), I was really nervous about hitting the top. I only played it with fingers until I stopped hitting the top of my Alvarez dreadnought. It took awhile, and I never played it aggressively. Eventually, though, I stopped hitting the top at all.

Recently, I started looking at my strumming hand and noticed a couple things that I think might explain it. My arm stays relatively stationary while my wrist and forearm rotate. Because of this, the path the pick takes is pretty short and compact.

I know when I first started, I moved my whole forearm. And I know that sometimes my pick would travel beyond the pickguard as I often found pick scratches on the top of my guitar.

08-09-2005, 02:45 PM
I don't hit the pickguard or the top. But I do like to watch the look on someone's face when they agree to let me try out their guitar and I pull out a pick ;)

Apparently there's a lot of people who do, or the pickguard never would have been necessary.

08-09-2005, 03:08 PM
I have a very good record when it comes to top scratches - it IS about technique, mostly. In 15 years, I never put a pick scratch on a guitar via strumming.

However, that recently changed, just a little. I use my Martin for MUCH more aggressive strumming from time to time due, and I've noticed that not only with the apparently softer finish (a question from another thread) but with a heavier hand that I have a few strum marks. These fall almost below "scratch radar" and I could buff them out without any real work. Had I not had my guitar in low lamplight at a really odd angle I'd never have seen them at all.

The thing is, it CAN happen to just about anyone, even if it's not typical, over a period of years. I'm assuming that these "brush marks" (they REALLY are that light... I still have a difficult time finding them) come from things like Pete Townshend-like triplet figures.

The other thing I notice is that when I'm stumming at that level, my hand position moves more to the neck side of the sound hole, which subtley changes my angle of attack, which could also create that problem.

Needless to say, I would NEVER play like that on someone else's guitar, and very rarely on mine. I've had someone do that with mine... a brand new maple Taylor 915 LTD only a fw hours old, and I spent the entire time cringing, waiting for the ditch to be dug into the wood, and wishing I had held onto it. :D

Whew... sorry... just had a nightmare flashback!

Anyway, the truth is that most strumming volume and hardness can be attained by velocity rather then downward pressure. The lesson? If I put them in, I would prefer not, and work to adjust my playing to keep from it. If YOU put them in MY guitar, I will be a very unhappy camper and you will NEVER touch any of my guitars again. Kind of like "I can talk about my family, but you'd better not have anything bad to say about them!" :D :D :D

08-09-2005, 03:48 PM
I hit the the pickguard area quite a bit. And I noticed it when recording lately that I can hear the pick hitting the guitar, but live it isn't really noticible. But I all and all I need to clean that up a little.

I do what the flamenco players do: They put a sheet of clear plastic where the pick guard goes. The plastic works perfectly from preventing scratches on the guitar and it's invisible to the average. It's also easily removable.

The plastic I bought off the web from some site that specializes in guitar parts/tools/repair. I might be able to find the URL at home if you're interested.

08-09-2005, 05:47 PM
sometimes i play hard, and sometimes this means i hit the pickguard. i've never worried about it too much though, since that's sort of what it's there for.

08-09-2005, 08:09 PM
I think most people would say that is what a pickguard is for. However, Spieler was relating the question to his 512ce-L30 which does not have a pickguard.

I used to cut window decal sheets to pickguard size, but haven't bothered using them for quite some time since I didn't want to leave them on and eventually, from putting and taking it off, the edges would curl and I'd start hitting it with my pick when it curled up enough.

I may start using them again sometime. I haven't hit the top of my guitar ... but I am quite aggressive on a few guitars ... including a Ryan with a cedar top (I've been thinking about having a pickguard installed, but haven't brought it up yet)... it might not be a bad idea to cover it up a bit.

08-09-2005, 08:34 PM
In my opinion, hitting the pickguard is simply a matter of strumming style. There are rhythmic strummers - whose purpose is to play chords to the rhythm of the music - and they are probably fairly gentle on their pickguards & tops. Then there are percussive strummers (like myself) whose purpose in life is to use a guitar as a stringed instrument and a drum at the same time. We are not very gentle with our guitars, and have to be really careful not to mark up our nice instruments. I'm glad my Taylors and Martins came with pickguards, and I REALLY have to be careful with my Breedloves. :-)
BTW, has anyone seen the top of Willie Nelson's guitar? There's no pickguard on Earth that could have protected that poor axe. LOL
Best of luck with your unprotected Taylor, but I would put a pickguard on it if it were mine.

08-10-2005, 02:19 AM
I've got lots of pick marks on my Martin's pickguard, but they are light and buff out. On my Parlor, I do not have have any pick marks at all. Could be related to the size of the guitar as well, the Dread body size moves my arm to a position where my strumming style causes a light impact with the pickguard whilst the smaller-sized Parlor allows better arm positioning.

I've also found as I've improved my playing technique, I hit the pickguard less and less during strumming. :)

Michael K
08-10-2005, 06:39 AM
My pickguards have light swirls in them, I wouldn't characterize them as scratches per se, most but probably not all, would buff out. However I will be the first to admit there is nothing "efficient" about my pick technique. I don't worry about it. I view any mark a guitar gets from legitimate playing use as character. I don't consider abuse to be legitimate playing use.

I did see something last week for the first time that I had been hearing about; a Martin OOO-28VS that I was lusting after had a clear, static-cling pick guard. So if you were a pure finger picker, you could just leave it off and let that beauty run around naked, but if you were taking her someplace where some savage might get a hold of her, you could put that pickguard on for protection. I thought it was really cool.

08-10-2005, 07:33 AM
This post has made me realize something - some people have scratch free PGs??! I have always bought used or from a shop, etc. so my PGs all have some light scratching that I never have thought twice about. I guess I just assumed that the only people with scratch free PGs were fingerstyle players who direct ordered their guitars. I noticed with the last Taylor I played in a shop it had a protective sheet over the PG, so maybe that will change

08-10-2005, 02:37 PM
I have always scuffed up my guitars on the very edge of the soundhole (high E side). In 3 years I have worn through the finish on my 415 at a couple of small places inside the rosette, but my pickguard stays clean. At this rate I'll be about halfway to Willie's Trigger by the time I die.

I use a pick, sometimes chord-strumming but mostly more articulate stuff, although I wouldn't call it flatpicking. Go figure.

08-10-2005, 10:26 PM
BTW, has anyone seen the top of Willie Nelson's guitar?

Willie Nelson signiture guitar? Is there such a guitar out already? I'd like to take a peek and see how they emulated the .... ah scrathing. :)

08-11-2005, 12:04 AM
just realised something - I think in all my past guitars with pickguards most of the scratching (if any) came from polishing rather than actual playing :o

though nowadays I love the appearance of non pickguard guitars (both my taylors are pg free)