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Thread: Pickgaurds forgotten?

  1. #1
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    Default Pickgaurds forgotten?

    It seems like a majority of the top mandolin players have ditched their pickgaurds.
    Of course by a majority I don't mean all but definitely most.

    Is it a feel thing? a tonal thing? both? Has anyone spoken to any of these players about why they chose to leave them off. This may be just me but I actually think when the pickguard is on my personal mandolin it almost gives it a little bit of a virzi effect.
    Which I kinda like or perhaps I'm just accustomed to it. I like it off too...

    Thanks,
    Dem
    Last edited by Demetrius; Feb-09-2018 at 6:22pm.

  2. #2
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I haven't discussed this much with many other players, but for me - I just hate pick guards. If I buy a mandolin with one, it comes off quickly - sometimes I'll fill the screw holes with woody putty too.

    Personally, I think they get in the way, they don't add much to the mandolin, and honestly they just look bad IMO. My mandolin's are definitely worn from my fingers brushing the face - but I like the distressed look so that's fine. Plus it's distressed from playing - not sandblasting - which I think is even cooler

    Pick guards might actually help tone slightly by ensuring fingers don't deaden the face resonating - but that's only if you're a "planter" or brusher... Personally, I notice little

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Thanks for chiming in, all great points...
    Quote Originally Posted by mbruno View Post
    I haven't discussed this much with many other players, but for me - I just hate pick guards. If I buy a mandolin with one, it comes off quickly - sometimes I'll fill the screw holes with woody putty too.

    Personally, I think they get in the way, they don't add much to the mandolin, and honestly they just look bad IMO. My mandolin's are definitely worn from my fingers brushing the face - but I like the distressed look so that's fine. Plus it's distressed from playing - not sandblasting - which I think is even cooler

    Pick guards might actually help tone slightly by ensuring fingers don't deaden the face resonating - but that's only if you're a "planter" or brusher... Personally, I notice little

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Pickguards, not "pickgaurds." Or call them finger-rests, since that is what they were really designed to be on Gibson-style A and F instruments with elevated fretboards.

    Anyway, the general consensus among experts now seems to be that pickguards DO NOT affect the tone. And actual tests have confirmed that the volume is unaffected a few feet in front of the instrument by a pickguard. David Grisman used to think many years ago that a pickguard affected the volume, for example, but he now agrees that it doesn't.

    So, it does not seem very likely that most folks have somehow "ditched" their pickguards for reasons of tone alone. To me, that explanation is thoroughly implausible.

    Here are some far more plausible reasons to explain the bias:

    1) Many of the factory-produced, budget mandolins these days are currently being produced without pickguards. It is cheaper to produce a budget mandolin without one. So players of these instruments did not "ditch" anything: they never had them in the first place! So that contributes significantly to the biased statistics. And even among the mid-level instruments, Eastman mandos don't tend to have pickguards, as a rule, and neither do Webers, for example.

    2) Many of the older pickguards on early 20th century Gibsons (A's, mostly) were made from a type of early, nitrocellulose plastic. This material decays on its own and rots away. So many of these older mandolins from the teens and twenties have pickguards that have been removed because they cracked or rotted.

    3) Pickguards are also easily demounted. Some of these were taken off older instruments and lost -- and never replaced.

    4) Many mando players from the 60's, 70',s and 80's learned initially without a pickguard (see above), often on a mandolin that did not have one, and consequently have trouble re-learning a new right hand position for the presence of a pickguard. Instead, they tend to brush the top with the pinky, or they plant it. This is a very hard habit to break. Eventually, however, they wear away the finish on the top of their instrument in spots, but this is a better alternative to them than re-learning hand position. But anyway, for these players, the pickguards get in the way of their playing.

    5) Bill Monroe did not have a pickguard on his Loar. In fact, his Loar probably had lost it by the time he acquired it from that barber shop in Florida. Most orginal Loar pickguards have either been lost over time or rotted away by now. The ones on them today are often replacements/replicas, if they have them at all. Never discount the fact that so many bluegrass players try to copy WSM in all possible ways, including not having a pickguard.

    6) Finally, I would question your anecdotal assertion that "the majority" of players have "ditched" (removed) their pickguards. Is this just your vague impression, or have you collected some evidence to address it? To do this right, you would need to find out if the mandolin actually came with a pickguard that was subsequently removed by the owner, or if it never had one in the first place.

    Anyway, the choice to use a pickguard, or not, has very little at all to do with tone. Of that, I am quite sure.
    Last edited by sblock; Feb-09-2018 at 7:20pm.

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Just for fun, I went through the first two full webpages of the current classifieds on the MC. I just looked at the F5-style mandolins that were for sale (not A's, not bowlbacks, not Sobells, etc.). Of the 22 instruments that I scored, exactly 10 were shown in the pictures WITH pickguards, 10 were shown WITHOUT pickguards, and 2 could not be scored because their bodies were not pictured. So that's very close to half of all F5 models being sold with pickguards. I found no evidence from this, therefore, to support the notion that "a majority" of folks are "ditching" their pickguards. Of course, they could have remounted their guards just for the purpose of the photo being displayed, but they certainly did not throw them out. Anyway, this limited survey confirms my own (equally limited) experience that about half of the F5 players I encounter play an instrument with a pickguard.

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I like the look of guards on mandolins/family etc... It doesn't add or take away anything that I'm aware of. I actually have to have them on my mandolins, I'm not a finger planter but I find it hard to play without one, Maybe my own complex. I have to have it for help with my own judgement on my playing style-may sound crazy but I need guards in my life.

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I used to not like the look of them, but I kinda like the small floating ones ala Ellis and the like.

    If you've played long enough w/o one I guess it would really be in the way. A really good picker played my mandolin (with the small guard) at a jam and hooked his finger on it and snapped it off in his solo. Never stopped.

  11. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Back on 1983, my only mandolin was my '23 A2 snakehead and it needed a fretjob. Since mandolin was my main instrument at that time, I started looking around but there really was not much out there. Then I found out that Flatiron came out with two of the first models of carved top A-5 mandolins so I bought one.

    The interesting thin to me was that it didn't come with a fingerrest/pickguard. I do remember calling Steve Carlson and asking him what it would cost to make a pickguard for mine. I never did have him do it though.
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I like them, I don't plant, but let my fingers brush the guard and it helps control depth. I can easily play without, but I prefer to use it. If I buy a mandolin without one, I make one for it. I also like the look and while the smaller guards look ok, I would be falling off while i am playing. I also like a guard/rest that angles down like the top, it is much more friendly for playing. I guess you could say I am in the finger rest camp.
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    After seeing Bill Monroe's , Bobby Osborne's, Earl Taylor's, and a few other long time pros, I would rather call them "top protectors".

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  15. #11

    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Being previously a fiddler and harper, I have no instinct to plant a finger on the instrument and tend to hold my pick hand well off the instrument, so I find it makes no playing difference to me whether one is there or not.

    I like the look of a pick guard on the mandolin, but I like them just fine without, too. I'm good with either setup.

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  17. #12

    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I have to have them, I like them and need them in order to play. I can't play an arch top mandolin without a finger rest and I would not buy a mandolin that's been ruined by an exuberant picker. On the left is part of my stable. On the right is some exuberant picker

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I use them. Protector, finger rest.

    Protection is helpful. And a convenient way to keep your spare on stage pick at the ready.

    I am pretty controlled when strumming, comping, chopping, but there are frenetic moments when im trying to get as much as i can out of my instruments. Mostly in a in-the-moment jam. One can hit the top. I have, and most unwittingly, or , wittlessly, if you like. Perhaps because i plant, rest on the bridge (guitar) or float.

    And.....i think, perhaps, they reduce interference with the fretboard extention, ie Florida, at least i have no issues, and i think it is because my hand and pick are raised even with the strings. I think.....

    And, i too agree ...no deefarance in sound (sblock, this spelling is for an attempt at humor, just so you know)...lol.

  20. #14
    Registered User djeffcoat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    My used Collings MT came without a pickguard. It had a shiny spot worn in the satin finish below the strings so I had a pickguard installed to hide it. Plus, I like having a fingerrest.

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I like them. It serves as a reference point for my right hand. I don't plant my fingers, but I like to have them touching somewhere on the mandolin. With a pickguard I can keep my hand in more of a loose fist while brushing the backs of my fingers on the pickguard. Without one, my hand tends to open up a bit more so that my fingers reach the top of the mandolin. So I think they help my technique. I know the best technique is to not have to touch at all, but that's not for me.

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    My preference is yes, finger rest but, I have played a few without and I feel lost, no reference point for depth.
    I donít really plant but, I do prefer one for the feel. That sounds really odd now that Iíve written it but, I think you get the idea. Much like pops itís a reference point.
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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    I like Marla Fibish's knuckle groove much more than any pick-guard I have seen. She discusses it from about 3:40 in this video:

    https://pegheadnation.com/instrument...bson-mandolin/
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Anyway, the choice to use a pickguard, or not, has very little at all to do with tone. Of that, I am quite sure.
    The overwhelming majority of those who play without a pick guard are not top players.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The overwhelming majority of those who play without a pick guard are not top players.
    And it seems the majority of those who play, with or without a pick guard, are not top players.

    Among the top players, it seems variable. Some of those without pick guards include Bush, O'Brien, Thile, Marshall, Flinner.
    A-5's: Nugget/Collings, Newson

  26. #20

    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    For me a pickguard is second only to extended fretboards for getting in the way/being useless.
    At least the pickguard is easier to get rid of.

  27. #21
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The overwhelming majority of those who play without a pick guard are not top players.
    Based on my lack of citations and surveys, I overwhelmingly agree with you!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The overwhelming majority of those who play without a pick guard are not top players.
    The overwhelming majority of those who play mandolin pluck the strings on the top of the instrument and therefore are top players.
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    When fingernails do some significant re-contouring of a well carved top it seems to me that it will affect the sound, maybe for the better, maybe not.
    -Newtonamic

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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    The overwhelming majority of those who play mandolin pluck the strings on the top of the instrument and therefore are top players.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  32. #25
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    Default Re: Pickgaurds forgotten?

    My experience is that the pick guard makes little or no difference and is entirely a persona aesthetic or playing preference. At any and all levels. Certainly putting on or taking off a pick guard won't make one great, or even better. But if following your aesthetic preference or the aesthetics of your mandolin hero make you practice eight hours a day, well yea, you will get better.

    If the mandolin originally had a pick guard, I leave it on, if the mandolin was not conceived with a pick guard, I refrain from adding one. But that is me.
    Indulge responsibly!

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