View Full Version : Does a pick guard hurt the tone?

Mo Uke
05-20-2011, 10:41 PM
I have a Lanikai S-C. For those not familiar, the whole uke is mahogany, except the top. It has a very light colored Spruce top (with a fresh ding from my little brother). I would like to accent the top (and cover the ding) with possibly a custom mahogany (or other dark wood) pick guard. Nothing huge that would desecrate the instrument. Does anyone on here know if adding a small pick guard would hurt the tone or resonance? What is the best way to attach it? Is it better to use a plastic or formica material instead of wood? Any help is greatly appreciated!! I really love the tone of the uke and will not do anything that sacrifices the sound.

05-20-2011, 10:48 PM
An interesting question - dont know the answer, but keen to see replies.

On an acoustic guitar they are commonplace, but of course the soundboard is much, much larger. Adding a guard to a uke would take up quite a bit of space.

That said, the vibration of the soundboard on a standard shaped uke comes more from the lower fatter bout of the body, so presume avoiding that area (as a pickguard would) would help.

Also, presume the thickness of the guard will also affect things - you can get some very very thin clear guard material you can cut to shape

Mo Uke
05-20-2011, 10:56 PM
I was thinking something about this size, proportionately:


05-21-2011, 04:50 AM
I'm planning on putting a thin tortoise pick guard much like the ones above on my "blues uke." (added the picture to my Uke Pickguard design folder). From my research, perhaps best method is a thin, double stick film specifically designed to attach pickguards to instrument bodies.

05-21-2011, 05:34 AM
A pick guard, or strumguard as we call it can be a handy thing for an ukulele and doesn't have to hurt the sound at all.

It should go mainly above the soundhole - that is where your soundboard is pretty much inactive. Below that and you do start to muffle sound.

Find your sweet spot for strumming. Of course you may move up and down at times for effect, but the sweet spot is usually about the center of the scale, and that is above the soundhole on an ukulele. On our long scales, even more so.

You can use thin plastic, even trasparent, or thin polished wood. Am attaching photos of the ones we'll offer on our new Softop Plus models. We'll send them out unattached.

http://www.southcoastukes.com/Misc/Test Pair 002sm.jpg

http://www.southcoastukes.com/Misc/Test Pair 003sm.jpg

It's easy enough to attach these, the wood or the opaque plastic, using thin double sided mounting tape. It is secure, but the bond is not too strong. They can be removed if needs be without damage to the top (the finish will need a bit of attention).

Mo Uke
05-21-2011, 09:14 AM
Thanks guys! I will post pictures when i finish the work! Plus I still haven't posted any pics of my Uke yet, so i guess some before and afters are in order...

mm stan
05-21-2011, 09:25 AM
Most of your sounds devlop in the bottom bout..of course if you are concerned, get the thin transparent Plastic pick guards...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-21-2011, 09:45 AM
Most of your sounds devlop in the bottom bout..of course if you are concerned, get the thin transparent Plastic pick guards...

I agree. And a pick guard certainly doesn't help the tone. The entire sound is vibrating to some extent. Honestly, I think anything you add to the sound board anywhere is going to detract from the tone. To what degree it is affected may or may not be noticeable to your ears. I think the thin (.005") self-adhesive mylar plastic sheets offered by Stewart MacDonald are the least offensive.

Mo Uke
05-21-2011, 10:43 AM
Its pretty obvious that it wont help... but i am gonna go with a very thin material... was originally thinking a thin wood, but i think that it will muffle or alter the sound more than a thin mylar (or similar material) sheet. I made a stencil... I will be using this shape, making multiples with different designs to see what i like. What do you think?

05-21-2011, 11:07 AM
Anything that restricts the top from flexing will affect the sound. How much is really the question. Overall, I suspect little, but it will certainly be some. It could be countered somewhat, I expect, by a slightly larger body and sound hole.

05-21-2011, 12:03 PM
I was thinking something about this size, proportionately:


If it is the same as this
then it will not do anything to the sound. it is a thin sticker. think about all the people who have stickers on the front of their ukes, it does nothing to sound. I am thinking of doing this myself but with a clear one to protect my david Gill concert pineapple, before I put a hole in the finish.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-21-2011, 12:38 PM
I didn't read the OP's question carefully. If we're talking about inexpensive ukes here, anything you do in the way of pick guards will likely have a negligible impact on the sound.

05-21-2011, 12:49 PM
Would sign vinyl work ? Is it a) thick enough to protect the uke but b) gentle and flexible enough not to affect the tone ?

Not sure how it would affect the surface if / when it was removed though ...

05-21-2011, 01:14 PM
Great prices on pick guard material at guitarfetish.com

05-21-2011, 01:29 PM
personally, I dont think it's gonna make that big of a difference. I sold two tenors that also have a rosewood pickguard on both sides of the sound hole. They both sound great with awesome tone. Of course I dont know what they would sound like without them, but if they sound better than they do with them, I might pass out playing them, so it's all good.. ;)

05-21-2011, 01:35 PM
If you can tell the difference in the sound after putting on a thin pick guard properly, you've got dog ears.

05-21-2011, 02:45 PM
If you can tell the difference in the sound after putting on a thin pick guard properly, you've got dog ears.

HEY, who you calling a dog?!?!

05-21-2011, 03:21 PM
HEY, who you calling a dog?!?!I'm howling....can you hear it?

05-21-2011, 03:55 PM
You really don't get any sound worth worrying about from above the soundhole.

If you want to design an instrument where the entire soundboard contributes to the sound, then do away with the traditional upper bout.

Have a top like a violin, or maybe a Vita Uke, with f-holes to the side instead of a big round hole blocking vibration in the pinched center of the waist. You don't want a fingerboard inhibiting sound, so it should stop at the body, or be elevated. Most of all, you'll need some sort of block design that hardly glues to the underside of the top at all.

The traditonal shape and construction of both ukuleles and their relatives is about producing sound from below a central soundhole. Centuries of small 4-string design, including the Cuatro Venezolano, Portugese Cavaquinho and most of the small Madeiran designs have put strumguards on the upper bout. It doesn't hurt at all.

mr moonlight
05-21-2011, 08:59 PM
It really depends on the individual instrument. Some will be noticeably affected by a pick guard and others won't. If anything I prefer the thin clear Mylar ones. Just think about it this way, if you need a pick guard, put one on. No matter what its better than wearing through your finish or worse yet, making a hole in your uke.