13 Best Pickguards 2023 For Telecaster, Stratocaster & More (& What A Pickguard Even Is)
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Guitars are made up of a variety of parts.
And, not all guitars are created equal because they don’t always come with the same parts.
There can be variations in terms of volume and tone knobs, pickups, tuners, potentiometers and more.
One part that makes a significant difference in terms of how a guitar looks is the pickguard (although there is some speculation around the idea that it might affect your tone, too).
We’ll talk more about what role it plays a little later. It’s not necessarily an essential part of any guitar, and some guitars don’t even come with a pickguard, but some of the most popular models do.
So, let’s look at the best pickguards for Telecasters, Stratocasters and more.
Best Telecaster Pickguards
Of the many guitars out there, we know that Telecasters are among one of the most popular.
They are the go-to guitar for country music and they are also favored among rhythm guitarists in a variety of genres.
And, unlike some guitars, we also know that Teles come with pickguards.
So, to kick off this list, we’ll be looking at pickguards made specifically for Telecasters.
If you’re looking for something else, stay tuned – we look at other solutions a little later.
Best Choice: An Authentic Fender Modern Pickguard, Telecaster – Tortoise Shell
Available in five-hole and eight-hole configurations (check your guitar to ensure compatibility), the Fender Telecaster pickguard is an authentic Fender product.
This pickguard comes with a one-year limited warranty, and though it might cost a little more compared to some others on this list, it looks cool and should fit most Teles – American, American Standard, American Deluxe, American Special, Highway One, Road Worn, Deluxe Player, Blacktop, Standard and Deluxe series – possibly other Teles too.
Although some buyers say they weren’t crazy about the design, most are satisfied with the Fender pickguard. It should prove a solid choice.
Musiclily 8 Hole Tele Pickguard
For those on a budget, there’s the Musiclily 8 Hole Tele pickguard.
Perhaps the most attractive thing about this pickguard is the fact that it comes in a large variety of styles and colors – Black Pearl, 1 Ply White, 1 Ply Cream, 3 Ply Ivory, 3 Ply Mint, 3 Ply Parchment, 3 Ply Black, 3 Ply Cream, 3 Ply Mint Green, 3 Ply White, 4 Ply Purple Pearl, 3 Ply Red Pearl, 4 Ply Tortoise Shell, 4 Ply White Pearl, Abalone Pearl, Agate Black, Blue Pearl, Parchment Pearl, Pearl Bronze, Pearl Green, Pearl Grey, Pearl Yellow, Red Tortoise, Shell Black White, Shell Blue Yellow, Shell Red Yellow, Shell Tiger Spot, Silver Mirror and Tawny Stripe.
The Musiclily pickguard fits USA/Mexican made Standard Telecasters, and it comes with eight mounting screw holes and two screw holes for the neck pickup.
The thickness of the 3-ply model is 0.09 inches.
The Musiclily pickguard may require a bit of modification for it to work with your Tele but overall it’s a nice product.
KAISH 8 Hole Tele Guitar Pickguard
The KAISH Tele pickguard fits Mexican/USA standard Fender Telecasters (it may not fit other Teles without modification).
This affordable solution comes in Black Pearl, White Pearl, Abalone Pearl, Aged Pearl, Aged White 3 Ply, Black 3 Ply, Blue Pearl, Clear/Transparent 1 Ply, Red/Black Tortoise and Vintage Tortoise.
The pickguard is made of plastic and comes with a plastic film that should be removed after installation.
Note it doesn’t come with mounting screw holes for the pickup. Its thickness is roughly 2.2mm and it does comes with pickguard mounting screws.
This is a good bang for buck solution, but it’s far from perfect, because in some cases, you may need to modify it slightly to get it to fit properly.
The KAISH, however, is still worth a look.
Best Stratocaster Pickguards
As with the Telecaster, the Stratocaster has a lot of history behind it.
It is one of the most iconic guitars of all time, with the perfect balance of tone and versatility.
When you think of Strats, it’s hard not to conjure up images of players like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Frusciante and more.
Even John Mayer’s signature PRS Silver Sky is basically a Strat style guitar with minor differences – in spite of it being a Paul Reed Smith guitar and not a Fender.
Strats tend to be great for a variety of genres, perhaps except for metal and jazz, although they are sometimes used for those styles too.
But Strats are not all the same, whether it’s the pickups the guitar comes equipped with, or the instrument’s finish.
Pickguards make a difference too.
So, here are some of the best Stratocaster pickguards.
Fender Modern Pickguard, Stratocaster, 11-Hole
The Fender Stratocaster pickguard is available in 11-hole and eight-hole configurations.
It comes in Black, White, Gold, Tortoise Shell, Eggshell, Mint Green, Aged White Moto, Anodized, Black Moto, White Moto and Parchment.
The authentic Fender pickguard is made of premium celluloid material and comes with a one-year limited warranty.
The Fender pickguard doesn’t get a perfect score from buyers, and it costs a little more than the alternatives. But its quality is still an improvement on the alternatives.
If there’s anything to look out for, first it would be fit. Ensure that the pickguard will fit your guitar before buying it.
Second, if your guitar currently uses countersunk screws, you may need to modify this pickguard for it to work with your axe.
Aside from that, Fender is generally a sure bet.
IKN 1 Pcs 11 Hole SSS Style Guitar Pickguard Scratch Plate
IKN’s Strat style pickguard comes in numerous designs and styles – 1 Ply Black, 1 Ply Cream, 1 Ply Matte Black, 1 Ply Transparent, 1 Ply White, 3 Ply Black, 3 Ply Cream, 3 Ply Ivory White, 3 Ply Mint Green, 3 Ply White, 4 Ply Aged Pearl, 4 Ply Black Pearl, 4 Ply Blue Pearl, 4 Ply Brown Tortoise Shell, 4 Ply Brown Pearl, 4 Ply Pink Pearl, 4 Ply Red Tortoise Shell, 4 Ply Skyblue Pearl, 4 Ply Vintage Mint Green Pearl and 4 Ply White Pearl.
This pickguard fits USA/Mexican made Standard Strats. The screw holes may not line up right if you have a different guitar.
IKN’s pickguards are made of celluloid and PVC plastic material. They arrive with two-layer plastic films on the front, anti-scratch, pure aluminum foil shield on the back, shielding and anti-interference.
Reviews are mostly good, but the IKN pickguards are relatively cheap. So, they may not be of the best quality.
But it still stands as one of the more popular options.
Musiclily SSS 11 Hole Strat Electric Guitar Pickguard
As with the Telecaster pickguard, Musiclily’s Strat pickguard is affordable and comes in a variety of styles and designs.
This pickguard fits Fender USA/Mexican Standard Stratocasters and comes with 11 mounting screw holes, 0.09-inch thickness and two layers of protective film (to be removed upon installation).
Most users are happy with their purchase, though as you might expect, this is not a premium pickguard by any means. You get what you pay for.
But it’s nice to know the Musiclily option is available.
Telecasters and Stratocasters aren’t the only guitars that come equipped with pickguards. Some Gibson Les Pauls and ES-335s do, as do other electrics and many acoustic guitars as well.
Further, there are some guitars that don’t even come with pickguards that you may want to add one to.
After all, a lot of players like to protect their most prized possessions and avoid scratching the finish on their guitars.
Perhaps it could enhance the look of your guitar too.
Here we’ll look at miscellaneous pickguards that may be of interest to you.
Gibson Gear PRPG-30 Les Paul Pickguard
The Gibson Gear PRPG-30 is an authentic Gibson replacement part as found on vintage Gibson instruments.
Most users of the product report it works nicely as a replacement on a Les Paul. There are some minor complaints about it not fitting and being expensive, so that’s something to keep in mind.
But you should always check your guitar to ensure the pickguard fits before buying.
Plus, the price of the PRPG-30 is close to what you’d expect, if a tad on the pricier side for a pickguard.
There’s not a whole lot more I can say about the Gibson Gear pickguard.
mLaval Guitar Parts Universal Guitar Pickguard For Les Paul Style Electric Guitar
The 4-ply universal guitar pickguard is perfect for Les Paul style guitars. Each one features a unique Tortoise pattern.
The pickguard comes with two screw holes but does not come with a mounting bracket or screws. It comes with a protective film out of the box, which you may want to remove upon installation.
This mLaval Guitar Parts pickguard is a good product overall. Just check to ensure it will fit your guitar before purchase.
Musiclily Electric Guitar Pickguard For Gibson Les Paul
The 4-ply Musiclily pickguard is ideal for Les Paul Custom guitars.
It has a 0.09-inch thickness, two mounting screw holes and a protective film on top.
A customizer’s dream, this scratch plate comes in a multitude of colors including Pearl White, 1Ply Black, 1Ply Cream, 1Ply White, 3Ply Cream, 3Ply Ivory, 3Ply Mint, 3Ply Black, 3Ply Mint Green, 3Ply Parchment, 3Ply White, 4Ply Tortoise Shell, Matte Black, Pearl Black, Pearl Blue, Pearl Bronze, Pearl Earthy Yellow, Pearl Green, Pearl Grey, Pearl Mint, Pearl Parchment, Pearl Red, Pearl Purple, Red Tortoise, Shell Tiger Spot, Silver Mirror Acrylic, Vintage Tortoise and Yellow Black.
The Musiclily should serve as a good replacement guard. Again, double check to ensure that it’s the right fit for your guitar before buying it.
This is a good cost-effective solution too.
KAISH Single Black 1 Ply LP Guitar Pickguard With Black Bracket
This 1 ply KAISH pickguard is made of plastic. The bracket, of course, is made of metal, and is available in Black, Chrome and Gold.
The pickguard only fits Standard Epiphone Les Pauls, so users beware.
If you’re looking to equip your Standard Epiphone Les Paul with a new pickguard, the KAISH is a cost-effective choice.
Custom World Guitar Parts Short ES 335 Guitar Pickguard
The 5-ply Custom World Guitar Parts pickguard is designed specifically for Gibson ES-335 guitars but will not fit Epiphone guitars.
Buyers have been quite happy with their purchase of this Custom World Guitar Parts pickguard. Just ensure it’s the right size before picking it up.
mLaval Guitar Parts 3 Ply Universal Pickguard
The mLaval Guitar Parts universal pickguard is designed specifically for the Epiphone Dot Jazz Guitar and other similar archtop guitars.
It features a 3-ply construction and comes with a protective film on the top brand new.
Most users of the mLaval Guitar Parts pickguard love it and its price isn’t too shabby either.
Dopro American Vintage Jazzmaster Guitar Pickguard
As the name suggests, the Dopro American Vintage Jazzmaster pickguard fits perfectly on Fender Vintage Jazzmasters (it may not work with others Jazzmasters).
The pickguard is made of plastic and it has plastic films on it, which should be removed after installation.
Its thickness is 2.2mm and it comes with 17 guitar pickguard screws.
This pickguard comes in several attractive colors, including Black Pearl, Aged White, Black 3 Ply, Black/White Shell, Mint Green 3 Ply, Tiger Stripe and Vintage Tortoise.
The Dopro is a good product for the price.
What Should I Look For In A Pickguard?
When it comes right down to it, pickguards aren’t sophisticated or fancy. They’re just pieces of plastic, celluloid or some other durable material that sit on your guitar.
So, you shouldn’t need to think too deep and hard about your purchase, especially considering the average price of a pickguard (about $20).
But here are a few things I would look at when buying a pickguard:
The Right Fit
Not that you can’t modify a pickguard (you can), but if you aren’t technical in nature, it’s nicer to have one that fits your guitar properly out of the box.
Always check the product description along with your own guitar before purchasing a pickguard. That way, you can avoid situations where you end up with the wrong product.
You can get away with drilling holes or modifying the pickguard to fit your axe, but only do so if you’re confident you know how to do it. Sometimes the extra hassle is barely even worth it.
Of course, if necessary, you can take your guitar to a tech too.
If your guitar doesn’t come with a pickguard but you’re looking for a viable alternative, you might consider a clear acrylic adhesive.
That’s what I have on my Ernie Ball Music Man Axis and it has worked well, even though it’s not terribly thick.
There are solutions if you go looking for them. It’s just a matter of what you want.
The Right Look
The deciding factor for many will be how their pickguard looks on their guitar.
Many guitarists switch out their pickguards not so they can have their guitar look the same as it was before installing the new pickguard, but so it looks and feels like an entirely new instrument.
So, getting a pickguard to update or change the look of your axe is something you can do to feel inspired to play it again.
Of course, if you’re happy with how it looks now, you could simply look for a replacement.
My only advice here would be to get a pickguard that complements or enhances the look of your guitar. The rest is entirely up to you.
A green pickguard on a white guitar can look cool.
A red pickguard on a blue guitar might clash, unless of course, that’s what you’re going for.
There are so many combinations to experiment with, but you should be able to get a good sense of how a pickguard is going to look on your guitar before buying it.
So, have fun choosing from the many options available.
The Right Price Point
At $5 to $35, pickguards shouldn’t break the bank.
There’s generally nothing wrong with cheaper pickguards, though there tends to be a bit of a difference with higher priced ones.
I know it might seem odd to spend more when there are lower priced products, and sometimes cheaper pickguards are decent enough.
But you do get what you pay for and paying a little more for a pickguard will ensure that you get a quality product.
It’s still up to you, of course. Buying based on your budget is always a wise choice.
What Is A Pickguard?
Some guitars come with pickguards. Some don’t. They generally sit below/beneath your pickups and you might not even notice them as they sometimes blend in with the design of the guitar (as is the case with Stratocasters).
Pickguards generally feel smooth to the touch and sit above the body of the guitar. So, if you feel a material other than the guitar's body, that's probably your pickguard.
Pickguards come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the design of the guitar. As you can imagine, manufacturers usually match pickguards to the guitars they build.
Pickguards are typically made of celluloid, vinyl and acrylic glass.
Sometimes they play a functional role in the design of the guitar (e.g. hiding the wiring) and sometimes they don’t.
What Does A Pickguard Do?
A pickguard’s primary function is to protect your guitar’s finish from pick scratches.
Even if you’re not an aggressive player, as you can imagine, over time, you can end up scratching your guitar’s finish.
This isn’t necessarily a big deal, because every guitar is subject to some wear and tear over time, especially any instrument that gets used a lot.
And, relic guitars are becoming increasingly popular, so maybe damage to the finish isn’t that big of a deal. It depends on the individual.
Of course, if you’re going to spend several thousand dollars on a guitar, you might be more inclined to protect it from potential damage.
A pickguard also adds (or takes away) from a guitar’s visual appeal. With so many designs out there, you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
It might seem like an odd thing to say, but a new pickguard can breathe new life into an old guitar.
Swapping out parts and making your guitar your own can be a lot of fun and can also lead to new discoveries.
Do I Need A Pickguard?
Some guitars come with pickguards. Others don’t.
From this, we can conclude with some confidence that a pickguard is not mandatory by any means.
You can certainly add a pickguard to your guitar, depending on the type of guitar as well as what style of pickguard or material you use.
Some guitars weren’t designed with pickguards in mind, and as such, you might need to turn to a custom solution if you want one.
I’ve seen some players who are so aggressive with their strumming and picking that the pickguard doesn’t make much of a difference.
They have scratches above, below and around the pickups, and sometimes holes in their guitar from their wailing.
Protecting your guitar is one thing, but there’s a good chance your efforts will only go so far.
So, pickguards can be good, but you don’t necessarily need one and they can only do so much for you.
Does Thickness Make A Difference?
Some say if the pickguard is thicker, your string height will need to be adjusted.
Some say if the pickguard fits tightly around the pickups, it can affect their vibrations and therefore your tone.
I honestly couldn’t tell you whether this is just speculation or fact.
One measurable way in which it makes a difference is cosmetically. Obvious enough, but it’s worth pointing out.
And, if the pickguard is made of a sturdy material, it’s relatively unlikely that it’s going to break easily, regardless of whether it’s 1 ply or 3 ply.
I have yet to have any pickguards crack or break on me with normal use.
If in doubt, simply check to see what’s on your guitar right now (1 ply or 3 ply) and buy one based on your findings.
Top Pickguards For Telecaster & Stratocaster Compared, Final Thoughts
As far as I’m concerned, pickguards aren’t anything to fuss about.
If you aren’t happy with one, it’s not as though they are expensive to replace. You can swap them out at will, assuming it isn’t too much work.
Since Strats and Teles have pickups sitting beneath the pickups, it can take a little more work to replace them though. So, buyer beware.
Otherwise, have fun choosing your next pickguard.
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