Guitar Pickups: Direct Mounted vs Pickguard vs Rings

Guitar pickup mounting is said to affect the way your pickups react to vibrations. While it’s a matter of taste and preference, it’s worth considering trying different mounts if you haven’t already.

Direct mounted pickups are mounted onto the body of your guitar with short wood nails, Pickguard mounted pickups are attached to the guitar’s pickguard and Ring pickups are suspended in a metal ring placed onto the guitar. Each has its pros and cons.

If you’re new to guitar or just never considered the placement of your pickups, there’s no need to fret. I’ll be covering everything pickup-related today so that you don’t have to feel lost in the sea of opinions and puritanism.

What are direct mounted pickups?

Direct mounted pickups are exactly what they say they are, they’re mounted directly to your guitar. The first direct-mounted pickup guitar was actually Eddy Van Halen’s Frankenstrat, custom-built by Eddy himself, a lot of guitar players swear by the mounting.

Funny enough, direct-mounted pickups never became a mainstream thing and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lot of models sporting this mounting style. They have a small following of players that swear by their ability to improve tonal quality, so take some of the pros with a grain of salt.


  • Aesthetically cool
  • Richer tones
  • Better sound pickup
  • Less feedback
  • Don’t need to remove pickups to remove the pickguard


  • Difficult to adjust without losing stability
  • Can damage your guitar body
  • Usually, a custom change to your guitar which could lead to damage

What are pickguard-mounted pickups?

Pickguards, otherwise known as scratch plates, are the plastic cover on the guitar body underneath and around the strings used to protect the finish from being scratched by overzealous playing.

Pickguard-mounted pickups are probably the most mainstream form of pickups, mostly because they were popularized by fender back when guitars started becoming electrified.

They don’t really play any role in tonal changes, but they do have the added convenience of more pickup height adjustment. You’ll probably only ever adjust your pickups once, but the added range of height is great if you want to have a truly unique variation in tones.


  • More height adjustment
  • Aesthetic taste
  • Electronics are stored in the front so debatably more convenient


  • Removing the pickguard requires you to remove the pickups
  • Some claim less tonal warmth
  • Possibly get feedback from the strings

What are pickup rings?

Pickup rings are most commonly used on humbucker pickups. They essentially suspend the pickups over a hole with the electronics connecting the pickups to the volume controls. They were created to minimize vibrations being pickup from the body.

A lot of guitarists don’t like pickup rings because they don’t leave room for changes to your guitar’s mounting. It’s also considered an unnecessary accessory that just makes for more wearable parts on your guitar.

I will admit that as a stylistic choice, they look great on some guitars and when done well, they give their own aesthetic feel that direct mounted or pickguard mounted pickups don’t. It’s quite subjective here, so don’t let the puritans bash you for your likes and dislikes.


  • Suspension may lessen feedback
  • Depending on your taste, it could be seen as cool
  • rings have adjustable height


  • It may need to be replaced over time
  • Not as easily switchable as other mountings
  • More holes in your guitar’s body

Should you really worry about how your guitar pickups are mounted?

Not really. In my opinion, you should try out all kinds of guitars with different mounts and decide for yourself which one you like best.

Different mounts, along with a whole slew of other custom combinations from pickup models to fretboard wood to string gauge and guitar models all work together to give guitars unique sounds. 

A different pickup mount on its own probably won’t make much of a difference to how your guitar will sound though and it will mainly be a matter of preference.

I’ve played several guitars, all with different mountings and while adjusting the pickups was a different experience with each one, the way the pickups were mounted didn’t make a huge difference for me. 

Then again, I’m into all kinds of models and sounds because I make many different genres of music.

If you’re hung up on a specific kind of pickup mounting though, then it’s totally within your rights to change your guitar however you want. 

Can you change the pickup mount type on your guitar?

You can, but it will leave scars if you’re not careful. I’d recommend you take your guitar to a luthier if you want to get it customized. 

With different mounts, it becomes more difficult to hide signs of them having been there before, but a good luthier could probably fill out the holes and hide them for the most part.

In my opinion, it’s not worth it to go and change your guitar’s pickup mount. Rather just buy a guitar with the mount you’re interested in trying. 

That way, you’ll have the option of A or B without having to change back and forth.