Please scroll down, there’s lots to see here, and it's not in any special order (or click on names in the Table of Contents).
Practically a “Who’s-Who” of contemporary mandolinists! (and some older ones too)
Examples of standard and many custom Gards for Mandolins, such Rigels, and also for Guitars, Ukes, Autoharps, and even Banjos.
Many photos are “thumbnails” that you can click for larger image.
If you’re not here and should be, please send a photo (JPG) like those below, and any comments to email@example.com.
(website) uses the custom Dawgard for a louder bark and more bite: “I’ve been using
Tony Pires’ ToneGard for well over a year now and I think it’s a
wonderful thing…. My impression is that by keeping the back of the
mandolin from touching one’s chest, the instrument is free to resonate
more. I notice more highs, more lows, and more volume, which is always
nice to have in a live situation. I also use it in recording and find
positive results there as well. In fact the only time I don’t use it is
when I forget to put it on…. Thanks to Tony Pires for a true
mando-improvement.” CoMANDO (2003)
Thanks to the Dawg for mentioning the ToneGard and yours truly in his liner notes to his 2003 CD with Sam Bush, “Hold On, We’re Strumming“!
(website) is a great guy, in addition to being a superstar. He uses a custom Flowerpot design Tone-Gard on his Gibson Lloyd Loar F5s and Gilchrist.
Ricky at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, October 2011, 'Gard arm visible on lower side of mandolin.
(website) was a member of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The
Desert Rose Band, and has played with folks like Emmylou Harris, Stephen Stills,
Vern Gosdin, David Crosby, Gram Parsons, Dan Fogelberg, J.D. Souther,
Bob Dylan, and Roger McGuinn.
has played with everybody from the Kentucky Colonels (with his brother, the late guitar hero Clarence White), to Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, the
Country Gazette, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.
was the very first professional endorser of the Tone-Gard. He has taken his
Tone-Gards all over the US and Europe, bringing it to the attention of
more people than anybody else. His workshops and articles in various
publications have done a lot to make the mandolin-playing public aware
of the Tone-Gard. He has also challenged me to make Gards to go where
there were none. Kind of a R&D lab on tour.
(website) Years ago Radim met Andy Statman, and in the course of things showed him the Tone-Gard, and the rest is history. I can’t begin to tell you how cool this is for me. Andy Statman
has always been one of my heroes, and to have him endorse the Gard is
amazing. I wish I could remember some of the great things he had to say
about the Gard, but I was in shock. What do you say to your hero? The Fall 2005 Mandolin Magazine
cover story about Andy Statman said at page 6: “To ensure that he can
generate maximal tone and volume from the A-style, oval-holed
instrument [a Gibson A2Z snakehead from 1922 or '23],
he keeps a Toneguard [sic] wire support device on the back so he
doesn’t inhibit the back’s vibrations by holding it directly against
(website) another “needs-no-introduction” mandolinist and teacher, co-founder of the Mandolin Symposium, performer with the Darol Anger-Mike Marshall Band, Anger & Marshall, Choro Famoso, Marshall & Thile, Edgar Meyer group, formerly of the David Grisman Quintet, Psychograss, Montreux, the Modern Mandolin Quartet, etc., etc.
(website) soloist extraordinaire and a longtime member of the David Grisman Quintet and other great groups, uses a Gard on his most conventional instrument.
(website) the foremost jazz mandolinist in America today, says: "I love it! It
seems like before long a Tone-Gard should be standard issue with every
mandolin, like shoulder rests for the violinist.”
(website) jazz and western swing great, featured on voluminous projects with
artists such as Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, Mark O’Connor, Jethro Burns,
Mike Marshall, Tony Trishka, Jerry Douglas, Howard Levy, Peter Rowan,
Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Eldon Shamblin, Allison Krause, Keely
Willis, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, Laurie
Lewis, Riders in the Sky, Asleep at the Wheel, and many others, says: "I think the Tone-Gard is a great invention. It allows my mandolin to
resonate to full potential and helps protect the back of the instrument
as well. I depend on it every day. Thanks Tony!"
of the headline bluegrass band IIIrd Tyme Out, says: "These really do make an incredible difference!"
has been playing all kinds of music for over 30 years now, including
celtic, jazz, rock and roll, bluegrass and Brazilian choro.
(website), performing partner of Laurie Lewis, as well as fine singer and instrumentalist in his own right, has Gards on his 1924 Loar F-5 (the Custom “Dog-Boy” Gard) and 1924 H-1 “Nelson” Mandola:
noted musican, writer of instructional material, proprietor of Musix, and former editor of Mandolin World News:
(website) who played mandolin, as well as bass guitar and keyboards, as a member of rock legends Led Zeppelin, has a custom Zep-Gard:
(website) shows his Shamrock-Gard to Ronnie McCoury backstage at Greymont. Ronnie has one too, and told Kenny that he just uses it when recording.
(website) He said in Mandozine: “My main (and only) mandolin now is the 1996 Bruce Weber Gibson … It has a ‘Tone-Gard’ on the back of it … I can hear an audible difference with it as opposed to without it. David Grisman turned me onto that thing at the Grey Fox Festival in New York several years ago. Obviously, when he speaks, I listen.”
Rigel “Ruby” CT-110 in its special Rigel Tone-Gard (photos by F. Farrell):
shows his Gard to Evan Marshall (Photo courtesy of Andy Gates)
IBMA 2011 "Entertainer of the Year" winner with the Steep Canyon Rangers, with a Banjo-Gard on the back of his custom clawhammer banjo (see BanjoHangOut forum):
photo by Bearrr
(website) "It fits great and looks great! From the moment I fitted it I could tell a difference in the tone of my banjo, it seemed to have a more rounded balanced tone, it's difficult to fully describe, certainly an improvement to my ears." A custom banjo-gard designed to fit over the resonator:
Custom Gold Tone-Gards. The “W” is for “Weber”:
The custom Kokopelli-Gard:
The custom HarpGard features a Celtic harp motif:
who made the “Tone-Gard” wood name plaques in some of the photos. Here’s his custom gard:
Speaking of palm trees, is the AlohaGard available for ukeleles?
Sure. Here is the Martin baritone uke of...
With a d’Aigle Cascade Autoharp:
“Although I already had considerable volume and tone on my Hilburn
mandolin, adding the Gard gave me more punch when I really needed it
(Bluegrass), but as importantly allowed me to play with a lighter
attack when maximum volume wasn’t needed, allowing more finesse. The
Gard increased the dynamic range of my instrument and increased my joy
in playing it…. I really appreciate my Tone-Gard and would never leave
home without it.” Drew left home in Boulder, Colorado, long enough to win
the 2001 mandolin championship at Winfield playing his F-5 made by Jim Hilburn of Louisville, Co. He displays his prizes:
Drew is the sole legitimate descendant, amongst reputedly hundreds of illegitimate
descendants, of the legendary Rom (”gypsy”) mandolinist Hor’tone, from
whom he inherited the Djangolin. De rigeur are Custom ‘Gards for the Djangolin:
I also make GuitarGards, such as this Maccaferi-style and two views of a Martin 000 gard
Here are Dreadgards on a Martin D-18. A standard D-Gard is also available.
of the Royal Garden Trio with his ‘33 Gibson L-5 guitar. He likes his custom Tone-Gard for strolling gigs.
Test designs for guitars and ukes that rests further forward, for finger-style and jazz guitar players.
R&D model for Seth Oster's custom Gibson L-7 jazz guitar
A 2015 prototype for dreadnought guitars:
Master luthier Michael Lewis of Grass Valley, CA, made his “Bobby Osbourne Model” F-5 (I believe #4 of the Bobby Osborne Signature line). Rick’s Timberline Studio did some of the photos on the
homepage and here. Thanks for everything (you know what I mean).
with his Jethro-model Washburn:
(website) and her Breedlove Orca Tone-Garded:
of The Glenville State Bluegrass Band
pickin’ buddy, as well as webmaster of Tone-Gard.com, shows the Gards on his mandolins, one made of osage-orange by master harp-builder Dave Thormahlen, and a 1982 F5 by John Welch. (Note
to potential website contributors: compare this awkward vertical
double-mandolin technique with Tom Rozum’s more graceful horizontal
method, above.) At right is his custom Klez-Gard, used with klezmer band the Red Hot Chachkas.
with his Kentucky Dawg. I’d love to pick in this guy’s back-yard.
Last but not least, my 1986 F-5 made by Paul Newson
of Manton, Michigan. Also a few custom Gards. One day I’ll dig through
the shed and track down the old version #1 so you can truly see how far
the Gard has come…. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You probably haven’t seen
a Tone-Gard unless you’ve seen Radim Zenkl perform and have paid
attention to his mandolin up close and personal.
The Tone-Gard … is a thin,
flat metal device that gently but firmly attaches to the back of your
mandolin by friction and compression. It’s construction is wire about
one-eighth-inch in diameter tacked together so it resembles a spider
web. The contact areas are shielded from the instrument with rubber
that fits over the metal frame.
The manufacturer says that it should not mar or hurt the finish on
your instrument, but it’s “buyer beware” and that he can not assume
responsibility for marring. “If you put it on and take it off carefully
and correctly, you shouldn’t have scratches or nicks.” So far there
have been no reports of finish reaction or discoloration with the
rubber insulators, but again, there are no warranties,” he said.
The Tone-Gard holds the back of the mandolin about one-fourth to
three-eights of an inch away from your body and clothing. Several
solutions to problems are achieved. The most important is that you no
longer have to swing the back of the mandolin away from your body to
achieve the true, non-muted tone of the mandolin. You won’t perspire on
the finish on the back of the instrument. Your mandolin back won’t get
as scratched from your buttons and zippers. And lastly, you won’t bring
andy buttons in contact with the back that give you a new rattle or vibration.
The Tone-Gards are handmade by Antone Pires of Visalia California.
He makes them part time, one at a time, and they are under a hundred
bucks — one more great device from getting something more out of that
mandolin that your spouse said you paid too much money for and you’d
better not trade it for another one!
This clever device really works well, fits in your case, staying on
the back of the mandolin when you put it away. It is very low profile
and easy to get used to. I won’t play my mandolin without it now that
I’ve gotten used to it. Two thumbs up Antone!!
© 2001 Ken Cartwright & Mandolin Magazine
The ToneGard is the creation of Antone Pires. Once you see it,
you’ll wonder why no one invented it sooner. Like all great gadgets,
it’s uncomplicated and elegant. The ToneGard design is based on the
elementary principle that a mandolin sounds better if its back is
allowed to vibrate freely. Simple huh? The problem is when you play a
mandolin it is usually held against your chest which very effectively
damps the back of the instrument. Some players lean forward while their
playing to allow the back some elbow room, but this is a surefire path
to back and neck problems if you try to do this all the time. So what’s
a mando player to do? Enter the Tone-Gard.
What this device does is move the mando back away from your chest.
It does this by way of a welded steel rod cage that mounts on the back
of the mandolin. It is held on by three metal mounting arms that grasp
the sides of the instrument. Where the ‘Gard does touch the back there
are several 1/2″ pieces of rubber tube with felt bumpers that mount on
the ‘Gard. While this sounds ungainly, in reality it is very neat. The
‘Gard adds only 1/2 extra thickness to the mandolin, so not only does
the instrument fit easily in its case, but a player’s normal way of
holding the instrument are unaffected. It weighs only a few ounces so
the mandolin’s weight seems unchanged. This design works on almost
every mandolin on earth. It fits on both “standard” F-style and A-style
mandolins without any modification. Unusually shaped instruments like a
mandola or Olde Kraftsmen mandolin can also be accommodated with a
Next question, does it work? Oh yes. In A/B tests it’s clear that a
mandolin with a ToneGard sounds like a mandolin that is being played
away from your body. Compared to an unmodified mando, the ToneGarded
instrument has more volume and greater bass extension. Besides the
sonic benefits, there are some important ergonomic advantages. By
removing the mando back from intimate contact with your chest you
eliminate the summertime phenomena known as “the wet spot”. When I play
mando in warm weather I get all kinds of hot and sweaty. While my sock
solution keeps my forearm from gumming up the front of disgusting. I
literally had to peel the mando off my chest. With the oneGard, there’s
some space for cooling air to pass between the mando and my heaving
breast. Now that is COOL.
Since some folks need to see that someone “big” (besides me) is
using a product before they’ll take it seriously, Radim Zenkl, mandolin
“superstar,” uses ToneGards on all his instruments.
mutual friend [...] sent me a Tone-Gard recently to try and I love it!
I’ve had students show them to me, and at workshops we’ve done A-B tests
(with and without Tone-Gard) where the device gets unanimous approval.
Just last week I did a recording session where both the microphone and
room were especially good, so I could really hear the difference the
Tone-Gard makes. After I was done playing my part, I wanted to stay and
just listen to the mandolin!
very much for putting this all together, and best wishes for continued
success. It seems like before long a Tone-Gard should be standard issue
with every mandolin, like shoulder rests for the violinist. Sincerely, –
Don Stiernberg www.donstiernberg.com
bought it a month or so ago, and figured that Wintergrass would be the
Big Test for it. I am pleased to report that I am very happy with it.
The thing I like is that it makes my mandolin *louder*, with no apparent
loss in tone quality. So, now even when a jam gets louder than I might
like it to be, I can still participate (and actually hear what I am
playing). – Steve S.
got the Tonegard and was delighted with it. It even fit into my case.
People I’ve showed the Tone-Gard are very excited about it. – Josh B.
installed the Tone-Gard when I got home and it really helps the sound
to be more consistent and better.I was able to get that sound before but
could not hold the instrument comfortably for any period of time. Now
it will sound great all the time. Thanks for a great piece!! See Ya, –
received the Tone Gard on Monday. It works well to expectations for
improvements in tone quality and volume, and it exceeds expectations for
its unobtrusiveness as to appearance. Thanks for the prompt
shipping. – Carl R.
got the Gard yesterday and it works great! I haven’t taken it off my
mando since it arrived. Thanks for creating such a good product. Take
care, – Mickey S.
received my Tone-Gard yesterday. Works really well–such a simple
concept, but well executed. Given that I own a great sounding mando
(IMHO), I thought the only thing left to improve my tone was the really
hard one: PRACTICE! <g>. Considering what a lot of us spend on
mandolins, there’s nothing out there that’s going to enhance their sound
as much as using a Tone-Gard. My Dearstone just rings on forever! Guess
I’ll be saving up to equip the Rigel G-110 now <g>. – Tony B.
[return to Home page]