Please scroll down, there’s lots to see here, and it's not in any special order (or use Table of Contents to jump).

Practically a “Who’s-Who” of contemporary mandolinists! (and some older ones too)

Examples of standard and many custom Gards for Mandolins, such as Rigels, and also for Guitars, Ukes, Autoharps, Banjos, etc.

Many photos can be clicked for more detailed image.
If you’re not here and should be, please send a photo (jpg) like those below, and any comments to

A few Reviews and User Blurbs are at the bottom.

David Grisman

(website) uses the custom Dawg-Gard 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)

And 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“!

New custom Dawg-Gards (2016):

This is for his mandola:

Ricky Skaggs

(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.

Chris Thile

(MySpace) preeminent mandolinist of his generation, performing solo (e.g., J.S.Bach Sonatas and Partitas), duo with Mike Marshall, and with Punch BrothersNickel Creek, Goat Rodeo Sessions (2013 Grammy for Best Folk Album), and recipient of a 2012 MacArthur "Genius" Award. The arm of the Tone-Gard on his Loar shows clearly in his video ad for D'Addario EXP strings (e.g., at 0:29); hear how well his mandolin projects with a Tone-Gard.


John Reischman

(website) Many people think that John has the best-sounding mandolin in the world — but perhaps any mandolin in John’s hands is the best-sounding mandolin in the world. An alum of Good Ol’ Persons and Tony Rice Unit, now he plays with John Reischman & the Jaybirds.


Chris Hillman

(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.

Roland White

(website) 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.

Radim Zenkl

(website) 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.

Andy Statman

(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 his body.”

Mike Marshall

(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 FamosoMarshall & Thile, Edgar Meyer group, formerly of the David Grisman Quintet, Psychograss, Montreux, the Modern Mandolin Quartet, etc., etc.

Joe Craven

(website) soloist extraordinaire and a longtime member of the David Grisman Quintet and other great groups, uses a Gard on his most conventional instrument.

Joe Walsh

(website) Peghead Nation mandolin instructor, formerly with the Gibson Brothers, collaborator with Darol Anger, Scott Nygaard, Grant Gordy, and others, explains why he uses a Tone-Gard in this video starting at 3:00:

Don Stiernberg

(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.”


Paul Glasse

(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!"

Wayne Benson

of the headline bluegrass band IIIrd Tyme Out, says: "These really do make an incredible difference!"

Will Patton

(website), has been playing all kinds of music for over 30 years now, including celtic, jazz, rock and roll, bluegrass and Brazilian choro.

Tom Rozum

(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:

Eric Thompson

of Eric & Suzy Thompson, Bluegrass Intentions, and many other groups (check out video clip with Jerry Garcia — scroll down to bottom of that page), is enthusiastic about the benefits of the Gard on his vintage Gibson F-4:


Dix Bruce

noted musican, writer of instructional material, proprietor of Musix, and former editor of Mandolin World News:

Frank Sollivan

Frank Sollivan & Dirty Kitchen was 2014 IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year. Their guitar player Chris Luquette uses a D-Gard.

Dana Rath

co-founder and long-term member of the Modern Mandolin Quartet shows off the ‘Gard on his Monteleone:

John Paul Jones

(website) who played mandolin, as well as bass guitar and keyboards, as a member of rock legends Led Zeppelin, has a custom Zep-Gard:



Jason Dennie

(website) with his Breedlove and BRW:


Alan Bibey

of BlueRidge with his custom AB-Gard:


Kenny Epps

(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.


Joe Walsh

(website) Among other activities, Joe plays with Darol Anger in Mr. Sun, and teaches at Berklee School of Music and online at

Emory Lester

(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.”

Sierra Hull

photo by Bearrr

Dominick Leslie

Teo Quale

Matt Sircely

F. Farrell

Rigel “Ruby” CT-110 in its special Rigel Tone-Gard (photos by F. Farrell):

Ted Eschliman

MandoHack’s infamous Rigel Blue CT-110 is garded of course.

Scott Gates

shows his Gard to Evan Marshall (Photo courtesy of Andy Gates)

Steve Martin

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

Mark Johnson

(website) "This gard looks and feels great  I love it" says Mark, the 2012 winner of Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.  Mark and Steve Martin (with Banjo-Gards) appeared on David Letterman Show, with Emory Lester (see above) on guitar:

Deering Clawgrass Banjo 

Custom Gards:

Howard Burton

(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:

Some Custom Designs

Custom Gold Tone-Gards. The “W” is for “Weber”:


Here’s a custom Hartford Whalers ‘Gard:

The custom Kokopelli-Gard:

The custom HarpGard features a Celtic harp motif:

Patsy Kline

Custom Dragonfly-Gard:

Jim Jensma

StarsGuitars Gard

John Toman

who made the “Tone-Gard” wood name plaques in some of the photos. Here’s his custom gard:

Craig ‘Lumpy’ Lemke

(website) with custom Aloha-Gards:

Speaking of palm trees, is the AlohaGard available for ukeleles?

Sure. Here is the Martin baritone uke of...

Eric Segnitz

Peter Lee

With a d’Aigle Cascade Autoharp:


Drew Horton

“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

Greg Charland


Here are Dreadgards on a Martin D-18. A standard D-Gard is also available.

Doug Carlton

Brian Delaney

of the Royal Garden Trio with his ‘33 Gibson L-5 guitar. He likes his custom Tone-Gard for strolling gigs.

Guitar  Gard R&D 

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:

Rick Grant

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).

Steve Kirk

with his Jethro-model Washburn:

Linda Binder

(website) and her Breedlove Orca Tone-Garded:

Rachel Singleton

of The Glenville State Bluegrass Band

Tony Phillips

pickin’ buddy, as well as webmaster of, 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.

Alan Bond

Next, the fore and aft views of his 1976 Stan Miller. Nice rosewood, eh? Alan and his band Dark Hollow are busy folk. Check out at Alan Bond’s Berkeley Mandolins

John Bird

with his Kentucky Dawg. I’d love to pick in this guy’s back-yard.

Tony Pires

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




“MandoMedic: The Tone-Gard” by Ken Cartwright, Mandolin Magazine (Spring 2001)

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

P.O. Box 13537, Salem, OR 97309 

503-364-2100 |

“ToneGard” by Steven Stone, Vintage Guitar Magazine (March 2000)

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 custom-order ‘Gard.

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.

User Blurbs

  • Our 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!
  • Thanks 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
  • I 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.
  • I 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.
  • I 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, – Jay
  • I 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.
  • I 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.
  • I 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.