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Palm Muting – Don’t Do It

I confess, the title’s a bit of a joke. Palm muting in the popular sense of the term is a wonderful technique that I use daily. The trick is to make sure you don’t actually mute the strings. Palm muffling would be more accurate, but who am I to go against years of tradition?

That said, you’ll find this technique used extensively in heavy metal and rock, but it also pops up in classical, country, and jazz. That means whatever style you prefer, there’s probably a place in it for this.

So let’s take a quick look. There’s not a whole lot to it, so a couple of examples should do the trick. Just listen along for now. We’ll cover the how in just a bit.

Example 1 – All Downstrokes

Here’s a quick little riff I whipped up which demonstrates some common applications of this technique.

Example 2: With Alternate Picking

Notice that this contains the same chords, in the same order, as example 1, except I’ve doubled the speed on the muted parts, which means that unless your hand is unreasonably fast, you’ll have to use alternate picking in addition to palm muting. It’s common for beginners to struggle with this combination, so spend some time on this if that’s you. No worries, you’ll get it.

Palm Muting   Dont Do It

The Golden Rules of Palm Muting

Now that you’ve heard a few examples, I’ll lay a few pointers out there that I think will be helpful if you’re just learning this technique:

1) They call it palm muting because… that sounds a lot better than “heel-of-your-hand muffling”, but that’s really a more accurate term. I’m just glad somebody invented slang. But seriously, use the heel of your hand, not the palm.

2) How to get a good sound- It’s pretty simple. Rest your hand on the strings, just past the bridge. Play.

  • If it sounds normal, inch your hand toward the headstock until it sounds crunchy and muffled.
  • If, on the other hand, it clicks or sounds too muted, inch your hand back toward the bridge until it sounds right.

3) Alternate picking and muting- Can be a bit tricky at first. The mute changes the picking angle, etc. There are all sorts of reasons. Best solution? Just keep practicing. Minimize excess motion. Play just upstrokes for awhile until it feels more natural. Make sure you’re solid on alternate picking first. Not glamorous, I know, but it works.

4) Dynamics- The stuff you mute makes the stuff you don’t sound that much more powerful. Mix it up. Refer to the above examples.

Them’s the basics, guys. Let me know if you have any questions.