The Subtle Magic of Palm Muting
“My greatest weapon is mute prayer.” - Mahatma Gandhi
The other day I was speaking with one of my subscribers, Matt, and he was telling me about one of his musical idols, a multi instrumentalist who composes interesting rock music with many blends, using guitars, synthesizers, and much more. He asked me what I thought about his guitar technique, and it was a very interesting question.
His technique is very simple, but very well used. Powerful chords, and lots of palm muting to set the rhythm. “I’ve tried doing palm muting, but it doesn’t work”, he told me.
That’s when I realized a tutorial on this great technique is needed right away.
Watch the video lesson right here:
Palm muting is a basic technique in rock, both modern and classic. That is why I consider this to be a beginner skill. Yes, it’s a necessity!
I believe you already must know what this technique sounds like. This gives a very chunky sound that is great for adding punch and strengthening the rhythm of the song.
Although technically palm muting can be done even when finger picking, I’m going to focus on using a pick. This is clearly a more rock-on-approach, but feel free to let me know if you would like a different approach.
So...how do we do it?
The technique is simple to learn, there are no difficult laws to learn; it just requires some practice.
We start by using the side of the palm of the picking hand to gently press on the strings, close to the bridge. It will look like this:
The side of the hand must remain in contact with the strings as long as you are playing with this technique. There is no set rule on how much pressure you have to apply with your hand to mute the strings, and you will learn this with experience (there will be times you will vary the pressure while playing, actually).
Pick the 6th string (the thickest). Because your palm must remain in contact with the strings, this limits the movement of your hand to the point in which most of the movement will have to come from the wrist instead of the elbow.
Although it technically does not require the use of a pick, in 99% of cases you will want to play palm muting with a pick, as it has a higher attack on each note struck.
If you got a dampened sound, CONGRATULATIONS!
Palm muting works on all strings. You’ll find out that it works better with the thicker strings (the wound ones), mostly the 6th and 5th, but there are many times in which muting the higher strings will make a good solo shine through.
If you are using an electric guitar, by all means, try doing palm muting with overdrive or distortion. This will give a very chunky sound that is the basis of modern hard rock and metal, but also applies to pop rock too. In my opinion, palm muting is among the most versatile techniques in rock.
The most interesting use of palm muting is when you play interesting patterns, of course. You can play single notes or many notes.
Are you liking this technique already?
Never underestimate the power of muting, just like Gandhi said.