A good palm muting technique can do more than just give your guitar a heavier chunky or percussive sound. It can also help you reduce some unwanted sounds you may experience while soloing or just playing through heavy distortion at a loud volume. When properly executed a good palm muting technique will allow you to achieve a more chunky or percussive sound on those lower string and also help to deaden them when you’re soloing on the higher strings giving your playing a cleaner more professional sound.
What is Palm Muting?
Palm muting is a technique used on guitar that produces a percussive, muted sound by lightly resting the side of the picking hand (palm) on the strings near the bridge. This technique is used occasionally in most styles of music but most notably in rock and metal. You can achieve a wide range of tones depending on how hard you rest your palm on the strings and how close to the guitar bridge you place your hand. As a rule the farther away from the bridge you are, the more the strings will be deadened and the more percussive (chunky) the sound. Also, if you press too hard with your palm, the notes can go out of tune.
Here’s some tips on palm muting:
- Hand Placement: To palm mute, rest the edge of your palm (the fleshy part near the base of your thumb) lightly on the strings, just in front of the bridge. The amount of pressure you apply will determine how muted or percussive the sound becomes.
- String Contact: The strings should be partially muted, meaning they are not allowed to vibrate freely. The palm should touch the strings enough to shorten their sustain and produce a more staccato, muted sound.
- Adjustment for Tone: Experiment with the placement of your palm to find the sweet spot where you get the desired level of muting without completely deadening the sound. Moving further away from the bridge will generally result in a more pronounced mute. Too far and it may deaden the strings too much.
- Picking Technique: While palm muting, you typically use a down-picking motion with your pick. This adds to the percussive and rhythmic quality of the muted sound. Some players also use upstrokes, or a combination of both, depending on the musical context.
- Application: Palm muting is commonly used when playing power chords, single-note riffs, or open chords with heavy distortion or overdrive. It’s a dynamic technique that can add a sense of aggression, tightness, and groove to your playing.
Check out the following examples of palm muting:
Palm Mute Example #1 (E minor + B chords)
Palm Mute Example #2 (Open E has palm muting, E5 chord has none)