Here’s an introduction to the guitar strum technique of palm muting. It’s part of my series on picking and rhythm techniques you can use to spice up your rhythm guitar playing. This time we’re going to look at a picking or strumming hand technique you can use to silence or muffle the guitar strings.
About Palm Muting
Palm muting is a technique used to muffle some or all of the guitar strings with the hand that strums or picks. The technique is sometimes used to mute strings after striking them to make the note short and percussive. Sometimes the notes are muted or partly muffled while struck to control the guitar’s sound.
Another use for palm muting is to prevent some strings from ringing while playing notes on other strings. For example, strings can be palm muted during the release of a bend so the release is not heard.
How to Palm Mute
So now you know what palm muting can be used for, but how do you do it?
The basic idea is that you touch or press the strings close to the bridge with the fleshy side of your hand. The picture below shows an example hand position. We’ll look at some of the details of the technique through the following questions.
What part of the hand do I use?
In fact palm muting doesn’t always use the palm. In pop, rock and blues styles it is done with the area near the side of the hand – you can think of it as karate chop muting.
How do I place my hand relative to the bridge?
This depends on the sound you want to obtain. To mute the strings completely press them at least a couple of centimetres or so from the bridge. For a muffled sound you need to place your hand closer to the bridge, even right on it. Experiment to find what works best for you and to discover the different sounds you can create.
How do I mute only some of the strings?
You can play with the angle your karate chop compared to the guitar’s top so that only some of the strings are pressed. It takes some practice to do it so don’t despair if you don’t get it at first. It’s easiest to mute the bass strings while the treble strings remain open so start by working on this technique.
When you have figured out how to modify the angle of your palm to mute only a few strings at a time you can adjust the position of your hand to select which strings are muted – higher to mute bass strings, middle to mute middle strings and lower to mute the top strings.
Palm muting is an essential guitar technique that allows you to create different sounds and more interesting rhythms. It takes a little time and patience to learn how to do it but it’s really not so hard – it doesn’t require astonishing speed or finger stretching.
If you have any questions about palm muting, or other rhythm techniques, please click the comment link below and leave your question.