Palm muting is a rhythm guitar technique that can help create dynamics in your rhythm guitar playing giving it a professional sound. Dynamics is all about playing at varying volume levels to create variations in a piece of music. Most music contains loud and quiet sections to create interest and excitement whether it be classical, jazz, rock or even heavy metal.
Palm muting is a technique often associated with heavy metal rhythm guitar played by bands such as Metallica and Megadeth where is it used to create that “chugging” rhythm sound. However palm muting is also be used in other styles and works well on acoustic guitar.
Palm muting works by lightly resting the palm of the strumming hand on strings near the bridge. How much pressure you apply to the strings with your palm and how close to the bridge it is placed will determine how much muting you will get.
Due to the placement of the palm in a fixed position your chord strumming will also be quieter with minimal hand movement. Here the strumming will be a wrist movement verses more of an arm movement normally used for strumming open string chords. Due to this limited movement you will mainly be strumming 3 of 4 strings of the chord verses the full 5 or 6 strings as show on a typical chord diagram. Generally is best to ensure that you play the root/bass note string of the chord to give it the fullest sound.
- For a 6 string chord such as G major aim to strum strings 6 5 4 and 3
- For a 5 string chord such as C strum strings 5 4 3 and 2
To practice your palm muting technique between 6 & 5 string chords try playing the following chord progression. In this example play all down strums as it will be easier to manage hitting the bass notes of the chords. Have a listen to the example to hear how it should sound. The palm muting is indicated in sheet music by the “P.M.——|” notation.
Palm Muted Chords | Download
Songs that use palm muting include:
- Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
- Every Breath You Take – The Police
- Lightning Crashes – Live
- Long Way To The Top – AC DC
- The Time Warp (Intro) – Rocky Horror Picture Show
Palm Muting in Heavy Metal
In heavy metal palm muting is used extensively to create that chugging sound used in riffs and chords. Many metal riffs are played fast using 16th notes. To be able to play these notes that fast down up strumming/picking is incorporated into the palm muting technique. Palm muting works well in metal as it helps to create definition between the notes of the usually heavily distorted guitars.
To work on this technique 1st try simply down/up picking the 6th string while palm muting. Use a drum machine or metronome to ensure a consistent rhythm. Try this 1st at 80bpm then increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the technique. If you’re using a metronome you may have to set it to 160bpm and play 8th notes (which is the same plucking speed) as it can be hard to play 16th notes consistently to 80bpm which is 4 plucks per click!
Palm Muted 16th Notes | Download
Next we will incorporate some power chords with the 16th note E string rhythm to create a typical metal riff. The chords are down strummed with the down/up plucking being maintained on the E string. The power chords act as accents which break up the monotony of the E string chug.
Palm Muted Metal Riff With Power Chords | Download
Finally we will play a longer piece of palm muted metal music that incorporates more melodic riffs and power chords more in the style of a Megadeth riff.
Palm Muted Metal Riff #2 | Download
Try incorporating some palm muting into your rhythm playing whether it is on acoustic or electric guitar in whatever style you play. This technique will give you more control of the notes and chords that you play giving your rhythm guitar technique a professional sound.