Palm muting on the guitar – what is it used for?
It’s used sometimes in various types of music, with both electric and acoustic guitars. It’s often heard in rock music with distorted guitars. Palm muting will muffle the ringing of the guitar so the notes don’t ring for as long of a duration when played. When you want to get a chunky sound out of the guitar, palm muting is what you want to use. Palm muting can also be used to show a contrast between loud and soft, so you can play with palm mutes to make it sound muffled, and then unleash a fuller sound by stopping the palm mute .
How to do it
It takes some practice to get it perfect, but it’s not hard to palm mute . To do it, you need to take your strumming/picking hand and rest it against the bridge of the guitar. Use the part of your hand just above the wrist. When you want to get the muffled sound from the string you’re playing, you rest it barely against the end of the string. It should still be able to ring a bit, but it will be muffled. If you hear just a “thunk” sound with no tone, then you’ve moved your hand too far up the guitar (towards the neck). Try slowly sliding the hand back as you pick until you get the sound you want. And just rest your hand! There’s no need to push against the guitar. A gentle touch is all you need to get the job done.
Palm muting is not meant to be an exact art. If you want to only mute it a little, you’ll have your picking hand resting mostly off the string, just barely touching. If you want to mute it more, then you’ll want to slide it farther up. The best way to figure out how to get the sound you want is to play one note over and over on one string, slowly easing the right hand along the end of string by the bridge. Try taking it too far up to hear how you can mute the sound completely, and too far down to hear how it has no effect at all. The positions in between are what you’ll want to use.
Once you have the sound you want, you’ll usually be able to pick any string and get the same level of palm muting . Just be cautious that you don’t move the hand too far up or down the strings as you pick if you want to keep the same sound.
Things to try for practice
To practice, you can try walking through a scale while palm muting . Also try playing some 5th chords (also commonly known as power chords), see if you can get the right sound in all the strings you’re playing. Remember, be careful about accidentally moving the hand while playing. It’ll take some practice, but after you figure it out, it’s not hard to do. If you play an electric guitar, try using distortion. It can often be a lot easier to hear the difference this way.
Also try playing across all the strings while palm muting to see what the difference is for your hand position. Playing a palm muted low E string is a bit different than playing the high E string with palm muting . Most of the time the three lowest strings (E, A, D) are used for palm muting techniques, but knowing how to palm mute the other three may come in handy.
Now the only thing left for you to do is practice, and get used to the technique. Listen for the technique being used in music you hear. If it’s a song you know how to play, try imitating it. Even if it’s a song you don’t know how to play, you can probably still figure out what’s being done and learn it without too much trouble. But now that you can palm mute , you can use the skill to broaden your musical sound!