There are tons of guitar techniques that are important to being an effective metal guitarist. Knowing how to palm mute is an essential part of playing guitar in all aspects, but especially with metal music. Today we take a look at how to palm mute, and why it’s important.
How To Palm Mute: Wait…What IS Palm Muting?
Palm muting is a strumming/picking hand technique that you use to manipulate the sound of your guitar. It’s as old as the guitar itself, and learning how to palm mute is very important to your overall technique.
Once you understand things like chord voicing and picking patterns, a good palm muting technique can really elevate not only your playing, but also your entire sound.
Your approach to technique is one of the most important parts of learning to play guitar. You can look at techniques the same way you look at spices with cooking. Techniques are there to “season” your playing. They are there to give your playing nuance and feel.
This is what separates your own playing from everyone else. Techniques are what gives your playing it’s own unique voice. So it’s important to have as many “tricks in your bag” as you can.
Palm Muting is exactly what it sounds like. You use your palm to mute the strings. This is in some ways, a universal technique. It is not just used in Metal music, but literally every genre. Learning how to palm mute is something that every guitarist eventually learns.
This is all pretty straight forward, but there are tons of different approaches. Today we will take a look at it the different ways of how to palm mute.
How To Palm Mute: The Basics
Palm muting is primarily a left hand technique (or right handed if you play left handed). People often think that guitar is all about your fretting hand when it comes to technique. This makes sense, because you should focus on your fretting hand. This is how you fret notes, after all!
But your right hand technique is just as important as your fretting hand. The way you pick the strings can change your entire sound. Likewise, where you pick the strings can also change the sound.
Different guitars, will have a different sound when palm muting. You can check out our picks for the best guitars for metal. Different pickups configurations and placement will certainly have an effect. We have tons of options here at Electrikjam.
So how do you palm mute? Let’s get into it.
Basic Palm Muting Technique
Start by placing your picking hand over the strings, and rest the outside of your hand (where your pinky is) over the strings. Actually, the pinky is kind of the star of the show!
Make sure that you only apply gentle pressure. If you press too hard you will completely deaden the sound. You want to be gentle. Place the pick in the playing position.
Play the muted strings just as you would as if you were strumming. Continue to apply pressure to the strings, gently, as you pick.
This may take a little while to get used to, as the angle of your pick attack changes a little. You are now focusing more on your wrist motion, and it may feel a little “off” at first. But if you practice for just a little while, you’ll eventually make palm muting a part of your playing.
How To Palm Mute: Different Positions
When you palm mute, there is probably a natural place that your hand wants to go. Some people naturally mute towards the bridge, while others naturally gravitate to the area close to the neck.
There is no right or wrong way to palm mute. You can do it how ever you want and use the technique in the way you feel most comfortable. But where you palm mute a note or chord, makes a big tonal difference.
Towards the bridge: This is the default position for most people, especially when it pertains to Metal technique. When you mute closer to the bridge, you get a more “bassy” sound. This gives some low end thump to your playing.
It’s easy to hear this sound when you listen to bands like Metallica. You can also hear it in almost all of Doom Metal. This palm muting position is widely used. In the words of Ola Englund, this is how you “chug”.
This bass-heavy approach to palm muting works great for power chords. It’s easy to see why this is the “default” way to learn how to palm mute. Most Metal bands use this technique. Power chords seem to be invented for this method!
It’s important to use the right amount of gain when using this method of palm muting. You want to turn up the gain to get the “chugga chugga” going. With just a few minutes of trying this out, you can see how important learning how to palm mute is to Metal.
But maybe that isn’t what you are trying to accomplish. Maybe you are going for something different…
Towards the neck/middle: This position of palm muting completely changes the tone. This position will give your muted strings a more mid-range focused sound. Strangely enough, this is how I have always palm muted! For some people, this may be the case for you as well.
If you are just learning how to palm mute, then this is a great way to explore your tone. This may be the sound you are looking for, and it changes your whole approach.
While this is how I normally palm mute, I started researching the different ways to palm mute after listening to Periphery for the first time. I found that tons of people were looking online as to how they get the “Djent” sound. I have always used this technique as a default, so it took some experimentation to understand it.
I guess I didn’t get the memo when I was learning how to palm mute, that you should do it closer to the bridge, but even now, I prefer my way of palm muting in most instances, and I like the mid-range tone, as it changes your sound.
The more mid-range approach allows you to use more complex chords when muting. The notes ring out easier, and they are more defined than when you mute near the bridge.
You also have better control using this method. By control, I mean lifting your hand, and putting it back down to mute the string. If you go back and forth; letting open notes ring out and then choking them with a mute, you get the full idea of how the “Djent” sound works. Try it out!
How To Palm Mute: Implementation
Learning how to palm mute is hugely important to your technique, and overall sound. It is a staple of Metal guitar playing and has many uses. Different methods of muting can change a riff that uses the same notes and chords. But which way is right for you?
There is no right way. That’s the cool thing about guitar, and music in general.
If you’re just learning how to play, it’s important to try out the different methods. But even if you are a seasoned player, it may be a good idea to try a different approach than what you’re used to.
Earlier I said that my default position has always been closer to the middle, or near the neck. Over the past few years, I have learned to shift my position closer to the bridge to get different sounds. There’s always something new to learn and explore!