Thrashing Relationship – Palm Mute & Heavy Metal
What is palm muting?
Palm muting is a guitar technique used in all forms of music, but a method that is nearly unanimous with rock and heavy metal. Palm muting allows the guitarist to dampen or mute the strings to a degree, however is not done with your palm despite what the title may suggest.
Palm muting is carried out with the edge of your hand and when coupled with high gain or distortion, it can create a very thick, loud and rhythmic punch to your sound.
If so, learning to incorporate this method in your guitar arsenal is easier than you might think. Like most techniques, it all begins with the correct posture or what I like to call the fundamentals of guitar playing.
You must FIRST identify where the bridge is on your guitar. Then, you need to rest the hand vertically on the bridge, so the skin opposite the thumb or the “meaty” part of the picking hand rests comfortably between the bridge and first pickup.
Hold the plectrum toward the pointed “nib” to give adequate support from the thumb and then pivot your wrist in order to have the pick touch the fat E string. It’s important to make sure your palm remains fixed on the bridge and does not slide off that area when you pivot your wrist down to the guitar.
Now, strike the E firmly with a sharp downstroke. Practice your downstroke several times to gain a little confidence with the technique. Do you notice how the string sounds different?
Note: Several lessons exist on the Web that helps the beginner master strumming rhythms. Consult those lessons for further information and as always, use a metronome to maintain a consistent beat.
Texture is the name of the game when it comes to palm muting. Guitarists may alter their riffs by the positioning of their palm in reference to the bridge. In general, a muting hand closer to the neck will produce a sharper, more percussive sound.
The beauty with heavy rock and metal is that to each guitarist is his or her own. Each has their own personal reference or style, so when you are first attempting palm muting you should experiment with several different positions.
Upon gaining comfort with palm muting, beginners should:
- Learn how to change string position whilst palm muting
- Stop and start muting a riff after the string is plucked
- Incorporate palm mute guitar as percussion
- Palm mute single strings in addition to your power chords
Palm muting is truly an amazing metal technique, if not an art form in itself.
Kyle is an avid guitarist, playing for over 12 years, and loves metal guitar. On his website, GuitarLessonsCritic.com, he buys & reviews the most popular guitar lessons such as Learn and Master Guitar and JamPlay to help other guitarists find the best option for them.