Palm muting is a technique that can really change up a guitarist’s playing. The cliche of palm muting are bands like Slayer or Metallica down picking those low strings. There’s something about the electric guitar and distortion that can make those palm mutes sound really cool and aggressive,
But it is a wonderful technique for the acoustic guitar as well. It adds a lot of dynamics and can really add to the rhythm of a song. It’s a technique that I recommend every guitarist, acoustic or electric, to learn.
It took me a while to fully understand how to palm mute. I figured it was just placing the side of your hand on the strings whilst picking the strings, but when I did that all the strings were fully silenced.
This lesson I’ll be showing you how and where to place the side of your hand. I’ll also show you some benefits of the technique, and in the end, there will be some examples and backing tracks.
What Is Palm Muting?
First things first. You might not have heard of the term “palm muting” yet. What exactly is it?
Palm muting is the technique of placing the side of your picking hand on the strings, very close to the bridge, to achieve a dampened sound when you pick the strings.
This dampened sound can be used in many different ways. It can give a chord or note a very rhythmical sound, because of its very short and defined nature. But a palm mute is usually also lower in volume than a regular strum, so adding a few palm mutes will do a lot to the dynamics of a song.
How to palm mute on an acoustic guitar
The name suggests that we use the palm of our hand, but this is not the case. We use the side of our hand, the fleshy part beneath our little finger.
Now, where do we place our hand? First, we have to find the bridge of our guitar. The bridge is the wooden part of the guitar where the pins are coming out of. On electric guitars, it looks a little different, but on acoustic guitars, it usually looks like this:
We place the side of our picking hand on the pins of the bridge. Don’t place it on the strings yet. Now do a gentle strum. Let’s pick G as our chord.
Now slowly move your picking hand towards the strings. Slowly strum again. It should look like this:
Do you notice how the sound changes? You can experiment where you feel the most comfortable placing your hand, but to achieve a regular palm mute, it’s advised to stay as close to the bridge as possible, especially in the beginning.
As you can see, my hand isn’t parallel with the bridge. In order to make it feel natural, you’ll need to tilt it a little. The flesh of your “palm” should stay where it is and not be moved whilst strumming though.
The harder you press, the faster the sound will die out. The closer you get to the soundhole of your guitar, the less you will be able to hear the pitch of the notes. This is all based on feel. The more your palm mute, the more experienced you’ll get. You will feel what the song needs. You can experiment with this as much as possible.
Benefits of palm muting on an acoustic guitar
In hard rock and metal, palm muting is often used to produce an almost machine-like sound. But we don’t have distortion on an acoustic guitar. What are the benefits of palm muting on an acoustic guitar?
- To make other notes stand out
- To change the dynamics of a song
- To add a “sharper” quality to the rhythm to a song
To make other notes stand out
By palm muting some notes, you’re making these notes softer. This means if you play a regular note or chord afterward, it will stand out a lot more. This is great if you want to build momentum in a song. This is great for dynamics purposes, but also for rhythmical purposes.
For this example, I only used one chord, so it would be possible for you to play along without having to worry about chord changes. These are all downstrokes on G. I’m not playing the full chord. Only the top three or four strings.
Beneath this article, I will post a backing track without myself playing along, so you can practice on your own.
To change the dynamics of a song
This is something that often happens in the bridge of a song. We’ve just had the big, open chorus, and now the song building up momentum again… The guitarist is playing some chords that we’ve heard already, but this time he’s more restrained. Palm mutes are excellent for these moments.
Again, all downstrokes on G. The first half of the clip are regular, open chords. The second half are palm mutes.
To add a sharper quality to the rhythm of a song
Palm mutes sound more articulated than regular notes. There’s more detail to the rhythm of each note because the notes don’t “overlap” each other.
“Sharper” might not exactly be the right term to use here, because in tone something entirely different is happening, but in terms of rhythm, I feel like this word sums it up pretty well
Again, first half – regular notes, second half – palm mutes.
Insert tabs picture
If you don’t know how to read tabs, it might be helpful to visit this page first: How To Read Tabs For Guitar)
Like many things on guitar, this might feel very unnatural at first. Practice slowly. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below. I’ll be here to answer them.