Learn to Palm Mute on Guitar

electric guitar telecaster palm mute

"Palm muting" is a guitar technique, executed in the picking hand, used to muffle the strings slightly, while simultaneously hitting the strings with the pick. It is a technique used primarily on electric guitar, but it can also be useful when playing acoustic guitar. To get a feel for what palm-muting sounds like, listen to the following mp3 clip:

Hashpipe mp3 exerpt
from "The Green Album" (2001)

Can you hear how the guitar sounds slightly "subdued" at the beginning of the clip? That's the result of palm muting. If you listen carefully, you'll note that near the end of the clip, the band stops palm muting the guitar, and the music gets louder, and more unrestrained feeling. This is a common use for palm muting - if part of the song is played with palm muted guitar, the part that is not seems louder and more aggressive than it otherwise would have. Note that palm muting DOES get used in many styles of music, so even if the above music didn't appeal to you, this technique is still worth learning.

How to Palm Mute

The key to proper palm muting is in the picking hand (for most of you, the right hand). The concept is to slightly mute the notes you are hitting with the pick, yet not mute them so much that they can't be heard. Rest the heel of your picking hand lightly on the strings, close to the bridge of the guitar.

In your fretting hand, position your fingers to play a power chord with the root on the sixth string. Now, with the heel of your hand still touching all relevant strings (make sure it's covering the sixth, fifth and fourth - the strings we're going to play), use your pick to play the chord. In a perfect world, you'd hear all the notes in the chord, only they'd be slightly muffled.

Chances are, the first time you try it, it won't sound wonderful.

Getting a proper feel for how much pressure to apply with the heel of your picking hand is the key. Apply too much pressure, and the notes won't ring at all. Apply uneven pressure, and some notes will sound muted, while others will ring unmuted. Concentrate on getting a very even, controlled sound whenever you attempt string muting.

For further illustration of how palm muting is supposed to sound, listen to this mp3 clip of an A5 chord (A power chord) being played, first with palm muting, then without.

To Do:

  • Let the flesh on the heel of your palm do all the work. Play with your hand position until it feels comfortable on the strings. This is a technique that is easy once you get it, but can be frustrating to learn.
  • Practice this technique a lot. Palm muting gets used all the time in many styles of music, and guitar players with poor palm muting skills are really quite painful to listen to.
  • Concentrate on palm muting when playing power chords. This is where the technique is used almost constantly by many guitarists.
  • If your amp has distortion, turn it on. Distortion tends to really accentuate the palm muting technique.
  • Listen for palm muting in your favorite music. Once you learn to spot it, you'll start to realize exactly how often this technique gets used.
  • Make sure your muting hand isn't too far up the guitar (towards the headstock). The farther up the guitar your hand is, the easier it will be to accidentally completely mute the strings.


For more information on how to palm mute on the guitar, check out this helpful YouTube video  from GuitarLessons365.