How to play palm muting riffs

Palm muting is a technique, where you are using your picking hand to mute the strings, while hitting them with your pick. This allows you to get a heavy and percussive sound out of your riffs, which you can apply into your rock and metal playing.

In order to apply palm muting to your playing, you are resting the right side of your palm on the strings you want to mute. Below you see a picture of how it should look:
Guitarundervisning i vejle
Once you have your palm in position, you can hit the strings with your pick. Notice: The sound of your palm muting technique is determined by the position of your palm on the strings and by the pressure you apply on the strings with your palm.

If you apply less pressure, the palm muting sounds lighter and if you apply more pressure, the sound gets heavier. In general you want your palm to be positioned close to the bridge, because as you move further away from the bridge and closer to the neck, you start to 'kill off' the sound.

To experience what I am telling you here, just try to play with your palm resting close to, or on the bridge and than move up towards the neck. This will help you to first notice the different in sound which I just explained to you and secondly, it will help you to find the position of where you like the sound most (You want to remember this position for your playing, it should be close to the bridge as you see in the picture above).

Practicing palm muting for rhythm guitar playing

Once you are able to play the palm muting in isolation and have found the position on the guitar where it sounds best for you, now is the time to apply it into your rhythm guitar playing.

The first step you have to master for this, is to be able to switch between palm muting and hitting the strings without muting fluently (unless you want to play with palm muting all the time). You can practice this by using a single power chord and hitting it alternating with and without muting in a simple quarter-note rhythm:

The P.M. In the tabulature stands as you might already have guessed for palm muting. Make sure that you mute and hit BOTH strings of the power chord when applying the palm muting, than play the next chord without muting and alternate forth and back until you feel comfortable with it.

Applying palm muting into riffs

Now that you have learned and practiced how to play palm muting, it comes the time for application into your riffs. So the question is, when should you play palm muting and when should you hit the strings without muting?

Answer: There is rule of what you have to do. It is up to your creativity and taste of when you want to apply it, but I will give you some guidelines that can help you to get started:

  1. Use palm muting for beats that are not on the main accents and hit the strings open for beats that are accented.

  1. Use palm muting more in verses and less for the chorus.

  1. Use palm muting in places for riffs with distortion, where you would play dead notes in chord progressions with a clean sound.

I hope this article has helped you for improving your playing, the author Marco von Baumbach is a guitar instructor at Gitarrenunterricht in Wuppertal Feel free to check out his website for more information.