Palm mute

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The Ska stroke
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: palm muted downbeat downstrokes and staccato upbeat upstrokes Backbeat chop.png
The Ska stroke Loudspeaker.svg   Play  : palm muted downbeat downstrokes and staccato upbeat upstrokes
Though notated with quarter notes, the Ska stroke sounds like sixteenth notes due to muting or dampening. Skank quarter note harmonic rhythm sounds as.png
Though notated with quarter notes, the Ska stroke sounds like sixteenth notes due to muting or dampening.
Guitar phrase without and with Palm Mute

The palm mute is a playing technique for guitar and bass guitar, executed by placing the side of the picking hand below the little finger across the strings to be plucked, very close to the bridge, and then plucking the strings while the damping is in effect. This produces a muted sound. The name is a slight misnomer, as the muting is performed by the side of the hand, not the palm. [2]

Guitar fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Bass guitar Electric bass instrument

The bass guitar is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and four to six strings or courses.


Palm muting is a standard technique used in classical guitar performance (under the name of pizzicato, as it creates a sound similar to that of a bowed string instrument when finger picked, despite a very different construction from that of a guitar) and by electric guitarists who play with a pick. Palm muting is so widely used as to be idiomatic in heavy metal, and particularly in thrash, speed and death metal, but it is often found in any style of music that features electric guitars with distortion in the signal's preamplification stage. It is responsible for the characteristic "chugging" and "crunch" sound of distorted guitar music. In metal, palm muting makes chords and notes sound shorter and more defined. Palm muting can also be used in conjunction with a wah pedal to produce the distinctive scratching sound often heard in disco music.

Pizzicato Playing technique for string instruments

Pizzicato is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument:

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Guitar pick

A guitar pick is a plectrum used for guitars. Picks are generally made of one uniform material—such as some kind of plastic, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, glass, tagua, or stone. They are often shaped in an acute isosceles triangle with the two equal corners rounded and the third corner less rounded. They are used to strum chords or to sound individual notes on a guitar.

Palm-muting is also used by electric bassists in order to obtain a warm, "thumpy" tone that is sometimes similar to that of a finger picked double bass (as noted above). The strings may be plucked with the thumb, or with a pick which gives a more percussive tone.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, or simply the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.

Aspects of performance

There are many ways to perform palm muting, but, generally the following are recognized:

Staccato is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation, it signifies a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence. It has been described by theorists and has appeared in music since at least 1676.


An overtone is any frequency greater than the fundamental frequency of a sound. Using the model of Fourier analysis, the fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics, or more precisely, harmonic partials, are partials whose frequencies are numerical integer multiples of the fundamental. These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the acoustic behavior of musical instruments. The model of Fourier analysis provides for the inclusion of inharmonic partials, which are partials whose frequencies are not whole-number ratios of the fundamental.

Corrosion Gradual destruction of materials by chemical reaction with its environment

Corrosion is a natural process, which converts a refined metal to a more chemically-stable form, such as its oxide, hydroxide, or sulfide. It is the gradual destruction of materials by chemical and/or electrochemical reaction with their environment. Corrosion engineering is the field dedicated to controlling and stopping corrosion.

Palm muting is a basis for many other techniques, especially those specific to electric guitars, such as sweep picking or alternate picking.

Sweep picking

Sweep picking is a guitar playing technique. When sweep picking, the guitarist plays single notes on consecutive strings with a 'sweeping' motion of the pick, while using the fretting hand to produce a specific series of notes that are fast and fluid in sound. Both hands essentially perform an integral motion in unison to achieve the desired effect.

Alternate picking is a guitar playing technique that employs alternating downward and upward strokes in a continuous fashion. If the technique is performed at high speed on a single string voicing the same note, it may be referred to as "tremolo picking" or "double picking".


In guitar tablature, palm mutes are rendered with a "P.M." or "PM", and a dashed or dotted line for the duration of the phrase to be muted. If the pitches of the muted notes are discernible, the fret numbers are given accordingly, otherwise they are represented with an X in lieu of a tab number. (If an X appears in lieu of a tab number but there is no P.M. directive, this usually means to mute the string using the fretting hand, not the picking hand.)

    P.M.------------| e |------------------| B |--8-------8-------| G |--7-------7-------| D |--6-------6-------| A |--7-------7-------| E |----0-0-0---0-0-0-|

Recorded examples

One popular song with palm muting is "Basket Case" by Green Day, where power chords are accented then muted to create a sense of energy and urgency.

    > PM--------| >  PM-| < PM--| >      PM-| < PM- > PM>  PM-| < PM--| < d# |-----------------|-------------------|-----------------|-------------------| A# |-----------------|-------------------|-----------------|-------------------| F# |-9---------------|-------------------|-----6-----6-----|-------------------| C# |-9-9-9-9-9-9-9-9-|-----9-------9-x-x-|-6-6-6-6-6-6---6-|-----6-------6-x-x-| G# |-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-9-|-9-9-9-9-9-9-9-x-x-|-4-4-4-4-4-4-6-6-|-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-x-x-| D# |---------------7-|-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-x-x-|-------------4-4-|-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-x-x-|

More aggressive styles of palm muting grew out of thrash metal in the mid-late 1980s with bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. The technique was fused with fast alternate picking, under high gain, to create a driving, percussive effect. Other uses of palm muting can be heard in post-punk bands like Gang of Four and Talking Heads, as well as in contemporary musicians such as Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. Another example would be "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, which uses palm muting for much of the song.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Rhythm guitar guitar technique; part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

String instrument musical instrument that generates tones by one or more strings stretched between two points

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

In guitar music, especially electric guitar, a power chordPlay  is a colloquial name for a chord that consists of the root note and the fifth. Power chords are commonly played on amplified guitars, especially on electric guitar with distortion. Power chords are a key element of many styles of rock and especially in heavy metal, and punk rock.

Mute (music) device fitted to a musical instrument to alter the sound produced

A mute is a device fitted to a musical instrument to alter the sound produced: by affecting the timbre, reducing the volume, or most commonly both. The use of a mute is usually indicated in musical notation by the Italian direction con sordino and removed with the direction senza sordino or via sordino.

Lead guitar is a musical part for a guitar in which the guitarist plays melody lines, instrumental fill passages, guitar solos, and occasionally, some riffs within a song structure. The lead is the featured guitar, which usually plays single-note-based lines or double-stops. In rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, punk, fusion, some pop, and other music styles, lead guitar lines are usually supported by a second guitarist who plays rhythm guitar, which consists of accompaniment chords and riffs.

Fingerstyle guitar technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips

Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking. The term "fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking, although fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues and country guitar playing in the US. The terms "fingerstyle" and "fingerpicking" also applied to similar string instruments such as the banjo.


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In music, articulation is the direction or performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds. Articulation involves subtle differences within duration, amplitude, meter, and, through techniques such as tremolo and pitch.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

Left-hand muting is a performance technique for stringed instruments, where the vibration of a string is damped by the left hand.

String harmonic

A string harmonic is a string instrument technique which uses the nodes of natural harmonics of a musical string to produce high pitched tones of varying timbre and loudness. String harmonics are "high pitched tones, like a whistle's, are produced when the musician lightly touches certain points on a string." "A flute-like sound produced on a string instrument by lightly touching the string with the finger instead of pressing it down," against the fingerboard.

Guitar picking is a group of hand and finger techniques a guitarist uses to set guitar strings in motion to produce audible notes. These techniques involve plucking, strumming, brushing, etc. Picking can be done with:

Damping is a technique in music for altering the sound of a musical instrument. Damping methods are used for a number of instruments.

Piano extended techniques are those in which unorthodox or unconventional techniques are used to create the sound.

Heavy metal guitar

Heavy metal guitar is the use of highly-amplified electric guitar in heavy metal. Heavy metal guitar playing is rooted in the guitar playing styles developed in 1960s-era blues rock and psychedelic rock, and it uses a massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos and overall loudness. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal. The heavy metal guitar sound comes from a combined use of high volumes and heavy distortion.


  1. 1 2 Snyder, Jerry (1999). Jerry Snyder's Guitar School, p.28. ISBN   0-7390-0260-0.
  2. Cross, Dan. "Guitar Lesson 10 - Palm Mute". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  3. Power chords Archived 2006-11-01 at the Wayback Machine . lesson at Guitar Alliance