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A demonstration of a guitarist palm muting
Guitar phrase without and with palm mute

The palm mute is a technique for guitar and bass guitar known for its muted sound. It is performed by placing the side of the picking hand across the guitar's strings, very close to the bridge, while picking. The name is a misnomer as the muting is not performed using the player's palm.[1]

Palm muting is a standard technique used by both classical and electric guitarists. It is widely used in heavy metal and rock music but it is often found in any style of music that features electric guitars with distortion. It is responsible for the characteristic "chugging" and "crunch" sound of distorted guitar music. Palm muting can also be used in conjunction with a wah pedal to produce the distinctive scratching sound often heard in disco music.

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.

Aspects of performance

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

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


The Ska stroke Play: palm muted downbeat downstrokes and staccato upbeat upstrokes[3]
Though notated with quarter notes, the Ska stroke sounds like sixteenth notes due to muting or dampening.[3]

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.)

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


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