Palm Mute: What Is It In Playing Guitar?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 20, 2022

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Ever heard of palm muting? It’s the technique of using your picking hand to dampen the sound of the strings.

It’s great for when you’re strumming power chords, as it adds an aggressive and percussive sound.

It’s also great for picking lead lines, as it gives your tone an interesting effect and helps you pick faster, since the muted strings vibrate less.

What is palm muting

How to Palm Mute

Ready to give it a try? Here’s what you do:

  • Start by plucking out a simple chord progression using power chords.
  • Place your picking hand’s palm lightly on the strings near the bridge.
  • Strum or pick the strings as normal.
  • Adjust the pressure of your palm to control the volume.
  • Experiment with different levels of palm muting to find the sound you like.

So there you have it – palm muting in a nutshell. Now get out there and give it a try!

Understanding Palm Mutes in Guitar Tablature

What are Palm Mutes?

Palm mutes are a technique used in guitar playing to create a muted sound. It’s done by lightly resting the side of your picking hand on the strings while playing.

How are Palm Mutes Notated?

In guitar tablature, palm mutes are usually indicated with a “P.M.” or “PM” and a dashed or dotted line for the duration of the muted phrase. If the notes are still audible, the fret numbers are given, otherwise they’re represented with an X. If there’s an X but no P.M. directive, this usually means to mute the string with your fretting hand, not your picking hand.

If you see a P.M. and a dashed line, you know to mute the strings with your picking hand. If you see an X, you know to mute the strings with your fretting hand. Easy peasy!

Getting the Most Out of Palm Muting

Applied Pressure

When it comes to palm muting, it’s all about the pressure you apply. A light touch will give you a fuller sound, while pressing down hard will give you a more staccato effect. With some extra amplification, heavily muted notes will sound quieter than lightly muted ones. But with a bit of compression, they’ll sound just as loud, but with fewer overtones and a more distinct tone.

Hand Position

The most common way to palm mute is to place the edge of your picking hand near the bridge. But if you move it closer to the neck, you’ll get a heavier sound. Moving it closer to the bridge will give you a lighter sound. Just be careful not to rest your palm on the bridge – it’s not good for your ergonomics, it can corrode the metal parts, and it can interfere with tremolo bridges.

Muted Notes and Chords

Full chords can sound muddy when you crank up the distortion, but palm muting can help you get a chuggier, more distortion-friendly sound. So if you’re looking for that classic rock sound, palm muting is the way to go.

Examples of Palm Muting

  • Green Day’s “Basket Case” is a great example of palm muting in action. The power chords are accented and then muted to create a sense of urgency and energy.
  • Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth are some of the thrash metal bands that popularized palm muting in the mid-late 1980s. The technique was used in conjunction with fast alternate picking and high gain to create a driving, percussive effect.
  • Gang of Four and Talking Heads are two post-punk bands that incorporated palm muting into their sound.
  • Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse is another contemporary musician who uses palm muting in his music.
  • And of course, who could forget Black Sabbath’s classic “Paranoid,” which uses palm muting for much of the song?


Palm Mute Vs Fret Hand Mute

When it comes to muting strings on a guitar, there are two main techniques: palm mute and fret hand mute. Palm mute is when you use the palm of your picking hand to lightly rest on the strings near the bridge of the guitar. This technique is used to create a staccato sound, as the strings are muted when you strum them. Fret hand mute, on the other hand, is when you use the fretting hand to lightly rest on the strings near the bridge of the guitar. This technique is used to create a more subtle sound, as the strings are not completely muted when you strum them.

Both techniques are great for creating different sounds and textures on the guitar, but they do have their differences. Palm mute is great for creating a staccato sound, while fret hand mute is better for creating a more subtle sound. Palm mute is also great for creating a more aggressive sound, while fret hand mute is better for creating a more mellow sound. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide which technique works best for them and the sound they’re trying to create.


Why is palm muting so hard?

Palm muting is hard because it requires a lot of coordination between your fretting and picking hands. You have to press down on the strings with your fretting hand while simultaneously using your picking hand to pluck the strings. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. It takes a lot of practice to get it right and even then, it’s still tricky.

Plus, it’s not like you can just take a break and come back to it later. You have to keep at it, or else you’ll forget the coordination you worked so hard to learn. It’s like riding a bike – if you don’t keep practicing, you’ll lose the ability to do it. So if you’re having trouble with palm muting, don’t give up! Keep at it and you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Can you palm mute without a pick?

Yes, you can palm mute without a pick! It’s actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. All you need to do is place your picking hand over the strings and press down with your palm. This will mute the strings and give you a nice, muted sound. It’s a great way to add some texture to your playing and it’s also a great way to practice your picking technique. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to experiment with different sounds and techniques. So give it a try and see what you can come up with!


Palm muting is a great way to add texture and flavor to your guitar playing. With a little practice and experimentation, you can create some truly unique sounds. Just remember to keep your hand close to the bridge, use the right amount of pressure, and don’t forget to ROCK out! And don’t forget the most important rule of all: have FUN!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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