Also, this lesson covers an extension of another
playing style, tremolo picking (fast alternate picking). If you need a
quick intro to this, take the fast
guitar picking lesson. You may however just pick it up as we
Follow the exercises on this page for some essential
palm mute techniques used by many heavy metal bands old and
new. It's just
part of the style now.
Palm muting in drop tuning
When in drop tuning,
nothing changes as far as the physical palm muting technique, but there
is a subtle difference in how everything feels, since the
lowest string is a bit slacker and you also need to think about changing
from drop power chord shapes on the lowest string to regular
shapes on the A string.
So, not too difficult, but still worth
When thinking about timing over slower
tempos like below, it's probably easier just to think of "1
and..." instead of "1
segment the riff more clearly in your mind. Use a metronome
to build up your speed.
We're in drop
D tuning for
this example, but it applies to any drop tuning. Click the tab to
The exercise below will help you practice changing chords quickly up
fretboard whilst muting. This means you have two things to think
about - keeping rhythm and the
accuracy of the chord changes...
Again, click the tab to hear.
The rested part of your fret hand (the part that does the muting)
should be pretty much stationary the
whole time, covering
the lowest 4 strings at least. Only your pick has to change strings
Basic palm muted grooves
Metal guitarists commonly play in
different timing to the drummer. A typical example is 3/4 time over a
drummer's standard 4/4. Lock in to the red beats
Listen to an example of this below...
Now let's try this kind of "1 2 3 1 2 3" timing in a proper riff...
how the 3/4 time kept tight against the drummer's regular 4/4 time.
This adds a groove (or swing) to the standard 4/4 time. A common palm
muting technique used in groove metal.
Palm muting triplets
In metal alternate picking is commonly
used in groups of 3 strokes
(triplets) - down up down.
Still resting your "palm" just
over the bridge to partially mute the strings, use this alternate
picking pattern in bursts of 3...
You could hear in that last one I almost
lost it! It requires a fair amount of endurance in your pick hand so
work on it every day using a metronome.
Keep your pick hand relaxed
and make sure only
the point of the pick scrapes over the string so to keep obstruction
This is the foundation of
rhythmic scratch guitar
- it takes some practice, but use that metronome to gradually build up
speed like in the examples above (I'm starting to sound like a broken
More complex palm muting rhythms
We're still using that
picking but this time, to create a more intricate rhythm, we'll
position the odd downstroke to
juxta the rhythm a bit. Very hard to explain in words so see and hear
If you look at the tab, you'll
see those "down up down" symbols again to show you where the alternate
picking comes in. This is also when the palm muting
should be engaged.
Keep your palm in position
ready for engaging, but raise it only slightly when not used so it can
be quickly applied again.
Dealing with slower tempos
It's just as important to have
accuracy and control at slower tempos. The example below is a
brilliantly simple but powerful Machine
Head riff that uses palm muted bursts at a slow tempo to create a
This riff uses the machine gun
picking we've looked at above, but instead of groupings of 3 strokes,
it's in groupings of 5 (down-up-down-up-down)...
takes time to be able to release tension accurately in your picking
wrist (i.e. to keep the pick groupings strictly at a certain number).
The only advice I can give is to... yes, gradually speed
up using a metronome.
In a way, this requires more
accuracy because the ears pick up errors more efficiently at slower
and double stops
It's important to be able to palm mute all 6 strings so you can add
some variety to your lead guitar.
With the exercise below we're
using the mixed muted/unmuted method on two strings at a time,
known as double
starting with the top two
strings and working down. The muted strings
won't actually be heard too clearly in a fast riff, they just help
carry the riff.
The red squares indicate where
you lift off the muting to strike the strings normally.
Of course, more on this in the lead guitar section.
Quite a big lesson that, but I hope you've got
some ideas and
exercises there to improve your timing and accuracy with palm muting.
Final words from the broken record...
Use a metronome
to build up speed
Listen to different styles
of rock and heavy metal and how they use palm muting
Listen to it with
HEADPHONES, the guitar will be heard much more clearly.