Using palm muting to discover different tonal textures
There are an almost infinite number of ways to play a note on the guitar, and that’s what makes our instrument of choice so awesome. You can let a note ring for different lengths, play it with a different velocity, you can bend it, you can hammer-on, you can slide (you get the idea!) and within each of those techniques, there are million different variables. One technique that can be used to give you even more choice and contrast is palm muting, and this month I have created an exercise to help you hone your palm muting skills!
I’ve created a simple warm up to get you started. As always, head to the digital edition to have the video to hand as it will help no end – especially if you’re starting out in the world of palm muting.
This technique does what it says on the tin: palm muting is muting with your palm of your right hand. For the warm up, simply focus first on resting the palm over the strings and playing the E string, experiment with how far towards the bridge you are; the closer to the bridge the more the note rings out, and the further away the less it rings out.
In the main exercise, I’ve created a relatively simple arpeggio pattern, holding a chord but changing the bass notes. On the first cycle you should aim to mute the lower bass strings, and on the second time round you should lower your palm so you can mute the treble strings. This isn’t an exact science – it’s about trial and error. Experiment until you create the desired affect. Finally, we have a hammered lick which is palm muted for the first few notes, but once you get to the D string, move your palm away so the note can ring out.
This technique is all about giving you more contrasts to play with. The most stunning guitar work is nearly always rich in textures, and mixing varying degrees of palm muting is a great way to achieve this. The important thing to grasp here is that palm muting isn’t an “on” or “off” scenario, just like any note on the guitar there are so many variables at play. Moving your palm a millimeter to the left or right can create some serious tonal differences – so really spend time appreciating the subtlety of this great technique.