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> What Should A Metal Guitarist Learn Pt4
Ben Higgins
post Sep 10 2015, 10:09 AM
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What Should a Metal Guitarist Learn pt4

In the previous part we talked about the importance of muting unwanted string noise. This time we're looking at palm muting. Is there a difference between muting and palm muting? Palm muting is the name we give to an intentional effect which turns a normal signal into a choked, chunky sound.

We use our picking hand to deliberately produce this sound by resting the outer edge of our hand on the strings, reducing the amount of vibration caused by the pick hitting the strings, which gives us that chunky sound we all know and love.

Palm muting was in effect on much of the earliest blues rock recording of the late 60's and the albums of 70's rock giants such as Sabbath and Zeppelin but it wasn't really until the 80's that the advance in gain capabilities and the increase in musical intensity gave us the real sound of the 'chug' and Metallica were perhaps the chuggiest of them all...

...until Anthrax caught up and mastered the art of the tightest chug heard anywhere

and may I even humbly use on of my own creations to demonstrate the power of the chug?

But it's not just rhythm guitar that palm muting works for. Al diMeola is well known for using it to turn his picking runs into staccato bursts, like the one at 4:02

But that's another story for another time!

So we know what palm muting sounds like... how do we do it?

Technically, palm muting is an incorrect term. We don't really use our palm.. we use the outer edge of our hand on the pinky side but "edge of the hand muting" doesn't have the same sound to it, does it?

We need to use the edge of our hand to rest on the strings. Two things we have to take into consideration are:

1: Where we rest our hand along the string's length. Taking into account the distance from the bridge to the end of the neck, between this distance is our main picking / strumming area. In other words, where we normally play, somewhere over the pickups. Depending on whether you're further back or further forward it will give you a different sound.

If you're closer to the bridge end, you will typically get less of a palm muting effect and it will be much lighter.

If you move your hand more into the middle it will make the effect more noticeable and give you more of a Metallica style chug.

There will be a 'sweet spot' where you get the maximum effect of palm muting whilst still retaining as much of the note or chord's identity as possible. This sweet spot can be found near the middle.

If you move your hand even further forward, you'll increase the muting to where it has a strange sort of 'windy' effect, like extra air is passing through your speaker, and the notes or chords become less distinct. This can be an effective sound in itself but be aware that you will lose clarity.

The second thing to take into consideration....

2. How lightly / hard you apply pressure with the edge of your hand. If you lightly rest it over the strings you'll get a more subtle result. Not so chuggy but still with a little bit of crunch.

Listen to the intro to the live version of Hellrider by Judas Priest. Palm muting is occuring but the attack is quite soft.

Hear also the main riff in this track at 1:40.

So you can hear that by using palm muting, you don't have to sound like an 80's thrash band if that's not what you want. You can control the amount of the effect you get from it by varying WHERE you place your hand and how LIGHTLY or HARD you apply pressure with your hand to the strings.

Be aware that the harder you press against the strings, the more you will influence the tuning. You can actually make the strings go sharp, especially if you have a double locking tremolo.

Now that you've had the written explanation, go savour some visual demon(demon?)stration from yours truly!

This lesson deals with muting unwanted noise and palm muting!

I hope you can see how palm muting is an effective tool that we use to shape the sound of our riffs and even our lead guitar playing. It requires exploration in order for you to find out the most effective ways of using it so........ over to you!

Pt 5 can be read here!

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Sep 13 2015, 10:39 AM

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