Palm Muting (Guitar Lesson)


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Jim Deeming

Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Basic Guitar with Jim seriesLength: 7:00Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (06:51) Palm Muting Jim takes this lesson as an opportunity to address an issue that many members have asked in the Q+A section as well as the forum.

Palm muting is an incredibly important technique. It is used in almost every style of playing with the exception of jazz. Consequently, it is absolutely necessary that you master this technique.

Note: For more information about palm-muting, please visit lesson three from Dennis Hodges' Metal series.

Palm-Muting with a Thumb Pick

The country / bluegrass guitar style pioneered by Chet Atkins utilizes a lot of palm-muting. Within this style, an alternating bass line typically accompanies a melody line. The bass line is palm-muted to allow the melody to sing out. Also, this creates two different tones and textures that occur simultaneously. This results in an altogether more interesting sound.

The Technique

When applying this technique, the strings are not muted altogether. Rather, they are slightly muffled to create a unique tonal quality. Rest the palm or heel of the hand on the strings just past the bridge as you strike a note. If you move your hand too far towards the neck, you will mute the strings altogether. The strings sustain longer when palm-muted close to the bridge.

Degrees of Palm-muting

There are various degrees of palm-muting. Some situations call for a very heavy drastic palm-mute. Other musical situations call for a much lighter form of muting. Let your ears guide you. A string sounds increasingly more muted as more hand mass is placed on the string. The volume diminishes more on acoustic with the level of palm-muting. If you want a loud tone with total palm muting, you must pick the strings with more aggression.

Palm-Muting All Six Strings

In the Chet Atkins style, typically the three bass strings are palm-muted. However, you can palm-mute any of the six strings. Often, melodies and solos are palm-muted to create a different texture. As an exercise, play through any two octave scale pattern that you know. Apply alternate picking to the entire pattern while palm-muting each note. Due to their smaller size, it is much more difficult to palm-mute the three treble strings. Spend extra time practicing with these strings if necessary.

Using a Flat Pick

The mechanics of palm-muting do not change at all when using a flatpick. However, the technique feels slightly different since the thumb is no longer as close to the strings.

Palm-Muting Upstrokes

Palm-muting with an upstroke is slightly more difficult than palm-muting with a downstroke. The palm must be resting in place before the pick makes contact with the string. Practice the exercise in "Supplemental Content" to develop this technique. Start very slowly. Focus on producing a solid tone and keeping the rhythm steady. Then, gradually increase the tempo.

Video Subtitles / Captions





Supplemental Learning Material

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


tosetose replied on January 1st, 2012

Hi Jim, really enjoying the course so far. This lesson seems to be putting me at a fork in my guitar playing road. I have been playing finger-style for a few years now using my thumbnail for the bass notes & so felt comfortable playing with my palm maybe a half inch above the strings. After trying a thumb-pick (which felt alien to me) I reverted to my thumbnail and after a little practice I now feel comfortable palm muting while still using my thumbnail for the bass notes. The problem I'm seeing with this is that it doesn't leave me with a very good strumming option (especially on upstrokes) which I see you use occasionally with the thumb-pick. Just wondering whether you have any comments or advice that might help me decide whether I should bite the bullet & convert to a thumb-pick rather than persist with the thumbnail which might limit my playing down the track? Thanks

sbryantsbryant replied on January 26th, 2011

For the life of me, I could not figure out my issue with palm-muted upstrokes on three string power chords (e.g., the B major power chord). The G string would always sound high or inconsistent since my palm was coming up off the string a little. Jim's suggestion of leading with the palm on the upstroke is a stroke (no pun intended) of genius! I was finally able to match the sound of a palm-muted downstroke with the B-chord to the palm-muted upstroke of said chord. Thank you so much Jim!!!

dagchristiandagchristian replied on July 25th, 2009

I wish i did that, still after three years struggeling. Thought I got better, then I change my strings :D

rumble dollrumble doll replied on January 17th, 2009

This is very interesting because I started palm muting as part of my playing quite early on in my learning. The odd thing is that when I started doing it I didn't even know it was a recognised technique. I just did it inadvertently one time while strumming & thought it actually sounded quite good. Rightly or wrongly I use it when strumming the chords to Sam Cooke's Chain Gang song, at the beginning where he sings that kind of 'huh' sound. I thought that any experienced guitarist would cringe at me doing this & it was only much later that I discovered that this is in fact a recognised technique.

shiroshiro replied on March 4th, 2009

i also would do that "bossa nova" thing where u take the whole chord off for a split second and then place it back on. it just seemed like a logical technique to me.

shiroshiro replied on March 4th, 2009

yeah i did that too

Basic Guitar with Jim

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle master Jim Deeming teaches you the basics of guitar playing. With over 30 years of experience teaching and playing, Jim will definitely start you in the right direction. This is a great series for beginners and guitarists looking to refresh their knowledge.



Lesson 1

Introduction Lesson

In this short lesson, Jim Deeming will introduce himself and talk about his upcoming lessons.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Choosing a Guitar

Jim gives his thoughts on purchasing your first guitar.

Length: 7:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Goal Setting

Jim discusses the importance of setting goals. He provides some tips that will help steer your practicing in the right direction.

Length: 11:00 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Lesson 4

Changing the Strings

Jim Deeming walks you through the process of changing your strings. He gives some excellent tips on this important process.

Length: 41:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Meet Your New Guitar

Jim introduces proper playing technique. Then, he explains how to play your first chord.

Length: 52:24 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Learning More Chords

Jim teaches you the 3 primary chords in G major. He also explains how chords relate to specific keys. A great lesson!

Length: 39:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Right Hand Revisited

Jim discusses a plethora of right hand techniques that are essential to guitar playing.

Length: 35:19 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

New Chords and Keys

This lesson provides additional information about chords and keys.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Let's Play

This lesson is all about playing. Jim will start you off playing a song. You will have the opportunity to play along with him.

Length: 20:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Alternating Bass and Chords

Jim teaches you a few more commonly used chords. Then, he discusses a technique known as the alternating bass line.

Length: 40:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

A Shape Chords

Jim covers all possible fingering options pertaining to the basic open A chord shape.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Basic Guitar Checkup

Jim talks about the future of his Phase 1 guitar series and where to go from here.

Length: 4:18 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Chord Fiesta

Jim Deeming invites you to a veritable chord fiesta. He demonstrates common dominant and minor chord shapes.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Proper Practicing

Jim Deeming explains how to create a productive practice routine. Make sure you aren't wasting needless time!

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Reading Tablature

Jim Deeming covers the basics of reading guitar tablature. Knowledge of tablature will help with JamPlay lessons as well as learning your favorite songs.

Length: 21:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Tuning Extravaganza

Jim explains various tuning methods. He provides useful tips and tricks that will ensure that your guitar is sounding its best.

Length: 31:45 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Let's Play: "Red River Valley"

Jim is back with another "let's play" style lesson. He teaches the classic song "Red River Valley" and encourages you to play along.

Length: 52:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

Length: 25:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Let's Play: "Wayfaring Stranger"

Jim Deeming breaks down the song sections to the classic tune "Wayfaring Stranger".

Length: 29:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

More On Drop D

Jim Deeming takes another, more focused look at drop D tuning.

Length: 6:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Your Friend, the Metronome

Jim Deeming discusses how to use a metronome for practice, skill building, and speed building.

Length: 24:02 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes JamPlay.com is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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