Palm Muting and Separation (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Lincoln

Palm Muting and Separation

In lesson 11 of his performance series, Mark discusses the palm muting technique and how to separate your singing from your playing.

Taught by Mark Lincoln in Guitar Performance seriesLength: 23:30Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:40) Introduction Review
- Warm up the body.
- Single note hum.
- Three note hum.
- Hum "me-me-me-me" to "mah-mah-mah-mah" to "me-ma-me-ma-me."
- Wake up the breath with "sah-sah-sah" etc. long and sustained then five times staccato.
- "Sah" in five-note descending scales, then five-note ascending scales.
- Work these scales faster and faster, then louder and louder.
- Practice singing along with rhythms that we’ve been working on in the last few lessons.
- Practice singing single note hums first. Then, as you get more warmed up, sing a melody line that you think might work well with the chords.
I just want to mention to all of you aspiring singer/songwriter/guitarists that although the review section may seem to be redundant, it is of the utmost importance that you properly warm up your voice. This is not only important to reach your maximum potential as a performer but even more important: to avoid harm! Proper warm-ups will relax the vocal chords, which in turn will help you to avoid straining them. So heed my warning, my friends! Do the review! Okay, I’ve taken my meds and calmed down now, so let’s continue!

Switching between openly strummed chords and palm-muting is an effective way to change the dynamics of a song. There are a number of ways to combine the two elements, and we’ll discuss some of those in depth. For those of you who may need to review chords or other fundamentals of the acoustic guitar, please feel free to peruse my Intro to Guitar series.
Chapter 2: (03:33) Exercise 1 We’ll use three open chords to begin with: Am, G and Dm.




Palm muting can be defined as “a means of quieting or muting the strings with the goal of creating a softer sound; changing sound dynamics by covering strings with the palm of the performer's hand.” The palm muting technique is not difficult to perform once the basic mechanics of it are understood. The rhythm hand (usually the right for most) can be placed lightly over the width of the strings with the pick being held slightly above. This is actually near to the opposite of how the strum hand is usually held with the pick held more closely and the palm further away. Watch me in the video for more on this technique.

Exercise 1
Practice palm muting by playing through the three chords Am, G and Dm. Play the rhythm or "down, down, down" and strike the tonic or root note (the lowest note in the chord in this case) on the first strum of each chord. Play the chords in this order: Am, G, Dm, and Am. Pay attention to the sound coming out of your guitar. Does it sound like the normal sound that you usually get when you strum? If it does, then you need to seat your hand further down onto the strings. Is your hand muting the strings completely? Then you need to lift your palm slightly in between strums. Watch me in the video for more on this.
Chapter 3: (03:57) Transition Strumming Transition Strums
Transition strums are strums that can be used to link strums and chord progressions together. In our exercise, we used simple down strokes, but what do you think would happen if we threw another strum or two into the mix in between our regular strums?

Exercise 2 Play the same chords in the same patterns and strums as explained above, but this time, play the rhythm like this: or "down down down down-up." The down-up strum on the end is the transition strum and should be played as a snap strum in one smooth continuous motion (see also my Intro to Guitar series). Play the progression slowly at first until you get the hang of it and then faster and faster as you become more comfortable with it. What do you think of the rhythm with the transition strums? Without them? Do you think that the transition strums make the chords sound better together and more like a “real” song?
Chapter 4: (05:34) Separation Separation
What does it take to separate what your mouth is singing and what your hands are playing? Do you tend to start singing what your hands are playing? These are perhaps the most important questions when it comes to singing and playing at the same time and the most difficult to answer. How do you separate the two actions?

Practice, Practice, Practice
Continuous and dedicated work will hopefully help you to improve the synthesis of playing and singing. Even the most gifted of performers have to log countless hours of practice and performance before they can reach their full potential. This is a good start.

Learning from people who have some important skills can be very helpful even though this usually can’t be substituted for personal dedication and practice.

There is no doubt that some people are just more adept at learning to sing and play at the same time. There seems to be evidence of a genetic predisposition towards music that can be handed down from parent to child.

Despite the fact that your father wasn’t a concert pianist and your mother wasn’t a Viennese Opera singer, you should be able to acquire some or all of the skills necessary to sing and play. We here at JamPlay are dedicated to passing on the insight and exercises necessary to help you become a better performer.
Chapter 5: (07:33) Humming and Playing Exercise Exercise 3
Play the chords as explained above, but this time, hum along with them. Can you make up a melody line that you think might go well? Do you find that the transition strums make it more difficult to sing along? Try the chords without the transition strums and see if that makes it easier for you. Once you’ve got a better handle on it, try to play it again with the transition strums.

Now, we’ll play the next three chords without palm muting. Pay attention to the change in dynamics as well as how volume changes in the song change the overall emotional tone of the song. The next three chords are F, C, and Dm. Watch me in the video for more on how to make clear and distinct changes between the section that is palm muted and the section that is played with an open strum.

Chapter 6: (02:19) Final Exercise and Closing Exercise 4: Singing the Notes
Humming the notes in a particular chord can be very helpful when trying to find the connection between strumming and singing. What I mean to say is, listen to the notes that you are playing in a particular chord, and try to hum them as you go. If it helps you, pick each of the notes in the Am chord (for starters) and hum each of them as you play. Start slowly and then pick faster and faster as you go. Once you feel more confident and warmed-up, then go back to strumming and listen to how the notes in the chord can be translated into hummed notes. Watch me in the video for more on this!

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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

Islander268Islander268 replied

Mark, Your lessons are outstanding. Thank you! Steve

Islander268Islander268 replied

Mark, your lessons are outstanding. Thank you, Steve

ciaran_welshciaran_welsh replied

Hey Mark. First of all nicely done, great lesson series! Just a quick question though ... When you palm mute, are you palm muting the whole chord or just the tonic when we striking twice?

nikolai1024nikolai1024 replied

What did he say at 1:10? I think there maybe an a small editing issue here.

nessanessa replied

Oh, he just misspoke. He said people give him funny looks in the line at the cleaners. :)

infiniteguitarinfiniteguitar replied

I wish more teachers would teach songs through their lessons. Good job Mark!

eguitardudeeguitardude replied

Mark your lessons are great and the singing lessons need to keep comin' ...Thanks!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Hey Guitar dude, there's more on the way so stay tuned! Mark

Guitar Performance

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Performing live or in a studio situation is a goal of many aspiring guitarists. Vocal training and the ability to sing and play at the same time are skills that will help in this endeavor.

Introduction to SingingLesson 1

Introduction to Singing

Mark introduces you to the wonderful world of singing.

Length: 15:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Vocal ExercisesLesson 2

Vocal Exercises

Mark Lincoln guides you through stretches and vocal exercises to warm up the voice.

Length: 23:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Vocal VibratoLesson 3

Vocal Vibrato

Mark continues to discuss vocal warm-ups and exercises. Then, he moves on to explain vibrato.

Length: 23:42 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Warming the BreathLesson 4

Warming the Breath

Mark covers some singing terms and teaches an exercise that is used to "warm the breath."

Length: 19:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Singing and GuitarLesson 5

Singing and Guitar

Mark Lincoln talks more about vocal exercise and warm-up. Then, he moves on to discuss singing and playing at the same time.

Length: 26:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Singing ExercisesLesson 6

Singing Exercises

Mark Lincoln provides more singing exercises to practice while playing your guitar.

Length: 26:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Singing and Playing RevisitedLesson 7

Singing and Playing Revisited

Mark returns to singing and playing. Mark teaches proper form while singing and playing, cognitive exercises, and chord progression basics.

Length: 17:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Anatomy and DynamicsLesson 8

Anatomy and Dynamics

Mark Lincoln discusses song dynamics and the anatomy of songs. He also explains more about singing and playing.

Length: 23:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rhythm in MusicLesson 9

Rhythm in Music

Mark Lincoln explains how rhythm is used in music.

Length: 15:16 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Technique AppliedLesson 10

Technique Applied

Mark Lincoln applies singing and playing techniques to the Doors song "Riders on the Storm."

Length: 17:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Palm Muting and SeparationLesson 11

Palm Muting and Separation

In lesson 11 of his performance series, Mark discusses the palm muting technique and how to separate your singing from your playing.

Length: 23:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Picking Vs. StrummingLesson 12

Picking Vs. Strumming

Mark discusses how alternating between arpeggios and strummed chords can add contrast and flair to your music.

Length: 15:02 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Silence Is GoldenLesson 13

Silence Is Golden

Mark discusses silence in music and how it can transform a piece. Additionally, he explains how to use silence effectively in your playing.

Length: 16:40 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Warm-up and PracticeLesson 14

Warm-up and Practice

In this lesson, Mark Lincoln talks more about warming up your voice and walks you through a few exercises that will aid this process.

Length: 16:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Preparations for Playing LiveLesson 15

Preparations for Playing Live

Mark provides a lecture on items you should do and think about to become a proficient live player.

Length: 20:57 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Voice and GuitarLesson 16

Voice and Guitar

In this lesson, Mark delves into the concept of combining both your voice and guitar into one neat little package you can deliver to your listener.

Length: 21:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Day in the LifeLesson 17

A Day in the Life

Mark Brings us Lesson 17 today to explain the preparation that goes into a performance. Mark tracks back up to 36 hours in advance, and shows us some routines to prepare for a great show.

Length: 19:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Dynamics of a SongLesson 18

The Dynamics of a Song

In this lesson, Mark teaches all of the diverse parts to a song with regards to dynamics.

Length: 20:17 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Proper Breathing RoutinesLesson 19

Proper Breathing Routines

In this episode, Mark talks about proper breathing techniques and routines. He gives us eight points to work off of when singing and playing together.

Length: 23:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Play Along with Mark LincolnLesson 20

Play Along with Mark Lincoln

Mark Lincoln brings us a great play along opportunity. Mark provides lyrics as well as the chord progression for this play along. He also breaks down key elements such as palm muting, hammer-ons, bending,...

Length: 24:06 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Palm Muting TechniqueLesson 21

Palm Muting Technique

Lesson 21 is a repeat of lesson 20's content only with a whole new set of chords and techniques. The"chords de jour" will be a little simpler than lesson 20's and will also include a much more in depth...

Length: 20:05 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mark Lincoln

About Mark Lincoln View Full Biography Mark Lincoln was born in S. California but was raised near Portland Oregon in a town called Beaverton. When he was twelve years old, he began his journey into the realm of the creative by composing poetry and was later published in a journal called "In Dappled Sunlight." He wrote for four years until his older sister blessed him with his first guitar, an old beat-up nylon stringed classical guitar. Mark played that guitar for five years, continuing to compose his own lyrics and starting the process of matching his own words with chords that he was learning on the guitar. He learned to play chords from his friends and from music books that he both bought and borrowed. Mark cited his four biggest influences, at that point at least, as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones.

Mark cites his most current influences as Radiohead, U2, older music by REM, and Peter Gabriel amongst others. He performs with two acoustic guitars, one being a six-string M-36 Martin with a three-pieced back for increased bass response, and a Guild Twelve-string which is his most recent acquisition. Mark is fond of saying that the twelve-string guitar is better because you get two guitars for the price of one, but he still plays his Martin equally as much and with the same passion.

Mark ended up in Fort Collins Colorado where he currently lives, works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and continues to write, teach and perform music. He currently performs with a group called "Black Nelson" as well as with a number of other seasoned professional musicians including his cousin David, a virtuoso lead-guitar player. Mark has performed in many of the smaller venues in Denver and Boulder, as well as some of the larger ones including the Fox Theatre, The Boulder Theatre, Herman's Hideaway, and also at The Soiled Dove where he opened for Jefferson Starship as a soloist. Some of Mark's originals are also available for your listening pleasure on MySpace.

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