Palm Stops: Using Palm Muting to play choppy rhythms

Backing Track

  • Tempo 96 bpm
  • Key G major
  • Chords G5 Power Chord (‘1’ chord in G)
  • Pattern two stabs repeated every 4 beats


Video Transcription

Looking back at the last lesson, it’s surprisingly effective, isn’t it? Even when it’s just one chord. Because the chord is being played well, and because it fits in with all the other parts, everything mixes together to make a far better end result than any individual parts on its own.

Aand that’s how a worship team should work.

It reminds me of the Corinthians scripture; “the head needs the eye needs the hand needs the foot. Nothing is more important than the other. They have all got a vital role to play”.

But it’s not exactly rock n roll is it? One chord just ringing out forever!

It’s not going to win any awards, and it’s certainly not going to make for an interesting music experience.

We need some rhythm.

And for that, we’re going to use a very simple technique that I call a ‘Palm Stop’.

The ‘Palm Stop’ Technique

Staying with our G5 Power Chord in the left hand, this is a right hand technique.

Through a high gain setting with a decent electric guitar, power chords are just going to ring and ring and ring until sixteen weeks next Tuesday.

To get a bit of rhythm, we have to learn how to stop that sound when we want to.

How to do it

You’re holding your pick, usually between your thumb and your first finger. (some people use thumb and second finger – e.g. Eddie Van Halen).

You’ve got this underside of your right hand palm – this fleshy side.

To stop the chord ringing, you literally slap your palm’s fleshy side down on to the strings. A few centimetres away from where the bridge saddles are is ideal. The exact distance from the saddles is not that critical.

I tend to do it quite quite heavily.  This way, there is a ‘click’ you can hear in the sound. I like that percussiveness. I find it gives your playing a little bit more attitude.

Technique Demo

So, here is the ‘Palm Slap’ in action.

We’ll play the G5 chord one, two, three … slap.

I’m exaggerating for the camera (by making a large, easy to see right hand movement). Typically, I would play something like (demo: more subtle motion, keeps closer to strings at all times).

Power Chord Palm Muting Backing Track

So let’s practice that to a backing track. I think you’re going to be surprised how good this actually sounds!

We’re going to be playing a simple loop. We will hit the G5 twice. The, we will let the loop go around the rest of the bar.

The way to count it is: count “one and two and three and four and”.

We will be hitting the G5 on the “one and”. The other beats we will keep our palm down on the strings to maintain silence.

Let’s try that with the rest the track. And I think be surprised how effective it sounds already – even though it’s just one chord – one Palm Slap.