Lesson 3 - Metal Guitar Riffs Using Palm Mute Technique

Palm mute is a technique that used a lot in heavy metal music to change the sound of some or all notes and power chords in a solo or riff to thicker, short-ringing and overall different shade.

Compare the power chord that I played with a palm mute to a regular playing:

With Palm Muting
Without Malm Muting

To switch to palm muting, put the edge of your picking hand on the strings near the bridge, in order to slightly muffle them there.

A photo of the picking hand performing palm mute

And while remaining in this position, pick the strings with a plectrum as usual, and that's all there is to it! ;)

Experiment with various amounts of pressure the heel of the picking hand puts on the strings, as well as with closeness of this hand to the bridge, and find what sounds best for you.

In guitar tabs, palm mutes are indicated by P.M. abbreviation.

If there's a series of palm mutes, the P.M. abbreviation and a dotted line that follows designate this area:

When the dotted line ends, you open up palm mute and play in a regular position.

Now let's play some riffs!

Riff 1


Pay attention that in the second half of the riff, the first chord in each bar is played without palm muting, the contrast of muted and not-muted power chords makes the riffs sound more interesting than if they would be played fully with a muffled tone.

Riff 2

Pay attention that power chords in this phrase consist of three notes, where the highest note, merely the copy of the root note, but located a octave higher. This trick allows to get fatter distorted sound out of guitar.

Riff 3

Classic heavy metal riffing - guitar tablature

This riff and the following riff #4 perfectly connect into a theme. Practice over each riff separately, until you play them accurately, after that play one riff after another as a whole piece:

Riff 4

Note that I play the riff slightly differently at the second time, by playing the 3rd bar twice, (the 4th bar is replaced with the 3rd one) and finishing up the phrase with the A power chord:

The A power chord - guitar tablature

Riff 5

I personally very like this riff

When you feel ready to move on, jump to the next lesson - 12 Bar Blues Progression where I've put a couple of cool blues riffs and introduced shuffle rhythm.

All Riff Lessons

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This article was last updated on January 18, 2024