As far as I can tell, when guitarists want to play short, semi-muted notes, they usually use palm muting with the picking hand. However, you can get a similar sound by fretting the notes with your finger on top of the fret instead of behind it. Is there a reason why this muting technique doesn't seem to be used much, besides the obvious drawbacks that it doesn't work on open strings, and you can't quickly switch between muted and unmuted notes? Does any well-known musician use this technique more than sporadically?

  • I never heard of that, only thing on top of fret I know of is harmonic. Some songs like reggae and ska mute with fretting hand but by not fretting the note all the way. Like party in the USA by Miley sirus the main guitar riff. Also too sometimes arpegios when picked aren't totally fretted, or unfretted quickly so as to not ring out and get more staccato sound. Reggae and ska can use rythmic combinations of mutes with both hands. Base guitar I believe uses the the fretting hand heavily for muting as well as percussive slap sound. Dec 19, 2020 at 15:01

2 Answers 2


The technique you describe is called étouffée. It is indeed less frequently used. I would say the main reason is that you can mute strings stronger with palm muting, which produces a more distinct effect. Also placing fingers on top of the frets requires some more precision in the fretting hand. However, if you find an application for this technique, go ahead and use it, there is nothing wrong with it!

  • I believe it's spelled with two e's at the end.
    – Aaron
    Dec 18, 2020 at 23:56
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    I can't imagine playing fast with that technique. Palming is probably easier.
    – user50691
    Dec 19, 2020 at 0:55
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    @ggcg I think it has more use in playing with fingers, vs with pick. If you palm mute ("pizzicato") it's more difficult to play with fingers, then etouffee can free your plucking hand. Dec 19, 2020 at 16:45
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    @guest - the word is from French - stifle, mute, dampen. In fact on a piano, the French word for the damper is 'etouffoir'.
    – Tim
    Dec 19, 2020 at 16:52
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    @Tim I think guest rather asks of origin of the term in guitar music, i.e. which composers or musicians used it. Myself I found it in some textbook, but then I only sometimes used it on my own. I can't name anything specific. Dec 19, 2020 at 16:54

Yes, you can do that. You'll be damping the string at a node, a point of minimum vibration so, unless you were palm-damping RIGHT on the bridge it will have less effect.

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