I was told that my alternate picking palm muting should not sound like it does, there should be little difference vs downpicking. What should I practice to remedy this?

Here's an example, using phrases from Dammit - Blink 182, and Spreading The Disease - Queensryche


The first take of Dammit is all downpicked, the 2nd take is alternate picked, and the 3rd is a shorter try, downpicked. Then STD begins. The first 2 lines of STD are downpicked, but switch to alternate picking after that...you'll hear it. The lower rhythm part after the opening lines is all downpicked.

No metronome, and I was improvising by ear so there's notation mistakes. This is just to show the tonal difference I'm having between downstrokes and alternate.


  • Most of the difference I can make out is, I think, simply because your all-down picking isn't quite in time; you seem to need a bit more endurance training on those repeated down strokes. If there are any subtler tonal differences then they're drowned by that uber distorted sound (let me guess: a Digitech Metal-nonsense pedal?); possibly there would be more to hear in a cleaner sample. Oct 11, 2013 at 20:34
  • 1
    Oh yeah, forgot to mention the whole reason I was trying to make downstrokes = upstrokes is because playing all downstrokes at that speed is way too hard for me, timing slows like you heard. Yet somehow it's easier on StD. Also, no pedal, Fender Mustang 1 digital amp set to "metal 2000" and plugged headphone jack into line in of computer. Also the strings probably need changing. Oct 11, 2013 at 22:06
  • Hi, re this: "I was told that my alternate picking palm muting should not sound like it does" <- Told by who ? TBH it sounds alright to me- just slightly less damped than downstrokes, so you could cure that by moving your palm a little bit further down the strings, or pressing on the strings a bit harder. Careful with that as it can make the strings go sharp as they get a bit bent. Alarm bells ring when I see the word "should" implying there's a right and wrong. Ways to play a song might have rightness or wrongness, but then there's you're style whcih is its own self, no right or wrong. Feb 9, 2016 at 13:15

2 Answers 2


In general, there are a lot of different ways to create different sounds you just have to experiment with your technique. We can just look at palm muting and pick for now and all the different ways you can change the sound you make.

How much pressure you put on the strings when you palm mute will change the tone of the sound. Also where you palm mute will also affect the sound.

There are many, many, ways that picking can affect your sound. I'll just comment on a few.

  1. First of all, what type of pick (thickness and material) will affect how the notes you pick sound. (Try to pick with a quarter to hear the difference.)

  2. How hard you pick will affect the sound.

  3. Where you pick will affect the sound.

  4. How you hold your pick and your picking technique will affect the sound. (look up pinch harmonics for an interesting example.)

Any combination of these could result in the sound you are looking for. You have to experiment with these to get the sound you want. Your technique and how you play greatly affects how the notes you play sound. There are many other ways to change the sound coming out of your guitar but if you want to focus on palm muting and picking these are the areas to focus on. In general, the "sound" you make is dependent on your technique and there is no wrong way they just change the tone of the notes.

P.S. Whoever told you your alternate picking palm muting should not sound like it does is just being way too picky about the sound. Different guitarist just sound different in general playing the same thing and down picking vs alternative picking in general should sound slightly different.


I do hear a bit of a difference. When you first switch to alternate picking, the upper note is ringing a lot more. So you could invest some attention on the muting technique itself, rather than just the picking.

There are at least two basic methods: anchoring the palm, bouncing the palm. It sounds to me like you're probably anchoring, so you might want to give a bouncing mute technique a try. I think you might be able to suppress that upper note more and that should give more chunk to the tone.

In general though, downstrokes and upstroke will sound a little different. With a single-note line, you should be able to get them quite even. But with chords, it's always really an arpeggio. So the only way to get chords to sound more even is to strum faster, that is get the top note and bottom note as near as possible to simultaneous (letting the middle ones take care of themselves).

Trying to do this (increase the speed of the strum motion) may have an affect upon the volume, so you may need to reduce pressure. But all these little adjustments will affect the tone, too. So you'll have to experiment.

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