I've been practicing alternate picking and palm muting for a while now, but I have extreme difficulties when combining these two techniques together. My picking hand can't move freely when resting on the bridge. My hand hurts and it just feels like a struggle, so I must be doing something wrong. However, if I keep my hand floating in the air I have no difficulties with alternate picking...

Should I stick to downpicking when palm muting at the same time or do you have any advice on combining these two techniques together?

  • 1
    Practice. You're doing everything right. Just keep doing it until it sounds good to you.
    – LCIII
    Dec 1, 2014 at 18:42

4 Answers 4


Some stuff is too fast to just use downstrokes.

I will assume that you play metal, the technique isn't used very much outside of those genres. Then one thing to consider is string gauge. It might seem intuitive to have thick strings to pound away on, but a lot of metal players actually use quite thin strings. Then palm muting will be easier both up and down.

The next thing to consider is that almost all players are better at downpicking, since that is used more (and possibly since you have gravity working in your favour :)). In order to strengthen the upwards palm muting, alternate between playing only downstrokes and only upstrokes, in order to get an even sound. Try different combinations e.g. 4 down 4 up, 4 down 8 up, 2 down 2 up and finally 1 down 1 up. Like always, start slowly where you feel in control, and increase the speed as you build stamina.

As others pointed out, it is important to stay relaxed, otherwise you will wear out. The motion should mainly be in your wrist. It's common to tighten up and use the entire forearm when tempo's reach the outer limits of ones ability.

Using a quite heavy and pointed pick is recommended for precision. I personally use Dunlop Jazz III, but there are a lot of different types and shapes out there.

  • I usually play between drop D and drop B. I'm a huge fan of .09 gauge strings on standard tuning, but they bend too much on drop B tuning and detune really fast... I bought heavy core .11 strings, they don't detune quickly but they are very thick and more difficult to pick. Do you have a recommendation for some good strings I could try? High-five for the Dunlop Jazz III pick, I use it as well and I love it! :D
    – muffin
    Dec 1, 2014 at 15:06
  • @muffin: Try a set with 046 for the low E string for drop D, and 054 for B. What scale length guitars are you using? Gibson type scale (24.75") needs thicker strings than Fender (25.5"). Adjust upward/downward in size depending on how the strings feel. I think it's best to use different string gauges for drop D and drop B tunings. Dec 1, 2014 at 15:40
  • Isn't 54 extremely thick? Well those who I have now are 50 on the low E, and that's already hard to play... I have an Epiphone SG 400, so Gibson scale.
    – muffin
    Dec 1, 2014 at 15:54
  • @muffin: What's the low E string gauge on your 011's you use now for dropped tunings, and the 009's you use for standard E? I'm guessing for the 009's it's 042 and for the 011's 049 or 052. If 042 is too loose for detuning, try to go one step up, to 046. It's difficult to accomodate both D and B tuning with one set of strings, I believe. Then it's going to be a compromise that's a bit too tight in B and a bit too loose in D. It might work, but the only way is to do some trial and error. Dec 1, 2014 at 16:05
  • SHARKFIN PICK!!! They seem to be dissapearing from shops I have to specially order them Dec 2, 2014 at 9:58

Holding the pick just between thumb and one finger gives enough movement to play across two or three strings without moving the part of the palm that is muting. If you move, say, to the top three strings, then slide the whole hand downwards so that the palm mute part of your hand is over those strings. When you move to the E, A and D strings, slide the muting palm up over them. Holding the pick too tightly will hamper movement, so relax as much as possible. It's not a technique that one wakes up one morning able to do it, so keep practising. Maybe also, you are pressing too much when muting.


Its tricky, I need to alter my palm mute hand shape and finger position for picking depending on what sound I want.

Just play around and experiment until your get the right sound for the most comfort, this will change depending on what your doing & make sure your not tensing your muscles. (If I learn something new I have to repeatedly and consciously remember to relax muscles)


Picking is a trifecta of finger memory, pinky relation, and palm base. Mind your pinky position most. Try hooking your pinky under, or resting it near, the high E string to give yourself a point of "reference". This often makes it easier to pick freely while still allowing accuracy, palm/muting, dig-in, and more string reach. This is easier on Gibson style bridges, but regardless it helps some folks.

In addition it allows you to control the high E, for example if you wanted to strum/chug all strings without having the high E ring out.

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