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I'm wondering if there's a word for the style of guitar on most Reggae songs, when they play chords on the upper strings and mute them after. I would love to know if there's a word for that, that could be used much like you would use "palm muting". For example, you could say "They [insert word I'm looking for here] on that song". Does anyone know if a word for this exists? Thanks!

  • 1
    If I wanted to ask someone to play like that in a band tonight, I would suggest they play it "reggae style". If they gave me a funny look, I'd describe it by saying play staccato upstrokes on the off-beat or on every other eighth note, depending on the rhythm. Probably not what you're looking for, hence the comment instead of answer. – Todd Wilcox Aug 4 '15 at 13:28
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It seems that the prevailing opinion is to use the word "skank" although I would personally go with the word "chop", as "skank" has another meaning - it is also the name of the type of dance that people do to reggae and ska music.

Using a term such as "reggae off beat chops" on a popular search engine will yield a few results confirming the usage, although admittedly some of them also refer to it as the "skank".

A good thing about the word "chop" is that it is onomatopoeic, so to someone less familiar with the style of music, it is more clear that the sound is short and sharp.

For a fuller description, I guess you could say "off-beat chops".

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that I am from the UK; perhaps the usage differs elsewhere.

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    Skank seems onomatopoeic also. – Todd Wilcox Aug 5 '15 at 1:35
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I know it as the "skank", though other names are used (see the link). I think it would be reasonable to say "The guitarist skanks on that song" for example.

  • This is the most ubiquitous word to describe it. Note in music that "skanking" also refers to a dance in ska where people join arms and kick in a circle. It also is a rather derogatory way to refer to someone outside of music. As always context is key :) – Conor Aug 4 '15 at 21:46
  • @Conor - I spent my teenage years in the Third Wave Ska Scene in the 90's, and I know all about shanking, but I never heard of it being done in a circle, nor did I see it happening. Everyone tends to face the stage. – Wad Cheber Aug 5 '15 at 12:46
  • There are several different variations of the dance - the one I described doesn't always involve a circle and is most associated with late 1990's - 2000's era ska (Reel Big Fish, Aquabats, Streetlight Manifesto, Suburban Legends, etc) – Conor Aug 5 '15 at 15:08
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The term is "skanking" (a la the Marley song "Easy Skanking"), and it's also part of other Jamaican music, such as Ska. You are correct that it's about the high strings. When I've done it, it's been more about muting by releasing tension in the chording hand, rather than with the palm of the picking hand. The picking hand stays loose, keeping with the rhythm.

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