Getting Started With… Fret hand muting
Try one of the guitar’s most versatile techniques and apply it to a mix of genres
“I see we’re doing muting again! Didn’t we look at this last month?”
Sort of! Last month we looked at palm muting; this time it’s fret-hand muting. Don’t turn the page though. We’re not retreading old ground. This is a different technique that allows you to play in cool, creative ways.
“Okay. What’s it all about then?”
Well, you probably know that resting your fingers on the strings deadens the sound – provided you don’t fret any notes, of course. You’ve probably also noticed that the strings don’t go completely silent. Strike the ‘muted’ strings and you’ll hear a chunky, percussive sound. Give it a go! If you’re plugged in it’ll sound best with some distortion.
“It’s really easy! It’s not very musical though. Does anyone really do this?”
Yeah, you’ll hear it a lot, especially in rock and metal. The riff in Nirvana’s Smellsliketeen Spirit swaps between clean and muted chords, Radiohead’s Creep features a muted ‘chchunk’ before the choruses, and Guns ’N Roses’ Mrbrownstone opens on muted strums. Percussive acoustic players like Newton Faulkner and Mike Dawes use muting as ‘drum’ strikes on their guitars too. Generally, though, this technique is used in a more passive way, often to punctuate chord changes.
“Got it! Let’s play some guitar then.”
Our first example is based on powerchords. Easy enough, but notice the ‘X’s in the tab – these denote fret-hand muting. Don’t lift your fingers; just release pressure from the strings to produce a dry, chunky sound.
“The muting is tricky. Some of the strings are still ringing out.”
Try to rest your fretting fingers against the adjacent idle strings – this’ll mute them out for you. Also, it’s easy to strum too hard, so try to target only the strings in the chords. Incidentally, if you’re struggling with the rhythm take a look at the boxout on the right. This’ll help you sync your strumming with the timing of the riff.
“Can we try another style of music?”
Sure! Our second example can be applied to soul-, disco- or funk-based riffs. Think Chic, James Brown or Red Hot Chili Peppers – you could apply this idea to all of them. Once again, you’ll need to release finger pressure on the notes marked with an ‘X’. It’s a tricky one though, so practise slowly to begin with.
whatyouwil learn Master the fret-hand muting technique Funky 16th-note rhythms Distorted alt-rock style muted rhythm