Why Switching To Thumb Muting From Palm Muting Quickly Improves & Cleans Up Your Lead Guitar Technique

by Tom Hess


When it comes to eliminating unwanted string noise, thumb muting is king. Using palm muting to get rid of string noise is less effective and is better used while playing the strings you are muting (for example: during rhythm guitar riffs).

To do thumb muting, rest your picking hand's thumb on the lower (in pitch) strings to mute them, while you are playing the higher (in pitch) strings.

Using your palm to mute causes you to lift your picking hand away from the strings while moving from one string to the next… leaving room for embarrassing mistakes to make your playing sound sloppy.

Using thumb muting wastes no movement in your picking hand and keeps the strings below the ones you’re playing muted at all times. 

(See an image comparing both muting styles in this article about cleaning up your guitar playing).

Now that you know this, all you need to do is train yourself to thumb mute consistently until it feels natural. Below is an exercise to practice (slowly at first) to get used to how it feels to thumb mute. Focus your attention on keeping the strings below the one you are playing muted so that no noise rings out:

Unwanted Guitar String Noise

For the next exercise, become familiar with this scale:

E Lydian Scale:

Lydian Scale

Break the scale into two parts and repeat each part separately for 2 minutes. As you do this, focus on picking each note clearly and transitioning to the next string without accidentally muting the note you want to play. Play slowly at first to program the correct movements into your hands. Then see if you can play each section quickly (with a rest at the end before repeating). Once you are able to do this, combine both parts together. 

Guitar exercise

Guitar scale exercise

Want to learn more ways to clean up sloppy guitar technique? Read this article about how to play guitar cleanly and start enjoying the sound of your own guitar playing.


Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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