Playing guitar requires a technique that is uniquely different from an instrument such as piano. Think about this for example, you can drop a roll of quarters on a piano and get a clean crisp sound out of the keys. The guitar requires a little more finesse with both hands in order to get notes to sound (other than the open strings). Most beginning guitar players focus most of their attention on the left hand (or fretting hand for you lefties), and rightly so. The left hand needs to learn the grid pattern of the fretboard – where the notes are, where to hold your thumb, how much to squeeze down etc. For the most part, their right hand just holds a pick and swipes away at the strings with little regard to control.
A strong right hand is essential to becoming a complete guitarist. The right hand is the key factor in controlling dynamics, tempo, and clarity. If you want to increase your right hand control and accuracy, practice scales, arpeggios and chord rhythms with palm muting. By palm muting, you are “training” your right hand to be where you want it to be at all times. Make sure each note comes out equal. Don’t go so fast that you can’t hear each note clearly, you may be over-muting or not muting enough. It may be tricky at first, but stick to it.
Here are some ideas to get you started. First, keep in mind that there are no rules in playing music or guitar. However, as my students know, I do create “temporary rules” for the sake of developing certain techniques or theory knowledge. So, for now, let’s make alternate picking a temporary rule. Downbeats will get down-picks, and upbeats will get up-picks when playing eighth notes. When playing sixteenth notes, the first sixteenth gets a down-pick, two is up, three is down and four is up. Discover different rhythmic variations of eighths and sixteenths, use strict alternate picking and of course palm mute all of your notes. Palm muting should sound like the notes are muffled, not choked off. This practice strategy is great for acoustic as well as electric players.
Work palm muting into your daily practice schedule for at least 14 practice days. When done properly, you will start to notice a great improvement in your overall dexterity!