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Palm Muting

In the 1950s, Chet Atkins and Les Paul achieved a pizzicato-like effect on the electric guitar by placing the edge of their palm above and just slightly ahead of the bridge. By pressing down lightly, the string was prevented from freely vibrating, thus producing a short, choppy sound. They were by no means the only players to mute their strings in this manner; other legendary guitarists from Al DiMeola to The Ventures employed this technique and today it’s considered a staple of the contemporary electric guitar player and to a lesser degree, both bass and acoustic guitarists. A light pressure produces a slightly muted sound, while heavy pressure delivers little more than a percussive effect. To facilitate what some guitar builders considered to be unnecessary effort, all manner of mufflers were built into electric guitars, beginning with the Gretsch Chet Atkins Model 6120 and including the spring-loaded mute on the Fender Jaguar. Most were either ignored or, when possible, removed. Oddly enough, Gretsch continued to place mufflers just in front of the bridge until well after the company’s sale to Baldwin in 1967.

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