I play a lot of metal with extended periods of palm muting and fast down strokes. The top and backside of my shoulder not only fatigues but starts getting painful, sometimes within a minute of starting a song. The pain radiates slightly into my tricep as well. I have analyzed my technique and I am definitely activating my shoulder to help hold pressure with my palm against the strings.

I have read other posts on this topic and people seem to suggest that tension in the shoulder while palm muting is bad. It should all be in the wrist...I don't see how it is physically possible to palm mute without at least using SOME shoulder muscles to hold tension with the palm. In other words, if you wish to push your palm into the strings to mute, you are going to have to activate your shoulder which in turn rotates your arm from the elbow, finally resulting in pressure at the palm.

So I guess I'm just wondering if I need to persist and keep at it to potentially build up endurance, or is this fatigue/pain I am experiencing ultimately a result of bad technique? My symptoms are only a result of constant, sustained palm muting. Thanks so much for any input on the topic!
I'd say it's most likely bad technique. Palm muting particularly with aggressive metal tracks can be very difficult to do with just your wrist and no other sort of muscles helping out. It's just a matter of trying to relax as much as possible. It can take a long long time to become an efficient aggressive metal kind of player. I personally don't think it's possible to completely eliminate all other muscle use and leave it just to your wrist, but i think it's more about minimizing the amount you're using your arm etc. I use my arm a bit, but nowhere near as much as i once did a few years ago for example. I'd be interested to see what others have to say though, but I'd say just try to relax as much as you can (easier said than done) and just keep up the practice.

I should mention the most important thing of all.. Minimize your hand movements as much as possible. Economy of motion is very important. Excessive movement is likely the cause of the pain. You'll notice when comparing a professional guitarist with a beginner guitarist for example almost every single one of their movements is smaller and more efficient. There's a reason for it being that way
Last edited by vayne92 at Dec 8, 2013,
Another good point IMO would be the fact that you don't need to press hard to get a good chunky palm mute sound..
Thank you for the replies...

After thinking about it some more, I realize that during continuous palm muting I actually anchor my hand via the palm mute, and my wrist handles the picking motions. This seems like a logical way to go about playing, but perhaps it is the anchoring effect that is causing me to press harder with my palm than I should. Does anyone else find that they anchor their hand in this fashion? Also, is there any benefit in trying to strengthen the shoulder for continuous tension or am I better off just focusing on changing technique? Thanks again!
Just start resting your hand loosely on the strings where it feels comfortable as though you were about to palm mute (which you are...) Then gradually increase pressure to where you get a nice thick muted chug do this slowly and maybe just on the lowest string to start, you're trying to find the absolute bare minimum pressure to get the sound you want, not arm wrestle the bridge.

At the very least this will let you know whether it's a pressure issue or possibly a postural issue - The guitar is sitting too high and your shoulder is being pushed back causing you to tense up and fatigue it?

EDIT: this video may interest you:


His palm mutes are almost entirely wrist movements, there are some parts you can see his forearm muscles tense up but 90% of the time it's all wrist, I'd call that very good technique.
Last edited by Viscerus at Dec 9, 2013,