What is the best way to learn EJ muting?

Fine art of guitar instructional:

At 15:21 (linked) Eric is talking about muting: a concept that I didn’t know existed before watching this bit.

I have never used any form of right hand muting in my playing before and never really thought about muting with the left hand (I guess I do it largely sub-consciously).
Since I have been practising spread triads and copying licks from the “string skipping” section I have been playing a lot of wide intervals. The problem I have found is whatever strategies I was using for muting are insufficient as I have found the notes are not fully ‘killed’ when I jump to a wide interval (skip a string). The sound from playing the note still ‘lingers’ after I take my finger off the fret and it is getting really messy with a lot of overdrive and delay.

I want to be able to mute the notes that ‘linger’ after I jump to a higher string and overall be a cleaner player. I also don’t want to change my fretting hand technique a lot - so I want to emulate Eric’s muting technique.

The problem I face is: it seems to be really hard to learn…

I have always played with my hand resting on the trem block of my guitar (so I am not palm muting any strings) AND had my fingers curled up into a fist.
Both of which Eric does not do. It seems Eric picks over the middle pickup and rests his hand on the strings below the string he is picking - versus my resting hand on the bridge. And he uses his picking hand fingers to mute the top three strings - versus my fingers curled up technique.

What is the BEST way to rewire my whole picking technique to emulate what EJ is doing and learn to palm mute like he is doing? I am really struggling…

I’d suggest the Cascade Seminar, which covers this very topic in great detail:

However before watching Cascade, I really recommend testing your joint motions and making sure you can do a tremolo on a single note, on a single string, with efficiency. Otherwise, worrying about muting isn’t going to help if the picking motion itself doesn’t work.

Not only that, but if your goal is to play Eric’s lines specifically, note that they can only be played with a type of picking motion we call “USX” motion:

So simply being efficient isn’t enough by itself. The motion must also move along a diagonal when going at tremolo speed. Lots of players can mimic this motion when going slowly, but this very often does not translate to faster playing. The technique must be learned at tremolo speed first. Once you have that, you can try out some Eric-style lines and the string changes will work out smoothly.


Troy, thank you so so much for the seminar! I watched it all in a couple days and found it incredibly helpful, I still have the notes from watching in my desk drawer. The video in addition to cracking the code greatly increased my picking speed and refined my technique. I felt confident that I could play Eric style lines with an USX motion so I cancelled my Masters in Mechanics subscription after a couple months. I might renew it and give Cascade a rewatch now haha.

I must have totally missed the bit about muting though: the only notes I have is a single sentence “the downstroke when downward pick-slanting mutes the string above it”. I vaguely remember you talking about all the things Eric might be doing to mute the open strings in the box position but I don’t actually remember the solution settled upon.

Forgive me, I am a fairly new guitar player so I wasn’t aware it was something I had to look out for or do. My technique developed avoiding placing my hand on the string as I was trying NOT to mute them. I play with my hand resting lightly on the bridge instead of resting lightly on the strings I am trying to mute (because I didn’t know that was something I had to do).

My question in this thread was “What is the best way to go about learning muting?” more specifically the kind of muting that Eric does in the Fine Art of Guitar instructional video I liked a YouTube vid to it but forgot to mention what the link was (as the link managed to fail haha).

I want to change my technique from picking over the bridge pickup with hand resting on the guitar body / trem block to picking over the middle pickup like Eric and making sure that my palm is muting the unplayed strings. Sorry for any confusion in my previous message!!

I also struggle with string noise playing EJ lines at times. Especially on the heavier strings during ascending lines, and on some of the faster string skipping passages. My technique sounds similar to yours. I’m more pronated than EJ and rest my heel on the bridge with my fingers loosely fanned.

I’m still very much working on it… These are just my findings so far…

What I’ve gotten so far is that you want to be using your hypothenar to mute when downward pick slanting (rather than your thenar which it sounds like you are doing). Resting it on the strings.

I have identified two variables for the palm muting: the “tracking” motion where you move your whole hand up and down (string tracking) and a “rolling” motion where you pronate / supinate forearm ever so slightly to sort of “roll” more or less of your palm over the strings (too much of this would change the degree of pick slanting).

The tracking motion should be happening as you ascend or descend, you cover more of the strings with your palm. The other mechanism is where you can play a string back from the one you just played if you “roll” less of your palm on the strings (into pronation); good muting makes use of the opposite of that movement where you “roll” more of your palm onto the strings (into supination) to put as much mute on the string adjacent to the one you are playing when playing it as you can without muting the string you are playing.

Tracking should be the basis of your palm muting technique but if you are playing a one off note on the string lower than the one you are playing you can just “roll” the palm off that string and play it rather than tracking backward to stop it being muted; or if you are playing the “pentatonic rudiment” discussed in Cascade (AKA the rolling 3s pattern or the repeating bit of the 5s pattern) it seems to be faster to “roll” off / on the lower string rather than track backward / forward.

I haven’t figured out much about how to mute the strings above the one you are playing. Eric does a similar thing to Satriani whereby he uses his fanned fingers to mute the top three strings and calls it “treble muting”. He wraps his pinky finger around the high E when ever he isn’t playing it (naturally tries to “catch” the high E when tracking backwards descending). He uses his ring finger to mute the B string and his middle finger to mute the G. He doesn’t do this all the time though, he lightly taps them sometimes in the middle of his phrases to mute them. For some eerie reason he is able to tap the string that is vibrating sympathetically almost autonomically to mute it (no clue how he has developed this). He also taps them after he has finished playing a spread triad and returns to a lower string (like resetting to play another spread triad).

Most of the time you want to mostly be muting the strings above the one you are playing using left hand muting though. Flatten out your fingers a bit more when fretting a note and they will automatically mute 2-3 strings above.

I’ll update you if I make any more “breakthroughs” in my quest for Eric Johnson style muting!

Great nuggets. I’m going to experiment with some of these. I can play most of the lines with light to no overdrive, even unplugged really clean. It’s frustrating.