How to Palm Mute on the Ukulele

Palm muting on the ukulele creates a plucky, muffled sound that emphasizes the attack and reduces the sustain of notes.

On the ukulele, it can be heard in the intro of Jake Shimabukuro’s “Heartbeat”:

And the intro to Herb Ohta, Jr.’s version of “Ka Naʻi Aupuni”:

Palm muting also features heavily in guitar music on songs like “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” by Van Halen, “Basket Case” by Green Day, and “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley, to name a few.

How to palm mute:

Palm muting is a piece of cake compared to other ukulele techniques! It’s a simple right hand position that looks like this:


The side of your hand rests on the saddle


Lean your hand over so your fingers can reach the strings


Top-down view

Like anything, you have to experiment to get the most out of it and find the happy spot.

You can use palm muting to tighten up the sound of a part. By muffling the strings and minimizing how long they ring for, you’ll reign-in any mingling that the notes might do.

Here’s a video lesson demonstrating the technique:

Some more tips:

Rest the side of your picking hand on the ukulele’s bridge/saddle, running parallel with it. The inside edge of your hand should rest on the strings just as they go over the saddle.

The more of your hand that hangs over onto the left side of the saddle, touching the strings, the more pronounced the palm mute effect will be.

Adjust your hand position as you pick a note repeatedly so you can hear how you’re effecting the sound.

The trick to palm muting on the ukulele is keeping your hand as stationary as possible as you pick or strum the strings, otherwise it will lift off the palm mute.

You can even push notes sharp by going too far out onto the strings toward the soundhole! Ohta-San does this in his iconic version of “Little Rock Getaway/Josephine.”

The tone of a palm muted note is warmer than one that rings freely. This is because the end of the string is where most treble frequencies are produced. Dampening there eliminates much of the high-end build-up.

Picking your uke with a palm mute

It’s usually easier to use a number of fingers to pick along with the thumb instead of trying to use just the thumb. If you limit yourself to just using the thumb, you won’t be able to reach the high strings without shifting out of position.

Adapt a PIMA-style fingerpicking approach when palm muting.

If you have an index fingernail, you can often pick down and up with it and remain in a positive palm mute position. Because the index finger is placed right over the strings, it’s easier to float your whole hand up and down vertically if you need to reach.

Strumming your uke with a palm mute

To strum while holding a palm mute position on your uke, pull your index finger in towards your palm so that it’s above the strings. Then flick it out and across the strings.

If you position the arc of the finger’s movement correctly, you should be able to strike all of the strings on the way by. You can also strum upwards if you drag your index finger back up the strings. Brush the strings with the inside, middle-finger-facing side of your index.

It’s not an ideal ukulele technique to pair with heavy strumming, which is why most people use a palm mute for picking instead.

Join my newsletter for updates & tips

Expect one or two emails a month, on average. I won’t sell or spam your email.