Pick Blocking versus Palm Blocking

Two very popoular methods of muting or dampening the strings between notes on a pedal steel guitar are called "pick blocking" and "palm blocking" (used to be called "palm dampering"). In either case, the bar usually remains on the strings and either the "picks" or "palm" of the right hand mute the strings to provide separation between the notes. Some people would say that palm blocking is useful for "chicken picking" sounds and that pick blocking is useful for faster playing.

In the last year I started to practice pick blocking and now I use both. For me, pick blocking yields a longer duration for each note and I have started using it even on slower riffs. Either one is capable of providing a wide range of sounds from stacatto to long ringing notes if properly applied.

Below are two audio samples each of which contains the same riff, first played with palm blocking then played with pick blocking. As you can see there are differences in the sound but with either method produces a good sound for these particular riffs. On the palm blocking I use only two fingers. On some days I can play faster using the thumb and index finger and on others I feel more comfortable using the thumb and middle finger. For pick blocking I generally use all three fingers. The 3rd time through on the second riff was played using only two picking fingers crossing over each other, and contains minimal blocking. This page is not really a primer on blocking, but serves just to let you audibly compare the two styles of blocking on identical riffs.

Blocking Example 1

Blocking Example 2