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Watch the The Basics online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Funk Fission

Just as important as the main techniques—scratches, punch comping, hybrid picking—are the more subtle ones. This segment focuses on the thumb mute (listed as “TM” on the charts), which is a subtle technique that not only provides a percussive element, but also serves as a rhythmic filler as well (more on that in a second). Adding to the moves without a pick, the thumb mute is simply when the pick hand thumb hits the low-E string with a downstroke while the fret hand dampens the string creating a muted tone. Be sure to watch and listen to my explanation of said downstroke as that motion of my thumb arcs upwards after striking the string much like a skateboarder on a half-pipe. The power the thumb is capable of makes for a brawny thud that serves riff ideas well when placed in the right spots.

As you get into the riff ideas later in the course you’ll see that not only does the thumb mute provide another cool percussive artifact to the mix, but it also serves as an easy way to throw a small 16th note wrench in the system as it’s insertion throws an otherwise succession of straight 16ths off by a quarter of a beat. This is an easy way to make a riff sound more interesting as you’ll see in the Shackman riff later in the course.

Finally, the thumb mute helps keep your pick hand in a groove when displacing beats as mentioned above. As you get down and dirty with the material, especially at higher tempi, you’ll start to realize the importance of a good pick hand flow. You’ll need to have your hand get into it’s own comfortable rhythm mojo so you can really lay into the groove making your playing feel organic and in the pocket.