Monday, November 28, 2011

Working on Ghost Notes

Had a quick question come in on what ghost notes are and how to work on's a couple of ideas...

Working on ghost notes can be really tricky! I took me a long time when I first started drumming to be able to execute them properly. (For those that are unclear as to what a "ghosted" note is)...A ghost note is an unaccented note used to help emphasize a musical pattern. They actually help the listener "hear" the accented notes of the rhythm or melody better. In drum notation, they are notated in a couple of is by the use of parenthesis around a regular sized note head. Another is by simply adding an accent sign to all notes that are accented. The player then takes for granted that all other notes on that particular drum are to be "ghosted".

A ghost note is not the same as a grace note. Grace notes, in drumming, are typically notated smaller than other notes and used as "ornaments" to primary notes. So the note might look the same, just half the size. They are most typically seen when playing flams. The note that precedes the primary note is called a grace note. Hope that clears that up a bit.

Now, as far as how to work on them effectively...Everyone has their own method. The end result is that you want your accented notes to "pop" and your unaccented notes to sound softer in relation to the accented ones. One way that I have students work on this is to exaggerate the movements involved. Example: accented notes are on 2 and 4, and the unaccented notes are played on the "e" of 1 and the "e" of 3.

I would have the student play the accented notes from a height of 8" above the drum. Every unaccented note would be played from a height of 3" from the drum. This exaggeration in the movement will usually naturally lend itself to helping the accents pop and the ghost notes not. Once you get the concept down, you can work on adjusting your stick height to a comfortable playing level (although these playing levels aren't necessarily "uncomfortable" ones).

Another way is to play eighth notes on the hi-hat and snare simultaneously. While doing this, accent all of the downbeats in the left hand and make all of the upbeats unaccented. Then reverse that...make all of the upbeats accented and all of the downbeats unaccented.

These are just a couple of examples...there are alot of ways to effectively work on ghost notes. And yes, in the end, practice and repetition remain king...sorry!


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