Tip #201 – Ghost Notes

Because there are many types, notations, and definitions of ghost notes, I will be doing my best to cover them all in one example:

Essentially, a ghost note is a note that is unaccented, soft in dynamic to the point that it is inaudible but still helps with the rhythmic groove, or is “choked” in sound.

Typically, on most melodic instruments, a ghost note is noted with an “x” symbol. You should use these in a majority of the time when you want to indicate to a performer in your piece that you want the not ghosted-over.

However, in guitar and other stringed instruments like the violin, and “x” notehead indicates to mute, dampen, chop bow, or “choke” the strings while playing. One can argue that this is another way of ghosting a note, but it will create a different timbre besides lowering the dynamic.

“X” noteheads are typically used by drums for the cymbals, so to indicate a ghosted hit they use brackets and parenthesis around the notehead.

Learning how to properly notate is the best way to communicate to your performers how you want a part to be played and sounded.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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