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.
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