Ghost notes are the ‘special sauce’ to any great drum groove. No, they’re not made of Thousand Island dressing, but rather, notes subtly played on the snare drum, often filling in between the hi hat and the back beat. They’re so quiet, you usually don’t notice them when they’re there (hence the highly creative name, “ghost note”), but take them away, and the magic is lost.
Listen to any Led Zeppelin track and you’ll hear John Bonham intricately filling in the groove with ghost notes. Most people associate Bonham with his bombastic backbeats, but I’ve always been drawn to the stuff he does in between the two and four. Please keep in mind, ghost notes don’t apply to playing the gong and/or handling mud sharks.
Ghost notes aren’t exclusive to rock drumming. When played properly, they can easily (and tastefully) work their way into any genre. Check out Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste’s playing with The Meters to hear them in a funk setting. Zigaboo constantly keeps his grooves flowing with a a steady undercurrent of ghost notes.
Here’s a loop in three (or 12/8 if you prefer) with more than a few ghost notes on the snare. If things sound a bit crispier, it’s because I’ve added some new overhead mics (see post below). Logic users, you’ll notice there are now 6 individual drum tracks. The mic placement might vary from day to day, but from now on, here’s the basic set up:
Track 1. Kick
Track 2. Snare Top
Track 3. Snare Bottom
Track 4. Room
Track 5. OH L
Track 6. OH R
Download the Logic session here. (79MB)
Get the .wav file here.