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
Ok, get those violins out. Today I’m a bit under the weather AND I’ve got a bum wing…. well, wrist actually. I’m hopped up on flu meds, painkillers and I’m wearing a splint that makes me look like a professional bowler. I’ve actually been mistaken for Ernie McCracken three times today. Being a huge fan of Kingpin, I’m going to chalk it up as a compliment.
I was going to take the day off, get some rest and recover a bit, but then I thought about Rick.
On December 31, 1984 Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen, lost his left arm in a horrific car collision. Most drummers would consider this a career-ending accident, but Rick had the courage and strength to come back and learn how to play drums with one arm. If Rick Allen could overcome so many obstacles and make a triumphant return to Def Leppard, how could I sit around and watch Seinfeld reruns all day? I decided I must record with one arm. I decided the blog must go on.
With 75% limb functionality, I put my left foot to work and used it to cover the hi hat pattern. I then laid down a funky, almost New Orleans style groove between my left hand on the snare and right foot on the the kick drum. The Pseudoephedrine and Oxycodone took care of everything else.