Think Like A Drummer – How To Program Single Tap Ghost Notes

Ghost notes are the backbone of almost every drum groove.  They drive the beat in subtle ways while also adding an extra layer of dynamics to the groove.

In this series of tutorials, we will cover four types of ghost notes.

The first ghost note will be the single tap.  These notes fall in between the hi-hats.  More specifically they fall on the “E” and “A” of the beat.  This video will also cover a feel called the backbeat stutter.  This is where the ghost note falls directly after the snare accent.

In the second video, I will cover using the drag as a ghost note.

In the third video, I will cover the “middle two” ghost note pattern

So, what is a ghost note?

From the Wikipedia page:

In drumming, a ghost note is played at very low volume, and typically on a snare drum. In musical notation, ghost notes are indicated in parenthesis surrounding the note. According to The Drummer's Bible: How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, the purpose of a ghost note is to " heard under the main sound of the groove. This produces a subtle 16th-note feel around a strong back beat or certain accents."


The term ghost note, then, can have various meanings. The term anti-accent is more specific. Moreover, there exists a set of anti-accent marks to show gradation more specifically. Percussion music makes use of anti-accent marks, as follows:

  1. slightly softer than surrounding notes: ◡ (breve)
  2. significantly softer than surrounding notes: ( ) (note head in parentheses)
  3. much softer than surrounding notes: [ ] (note head in square brackets)

I like to think of ghost notes a feel creator.  A simple four on the floor beat is transformed into a powerful groove with the simple addition of ghost notes.

For this video, I will be using the “Four on the Floor” beat we created in our last tutorial.

To follow along with this video please use quality headphones or a treated room as some of the content we cover is subtle.

Posted in Drum Programming, Tutorial and tagged , .