Ghost Notes

Ghost notes are small bracketed notes that often cause confusion in notation. Learn about variations on notation and how to play them in this lesson.

This lesson refers to our level 2 lessons on Offbeat 16th Snares, and Accent Patterns for practical examples. The intention of this lesson is to explain what ghost notes are and how they are notated.

Ghost notes are essentially the opposite of accented notes. They are played far softer than a standard note and are represented by a smaller note head surrounded by a bracket, like this:

A ghost note.

To achieve this sound do the opposite of playing an accent. Keep your stick low on the strike and don't put so much force into it.

Ghost notes are used to add subtle decoration to a part so it is essential they are played softly. Spend some time playing notes softly then have a go at the exercises below.

When a lot of ghost notes are used, particularly in sixteenth notes, the brackets are sometimes removed around the note head to save space.

Ghost Note Exercise 1

In this exercise you will play quarter notes, starting with a standard strike followed by a ghost note. There should be a drastic difference in volume between the two notes. Notice that lower case letters are used in the sticking for softer notes.

A ghost note exercise using quarter notes.

Ghost Note Exercise 1

The same again but using eighth notes.

A ghost note exercise using eighth notes.

Ghost Note Exercise 1

And again, using sixteenth notes.

A ghost note exercise using sixteenth notes.

Ghost Notes In Grooves

You will most often see ghost notes used when an offbeat 16th note snare is added into a groove. Below are two examples of how this could look.

Ghost notes in grooves
Ghost notes in grooves


  • Learn the two grooves above. Ensure the ghost notes are played subtly.
  • Go through our Offbeat 16th Snares lesson and switch all offbeat snares to ghost notes.

Ghost Notes In Accent Patterns

Using ghost notes in an accent patterns can really make the accent notes stand out further. Written below are a couple of examples of this. Notice that because there are a lot of ghost notes in a row, the brackets have been removed.

Example 1

Ghost notes in accents

Example 2

Ghost notes in accents


  • Learn the two patterns above. Ensure the ghost notes are played subtly and accents distinctly.
  • Go through some other accent lessons and apply ghost notes to un accented notes.