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Ghost Notes

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Shoot_A_Hostage, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Shoot_A_Hostage


    Apr 14, 2009
    ..I will never understand this. What are ghost notes? My guitarist said they were notes that you don't really play...
    Which confuses me. Help?:scowl:
  2. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Pluck the string without pressing on the fret... on a non-harmonic point... That's a ghost note. Should sound like a thud sound.

    Study James Jamerson and all will become clear.
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Ghost notes are notes that you play while muting the string (usually with your left hand), so that they have a percussive attack but no real pitch. You use them to mark a beat without actually playing a particular note (tone).

  4. Shoot_A_Hostage


    Apr 14, 2009
    Oh, so it would be like a dead note?
    Thanks. I understand what THAT is.
    Sorry for wasting your time, my band had been bugging me about my constant use of ghost notes all night.
  5. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Are there any good examples of where Jamerson used ghost notes?
  6. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Well he used them all the time. I'm not a Motown expert so I'm sure someone who is could give you some great examples. I personally studied the Standing In The Shadows of Motown book several years ago and learned a bunch of the transcriptions in order to generally improve my sense of groove. The one song that really locked the ghost note concept in for me was "What's Going On". Pretty amazing, and beautiful bassline.

    Lot's of funk bassist use them ghost notes though... Rocco Prestia, etc...

    Help me think of more examples guys!:D
  7. PJ all day

    PJ all day

    Sep 29, 2008
    wooten practically lives off of ghost notes
  8. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    if there's something you can rely on Talkbass for it's everybody getting it wrong when someone asks what a ghost note is :D

    ok.. a ghost note IS not a muted note (left handed or otherwise)... it's a note that is played SIGNIFICANTLY QUIETER than the others in a piece... it's not muted with the left hand.. you don't hear a thud.. that's a DEAD NOTE

    you notate a ghost note with a round bracket around a standard note head

    a dead note is notated with an X for the note head

    bar 6 HERE: http://www.bassnotation.com/scott-thunes-frank-zappa-zoot-allures-88.php shows the two things right next to each other

    they're entirely different things...

    now people get this wrong so often that when a bass player says 'ghost note', they probably mean a dead note... but if you call a dog a horse often enough, it doesn't make it a horse

    here's a masterclass in dead notes:

    Marcelo Coip likes this.
  9. Do a youtube search for Rocco Prestia. He has some clinic footage where he seriously shows how he pumps out the 16th notes with lots of ghost notes thrown in. In TOP, Rocco holds down the pocket while Dave does exquisite embroidery of the beat!
  10. Bondtana


    May 9, 2008
    Anyone else have any other examples? You can name some obscure Motown stuff if you can...

    I've been listening to Jamerson stuff like crazy the last few months. I guess my ears arent really looking for the right thing. Damn my newbish ears.
  11. Shoot_A_Hostage


    Apr 14, 2009
    lol thanks. I thought maybe there was a difference.
  12. Ghost notes = the funk
  13. Toastfuzz


    Jul 20, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    If EVERYONE calls it a ghost note but you, maybe its not everyone else thats wrong?
  14. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    yeah maybe... but there's a difference between 'everyone' and 'everyone on Talkbass'

    hey, I'm all for Talkbass definitions being the de facto global standard for musical terms - it'd make my job a lot easier :) I doubt the rest of the world outside Talkbass would be too pleased about it though
    Marcelo Coip likes this.
  15. I wasn't going to join in this thread, but the first thing I wondered when I saw the responses come in was "Isn't that a dead note, not a ghost note?"

    I agree completely with cowsgomoo. They are different things, they are notated differently and and they are what (s)he said they are.

    So back to the OP - do you mean dead notes or ghost notes?
  16. @cowsgomoo

    Thank you for clearing that up for me. And I have to say: You've got a nice sense of humour (second post), I appreciate that. :cool:

  17. Okay, here's another question that's hopefully on topic enough. When you see a note notated with an 'x' (whether it's a dead note or a ghost note), why can the x appear on different lines? (For example, if you look at cowsgomoo's link, you'll see that in measure 93 there's an x on the G line, and then in measure 102 there's an x on the A line.)

    What's the difference, if any? Is it an indication of what string to play the dead note on, or what? Because according to the explanation I see here, dead notes have no pitch.
    Marcelo Coip likes this.
  18. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Ghost notes are really cool and you can get some of the funkiest stuff going on when you learn how to use them.
    I am still working on learning this technique. I was getting close to getting it down yesterday.

    If you listen to Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power Bass Player) you will get a good idea of what it supose to sound like.

  19. Nick Kay

    Nick Kay

    Jul 26, 2007
    Toronto, Ontario
    The same reason why an open G and a G on the A sound completely different. Same pitch, different harmonic emphasis. You'll even notice a difference in character between dead notes closer to the nut vs. ones closer to the bridge.

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