This excerpt is taken from the complete article that appears in the September 2016 issue, which is available here.

Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Contstruction

Part 5: Ghost Notes Using an Ostinato Approach

by Jost Nickel

Ghost notes are an excellent way to expand your dynamic range. In this lesson, we’ll focus on dynamics and technique while working on ghost notes by using an ostinato approach.

Ghost notes (notated with parentheses) are played very softly, as opposed to accents, which are much louder. Correct dynamics are achieved by maintaining the proper distance between the stick and the drumhead. When playing ghost notes, I suggest striking the snare from about 1 to 2 cm above the head. Accents are played at a substantially greater distance to the drumhead, and using rimshots can amplify their impact. I also suggest playing ghost notes with your wrist as opposed to your fingers. Attempts to play softly with your fingers can result in inaccurately placed ghost notes.

Ostinato Approach

When working on ghost notes, I’ll generally take either an ostinato approach or an intertwined approach. This month’s instalment focuses on using ostinatos to develop ghost notes. Next month we’ll explore the intertwined approach.

An ostinato is a continually repeated musical figure. To demonstrate, we’ll use a hand pattern on the hi-hat and snare that contains ghost notes and accents. The pattern remains unchanged as we add various bass drum variations underneath.

Let’s begin with the ostinato. The right hand plays 8th notes on the hi-hat while the left hand plays snare ghost notes and accents on beats 2 and 4.

For the complete lesson with transcriptions, check out the September 2016 issue, which is available here.

Learn more about the September 2016 issue of Modern Drummer magazine