Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ghost notes developer

Ghost notes are currently an extremely hot topic in internet drumming land— it seems funny that there would be so much hoopla about an embellishment, but whatever. I use them all the time in my playing— though less than in the past— they sound cool when you're playing by yourself, and they're one avenue for developing your own sound within a funk style. Just keep them in their proper perspective: playing amplified funk with unmiked drums, nobody's going to hear them. You're better off focusing on the big notes, the notes that are going to project to your audience.

To get these together, follow the David Garibaldi rules: play the ghost notes (in parentheses) very softly— about 1" off the drum, and play the backbeats as rim shots, played in the center of the drum. It takes a little bit of practice totally focused on the dynamics. Play the following patterns at first with hands only, then add the basic bass drum part I've given, then vary your bass drum part to fit around whatever you're doing with your hands. You'll want to be able to do them in a fast James Brown-like groove, or an even-faster Drum & Bass type of thing, but you can also work them up in a slower, swingy-16ths, country/boogie/Rolling Stones-like feel.

So what are these ghost notes? They're soft texture notes filled in with your left hand in the course of playing a normal funk groove. We're reconciling two things— an alternating hand motion:

...with a regular funk groove, with an accent on the snare drum on beats  and 4:

If you put them together, you get this challenging pattern:

Let's eliminate the difficult notes around the 2 and 4— this is most basic, easy way of adding ghost notes without disrupting the overall groove:

More after the break:

Let's develop this, making doubles out of each of those extra notes. First, the es:

Then the as:

Then you can put them together:

Practicing this pattern will help your left hand accuracy on that:

Let's work on adding back those notes close to the 2 and 4:

Getting the soft note right before the backbeat will be challenging:

Many players will do this with a single whip like motion, which I really do not dig— your accuracy and control over your dynamics can suffer. I got better results by practicing a fast, on-purpose upstroke after the ghost note— slow it down, and pick up the stick as fast as you can between the little note and the accent on 2/4. There's further explanation of this motion here.

Then do the little notes on both sides of the 2 and 4:

Something I do a lot is to put an open double on the a:

Once you've done all these, you should have the facility and vocabulary to improvise your own variations to fit the overall groove you're trying to create on a particular tune or playing situation. For more stuff to practice, see A Funky Primer by Charles Dowd, Basic Drumming by Joel Rothman, or The Funky Beat by David Garibaldi.

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