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What Does a Guitar Ghost Note Mean?

This is the initial approach for creating percussive effects on the guitar. A ghost note is a muffled note or note played with no intention of sounding the note’s pitch. It’s a groove thing, in my view. This is a prevalent tactic in country music, but it is not unique to that genre. 

The true technique entails playing a muted string with the fretting hand. However, you may alternatively use your picking hand and palm mutes. At some point, you blend in fretted notes to create an off-and-on effect – muffled and played.

A ghost note is one that has no fixed pitch and hence you cannot identify it as high or low. On sheet music, a ghost note is commonly represented with an X, indicating that the note should be hushed.

The ghost notes method is one of the most sought and missed subjects among guitarists. Ghost notes are percussive in-between sounds.

A ghost note is a word that takes from drums and percussion, where ghost notes are a crucial method. Because they are light and feeble notes in between the accented strikes. You can also know them as anti-accent or negative accent notes.

What is Guitar Ghost Note? – Definition

What we must first determine is what a ghost note is. We use the phrase not only for guitars but also for a variety of other instruments. There are other methods to describe a ghost note, but let’s attempt to make things as simple as possible.

A ghost note is a musical note that has no discernible tone. A ghost note, in essence, provides a rhythmic or percussive purpose. Simultaneously, a ghost note is noticeably softer than other notes.

You can play ghost notes on a percussion instrument level as well. However, it’s more than simply an unemphasized note; it’s something much more understated.

In some ways, it’s a cross between a gently performed percussion element and a stop. It bridges the gap between two notes and might contribute to the overall rhythm of the work.

Guitar Ghost Note | Pitch

Pitch is the degree to which a single note sounds high or low. It may be stacked to form chords, layered to create harmonies, and staggered to form scales. When two notes with differing pitch values are joined, their character changes.


The temporal component of the piece of music, the timed elements the stuff that makes us want to dance are referred to as rhythm. These parts of the music do not have a pitch in the classic sense – they are just beats.

A rhythmic note added to a pitched note does not modify the characteristics or melodic context of the pitch; it just gives a snappy accompaniment for the pitch to sing out over.

Ghost Notes

A ghost note is a musical note that has a rhythmic value rather than a pitched one. It’s a percussion method rather than a melodic one.

Have you ever heard a piece of guitar music that called for muted strings? That is exactly what ghost notes are muffled sounds to the point that there is no recognizable pitch. You can also know them as false notes, dead notes, and silent notes.

While pitchless notes are employed in almost every genre of music, one type in particular that depends significantly on the rhythmic touch of these pitchless notes is funk. Ghost notes are what give all of our favorite funk tunes that incredible danceable charm!

Guitar Ghost Note | Difference Between the Ghost Note and Dead Note

If you’re following a TAB for a specific tune, you could see an X or two where a number should be. This is especially true for barre chords, where the numbers indicate where your fingers should be, and the Xs indicate which strings should not be played in that specific chord. These are “dead notes.”

If all six TAB lines contain an X column, it suggests a muted, percussive form of ghost note. Another form of ghost note is given in brackets in the TAB, such as (12), which is commonly used in a run or riff and indicates that further notes can be added to enhance the solo if desired.

How to Play Ghost Notes on Guitar?

There are various techniques for playing ghost notes on a guitar. You may apply this method to both single-note and chord strumming.

Let’s start with the single-note approach. Muting the strings with the fretting hand in between specific notes is one approach to employing ghost notes when playing a single-note tune. You may release the tension without removing your fretting finger from the string. Touch the string lightly to mute it and pluck it up to make a percussive sound, a ghost note.

You may apply a similar strategy when strumming chords. Flatten your fingers and apply less pressure to the frets while strumming chords, softly contacting all strings. If you continue to strum, you will hear funky muted percussive noises and ghost notes. Applying them in between chords will provide you with a wonderful percussive sound to enhance the tune you’re playing.

Another method for creating ghost notes is to employ the slap technique. To make a percussive sound, smack the strings with your picking hand. You will do most of the work with your thumb, slamming the lower strings and generating those percussive ghost notes.

On compositional sheets and guitar tabs, ghost notes are denoted with an X. When you see an X symbol instead of numbers on guitar tabs or a circle on musical sheets, it implies you must play a dead note, also known as a ghost note.

Guitar Ghost Note | The Jimi Hendrix Muting Technique

When you watch a video of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, you’ll notice that he nearly never employs barre chords. His wrist is never down low behind his guitar’s neck but rather behind it, with his fingers curled around the fretboard.

This hand posture enabled him to lift his thumb over the top of the neck and fret or mute the E-string note of any chord, giving the melody a rhythmic character not only in between but alongside the notes.

How to Play Ghost Notes on Bass Guitar?

No matter your style, you must know how to play ghost notes on the bass. The bass constantly flirts with the drums, and ghost notes are significant. The ghost notes add flavor and are the icing on the cake that makes the bass so funky and exciting to play.

Drummers use ghost notes, most notably on the snare drum (thinking of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song Californication), but also on other parts (kick drum, hi-hat, etc.). 

These ghost notes bring the basic rhythms to life. In this extremely digital era of electronic drumming and programming, they create the grooves seem natural. The ghost notes on the bass are the same. They fill in the gaps between the notes, giving the lines a quirky, organic, and alive feel.

Bass Guitar Ghost Note Technique

To play a ghost note on bass guitar, first, mute the string on which you are playing. Use the fretting hand to do this by placing one or more fingers on the string you want to play a ghost note on. Place your finger on the string without pressing down any frets.

The idea is to lean on the string with just enough power to mute it without pressing it down and touching any of the frets.

After you’ve muted the string, pluck it with your fretting hand. The final note should be forceful, percussive, and undefined. You should play your ghost notes like this.

Exercises for Playing Ghost Notes

Several methods for practicing ghost notes, ranging from beginner to advanced. You may start with single notes and work your way up to chords and scales.

If you are a beginning guitarist, choose any note and play it normally twice and ghostly twice at a slow pace. Later, you may try different notes by playing ghost notes and regular notes in varying quantities after each other.

Later, on your usual scale workouts, you might practice playing ghost notes. On your scale runs, utilize a few ghost notes, muting the strings here and there. Adding ghost notes to a certain beat, like the third, is a useful technique to practice. On every third beat of your scale run, try to play a ghost note.

Another enjoyable practice is to apply ghost notes to previously taught and perfected riffs, melodies, and solos. Add some ghost notes here and there, enriching the tune with funky percussive dead notes, depending on the beat of the music you’re playing.

You may also employ ghost notes when strumming chords from familiar tunes to make them seem more percussive. You may also study funky tunes with plenty of percussive playing and ghost notes.

Rakes are a technique used in certain solos that adds one or more ghost notes just before the true note is played. So you start with ghost notes and work your way up to a specific note. Choose a note on the high E string and experiment with inserting a ghost note on a B string before playing the E string note.

Later on, you may add further ghost notes to other strings to create more percussive “click” noises before the main note. Rakes, particularly, sound great before an excellent old bend on upper strings. Rakes appear in several songs, including Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 solo. You may also look at these solos, perfect for practicing ghost notes and rakes.

Songs That Use Ghost Notes

Many well-known songs have ghost notes in their riffs, chord progressions, or solos. As the name implies, they are ghost sounds that are difficult to identify without a trained ear. However, if you listen to them after reading this article, you will immediately detect them.

Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit is one of the first songs that comes to me when I think about ghost notes in chord progressions. The main riff has 16th ghost notes between the chords, which you can hear right at the start of the piece.

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits is a guitarist who regularly employs ghost notes in his fingerstyle guitar approach. Many ghost notes enrich the guitar partitions in Money For Nothing’s main riff and Sultans Of Swing’s licks and solos.

When performing his solos, David Gilmour frequently employs rakes. He used many rakes in Another Brick In The Wall Part 2’s solo, including a wonderful triplet one immediately before the classic bend in the high E string.

Ghost notes and rhythmic playing are essential elements of funk guitar performance. You may find ghost notes in every funk music. Jungle Boogie by The Kool And The Gang is one of the most well-known examples. Take note of the guitar in the background. It uses ghost notes rather than genuine notes.


As previously said, this is not something that you can simply practice. Sure, you can experiment with these examples or anything similar from time to time.

But I’d rather you don’t spend too much time on it and simply wait for it to happen. You’ll realize you’re doing it after a while.

You can find ghost sounds in various genres, but I’d say they’re most prevalent in funk and certain blues. You’ll notice that Stevie Ray Vaughan performs it frequently if you watch his live concerts.

Ghost notes are common in rhythm parts, but you can also use them in lead work. Ghost notes are musical notes that lack pitch but have a rhythmic element. They adorn the works by incorporating percussive elements into the melodic phrases and are denoted by an X on the musical sheets.

Ghost notes are produced in percussion by softly touching the instrument, contrasting with emphasized notes, and in stringed instruments by muting the strings, producing a percussive sound. You may use ghost notes to enhance your guitar playing and make it seem more professional.

Now, how to get the guitar tone you want?

Advancing your way throughout the guitar journey is a holistic process which includes two main pillars: 1. Improving your playing skills; 2. Tweaking the guitar effects and amps to shape your guitar sound.

We all have a guitarist idol that we dig the sound of, right?

Getting the guitar sound of your favorite guitarists/band can be very costly and frustrating. It can require years of expertise to achieve your desired guitar tone.

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