Not all ghosts are bad. In fact, in the world of drumming, ghosts can help separate you from the pack. Now why would we want Lizzie Borden haunting our kits?
We’re not talking about spirits; we’re talking about Drag ghost notes.
First off, drag ghost notes take a lot of practice. Don’t expect to be getting these right off the bat. This is a technique that will take hours of practice, patience, and persistence.
The three P’s if you will.
To put it simply, they can do a whole lot of good. They can give your piece more feeling. Added dynamics, when done tastefully, are never a bad thing.
Before we go off into an explanation of ghost drags on drums, we will need to first understand what a ghost note is.
A note is prominent, emphasized for notice. A ghost note is very similar to a ghost. It is deemphasized. Ghost notes are meant to be felt within the context of your playing, not outright heard. Besides, if the note was screaming out above the rest of the ensemble, it wouldn’t be very ghostly now, would it?
A drag note is exactly what it sounds like; a note that is dragged out.
Now that we understand the two concepts behind a ghost drag note, we can put them together. A ghost drag note is a subtle, drawn out note.
Now, onto the meat of the subject. How exactly do we even play a ghost note? Take your stick in your hand and strike your snare. You have just created a note. Now, strike your snare once more and after you do, do a follow up hit. Make this hit no more than a tap. You should hardly be able to hear the note.
Drag notes are a bit trickier than ghost notes. If you are a right handed player, you would start with your right arm high. With your left hand close to the drum, you will perform a double hit, followed up by an immediate single hit from your risen right hand.
Now if you are left handed, of course you will do the opposite, starting with your left hand high, performing a double strike from your right followed up by a single strike from your left. The most important part of the drag note is to perform the drop. Your risen hand will ‘drop’ and perform the follow up note.
Now that we know how to play both a ghost note and a drag note, how do we play a drag ghost note?
When playing a drag ghost note, you will want to keep your main hand a bit lower than you would for an average drag note.
The higher your stick, the harder your strike will be. Even if you mean to come down lightly, your strike will be heard a lot louder than intended. Keeping your hands closer do the snare, perform a nearly silent drag note.
You just played your first ghost drag note. Now, as with all new techniques, experiment with ghost drag notes. Add them in different areas of songs, jams, or drum improvisations. As we always say, don’t come to heavily rely on just these notes. Spring them into your playing for added substance, but keep your mind open to experimentation!
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