What is the Difference Between a Grace Note and a Ghost Note?

What is the difference between a grace note and a ghost note? Sheet Music.

Oftentimes, musicians use the terms grace note and ghost note interchangeably, but technically that is not correct. Today, I’m going to talk about the difference between a grace note and a ghost note, because there is an important distinction that should be noted.

Knowing and understanding the difference between the two will add another chunk of knowledge to your ever-expanding understanding of the drums, and also, to music as a whole.

So, what is the difference between a grace note and a ghost note? It’s quite simple really. A ghost note is a very soft stroke that has a time value. A grace note is a soft stroke and does not have a time value.

Let’s discuss exactly what a grace note is, and then we’ll dive into what makes a ghost note a ghost note so you can start implementing them confidently in your playing.

A grace note has no discernable value in time. It’s simply there to grace the note that follows it, which is called the principal note or the main note. Think of a flam. That is what a grace note is. A note immediately preceding the principal note with no perceivable value in time. It’s simply there to enhance the sound of the principal note.

A ghost note on the other hand does have a value in time. They are a function of volume and can sometimes be tricky to notice if one is not paying attention. A ghost note can be played at any point during the entirety of the piece of music.

A ghost note could technically be played as a grace note, but a grace note should not be confused with a ghost note.

Check out the song Like a Stone by Audioslave and see if you can recognize when the ghost notes are played. Pay attention to the snare drum and try to listen for them.

If you’re having a hard time hearing the ghost notes in Like a Stone, try this one from the Red Hot Chili Peppers called Californication. I’m sure you’ll get it right away. Those ghost notes are what makes the beat so unique.

Grace notes are typically written as a much smaller note compared to the principal note on a piece of drum music. They usually precede that note and sometimes have a slash through the stem of the note.

Grace notes look like this:

What is the difference between a grace note and a ghost note? Ghost notes.

Grace notes sound like this:

Ghost notes on the other hand are often indicated by the note being surrounded in parentheses.

Ghost notes look like this:

What is the difference between a grace note and a ghost note? Ghost notes.

Ghost notes sound like this:

If you had a hard time picking out the ghost notes, here’s a version played at half speed. This should make it much easier to notice where the ghost notes fall in the drum beat.

So the next time someone says grace note or ghost note in the wrong context, make sure you call them out on it and set them straight!

I hope this post has helped clear up any confusion you might have had over the terms grace note and ghost note.

Until next time, keep being awesome, keep drumming, and keep making music!

What to do next?

If you are brand new to music, music production or are interested in learning to play the drums, you can check out my article: How to Use a Metronome for Drums

You might also want to check out this article: Acoustic Vs. Electronic Drums – Which One is Right for You?

If you are looking at buying your first drum set or any other musical instrument for that matter, take a look at Zzounds. They have a variety of acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets for purchase.

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Andrew has been a life long lover of music. Although starting his musical journey on the guitar, (we won't talk about his skills on that particular instrument) he found his true passion was for drumming and making music to share with others. He also enjoys writing blog posts about off the wall subjects that are very much real—such as Bigfoot, UFOs, and what's up with European mayonnaise. Why is it sweet???
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