The unheard notes and blending


"Uncle Larry"
As I get older and prefer music that doesn't assault my senses with sheer volume and negativity, I am developing a deeper appreciation for the role that the notes that are more "felt than heard" play. Kind of like how Bo says he likes to blend himself lately. Like I love it when there are momentary holes in the other instruments where you can really hear the full beat the drummer is playing. But when those holes aren't there anymore you don't hear the for instance the ghost notes of the beat.

That's OK though, because those unheard (but not unfelt) notes are doing a bigger job than they get credit for by creating a climate where the other players don't feel overpowered by the drummers energy.

One observation I made, and this probably doesn't apply to heavy loud music, is (in the songs that require it) when I drop my volume slightly at the very start of a solo (just like I would do for a vocal) I can feel an unspoken sigh of relief from whoever is soloing. Like they are being shown a little respect from me, I am giving them sonic space to take the lead, they don't have to compete with me. Makes it easier for them to do their thing. The effect of a drummer dropping the volume is dramatic. It's a great addition to the trick bag. As long as the time doesn't falter, (important) it's a formidable tactic. It's counter intuitive. How can dropping the volume improve the energy level?

Because a whisper, many times, is more effective than a shout. Try it.

As drummers, generally speaking, IMO we approach our instrument with about 10x the energy of the other players. I attribute that to the more physical nature of our instrument. As a result, the other players I think feel a little intimidated when we go into overdrive at the start of their solos. I get MUCH better results from the soloists by downshifting, then later building up, maybe even go into overdrive if there's space.

There are times to cut through for sure, but there are more times when it's in everyone's best interest to blend. Being in total control of the volume, meaning playing at the appropriate volume for the venue/ the mark of pro players. The whole band has to be involved though, it's a group effort. If my dynamics are fine but the guitar player is in his own world...yea, no, that doesn't work.

Another point I'd like to raise is there was someone who said a while back that why should he play the ghosts when they aren't heard. I can't get on board with that. I think the ghosts are for the benefit of the other players, they hear them, and ghosts really do improve the feel of a beat, even when they aren't heard in the audience.

So here's to the unsung, unheard notes that do more than they get credit for.


"Uncle Larry"
uncle L ... I tell every one of my students ... a monkey can play a drum loudly ... it is a naturally loud instrument ... but only a musician can play a drum softly with grace and touch without losing intensity

sometimes drummers need to forget about their hands and feet and pay attention to their ears ... it happens there first
The "without losing intensity" part is the devilish detail. I think that comes down to, among all the other things that have to be going on, having an unshakable, rock solid quarter note.

Time is all encompassing.

Anon La Ply

The "without losing intensity" part is the devilish detail. I think that comes down to, among all the other things that have to be going on, having an unshakable, rock solid quarter note.

Time is all encompassing.
Charlie talked about how difficult it is to maintain intensity at low volumes. It's a tough challenge with a downside. Maybe it's age but really loud drumming really pisses me off these days - get off my lawn! :)

I don't have much technique so I rely on unplayed notes a lot, especially implied triplets while playing a shuffle. I also enjoy it when the bassist adds the low kicks that I can't play on the kick and only need to pick up the main accents to get a nice rolling effect.

One of the best examples I saw of unplayed notes was Jeff Porcaro playing Rosanna live. It was a loud gig and most of the song he wasn't ghosting. No doubt some of it was expectation, but at times you'd just about swear he was ghosting because the dynamics of his shuffle subtly suggested triplets, as though the triplet feel was being played in his mind. He only needed play a few triplets and the rest become implied. Dead cool :)

My focus is less on that quarter note (although it is somewhat) than feeling locked in with other players. I feel physically and mentally uncomfortable to not be locked in, so I'm a shit gatekeeper when playing with musos who tend to speed up, becoming a keen partner in crime rather than a disciplinarian lol. I think that's a personality thing.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
When I was learning how to play Rock Music in the late 60's & early 70's I was studying guys like Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon and Ginger Baker.
If you listen to that type of music you will notice that those guys filled every open space with drum fills.
Of course Who music is designed to be played as a constant drum solo.

Thanks to this forum and some books I have recently read, that were suggested on this forum, I am re-learning how to play music on the drums.

During this last year I cut out many of my fills during songs. I use less cymbal crashes. I have stopped requesting that I get a solo.
And I have begun to play with more dynamics. My phone is now ringing off the hook with offers to play.



Silver Member
2 of the most grooving tunes of all time: Rosanna & Peg. FULL of ghost notes. Peg including even ghosted hi-hat stomps.