Zen & the micro-science of Ghost notes

aydee

Platinum Member
...

I think I'm pretty good with them. I incorporate a lot of left hand ghost notes on the snare and hihats in my playing, and by and large it sounds fine- Im happy - everyone's happy- no problem.

But.

I want to push this here envelope.

When I study my micro timing, I find that they are not even, and I sometimes struggle to keep up at some tempos. Occasionaly I feel the top of my wrist stiffening up ( its an old wrist- 52, btw )

I attribute this to my lack of stick heights, because I notice that the left stick goes up just short of an inch off the snare head.

Am I doing something wrong technique wise? My left hand is a german grip.

...
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Generally when someone starts a thread like this everyone says to go back to 30-40bpm.

Darned if I have the patience, discipline and maturity to do it but that's what all the teachers say is the way to go.
 

cp84

Senior Member
one thing i've started doing is not looking at my hands when i practise. this might seem kind of obvious to some but it wasn't to me.

basically if keep my head up and look straight ahead i find that my posture improves as does my awareness of sound and time as a whole. by "getting my head out of the drums" i find that I play more relaxed and my time seems smoother, as do my dynamics. i find i also play more musically because i'm listening more to whats around me and thinking less about my body.

dunno if that helps. maybe you already do it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Abe, what I'm getting from this is you want to improve your left hand. Which implies that your left hand isn't equal to your right. If so, I would pick something you can do with your right that you can't do with your left, like a fast shuffle, and work it until you can do it with your left. Then pick something else that your left can't play and work it until you can play it.

Even though you aren't specifically working your ghosts, your ghosts will benefit from a stronger hand. I think that is one of the drummers first obstacles to overcome, getting equal hands. If your left and right were equal, you wouldn't be writing this I bet.

I can say this as a guy who works hard on equality and is almost there...Equality is one of the most satisfying goals you can work towards. I'm thrilled at the dexterity of my weak hand. God knows I put in the time.

Now that I'm almost equal, I feel as if I am starting all over, this time without a handicap.

Like being out of debt for the first time in your life. Now I can make some real progress.

When working my left hand to be as strong as my right, I work it so that the muscles feel fatigued, and keep going as long as I can take it for. I believe that if I stopped before muscle fatigue, I would never get stronger hands. I believe that to get stronger hands, the muscles have to be worked until fatigue. It certainly is the case with me. Relaxation is key to playing, but to build strong hands, I believe you have to strengthen muscle. You can't strengthen muscle and relax at the same time. So my practice time (when I am working on equality) is like exercise, and my playing time is relaxed relaxed relaxed.
 
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cornelius

Silver Member
Ghost notes are all about evenness - consistent stick height and placement. A good technique builder for this is David Garibaldi's Future Sounds. The first chapters are great for ghost notes. You really get the feel for the different stick heights. David also showed me a cool exercise, which is playing a paradiddlediddle between hihat and snare. (If you're right handed) lead with your right and keep that hand on the hihat - just move it over to the snare for backbeats (six notes per beat). Your left hand just stays nice and low on the snare, playing nothing but taps.

The trick is going between ghost notes and accents.The upstroke from a ghosted note to an accent is tricky and takes some technique - but you can get it, if you start slowly.

Like Larry said, strengthening your left will help too. Sometimes it's cool to lead with your left - move your ride next to your hihat, and try playing open handed. When playing with your weaker hand on a ride cymbal, you really need touch to make it sound like it would with your stronger hand. But... avoid fatigue in your hands (or anywhere in your body). I understand that pushing your body can help to develop strength, but it doesn't work while playing a musical instrument. My teacher gave me a hand exercise (without sticks) that definitely brings on major fatigue, and it really strengthens your hands. But that's an exercise away from the kit. If your feeling tension when you play, then that's when bad habits develop.
 

iwantmemoney

Senior Member
One thing that's helping me do things more right is ruffs or especially flam drags. Fast and slow, with full value given everywhere.

For me it helps self-correct the grip--very important--which in turn gives things like ghost notes a lot more weight, which is a bad word for ghost notes- let's say they land in the right place, a more even place.

The lovely Anon talks about not having patience to go 30 or 40, yes I relate, but when doing sticking such as a flam drag, I don't need patience-it's automatically gonna be that slow, but it's gonna be packed with content, making it a pure Zen Rush.

It's not the only beneficial thing. Just one easy target. And it's totally in line with the equality thingie from Ace.
 

Chunky

Silver Member
one thing i've started doing is not looking at my hands when i practise. this might seem kind of obvious to some but it wasn't to me.

basically if keep my head up and look straight ahead i find that my posture improves as does my awareness of sound and time as a whole. by "getting my head out of the drums" i find that I play more relaxed and my time seems smoother, as do my dynamics. i find i also play more musically because i'm listening more to whats around me and thinking less about my body.

dunno if that helps. maybe you already do it.
You're a brave drummer! most drummers believe the badman will come and steel their pedals if they look away from their feet for a second!

I've been guilty of that before. Yes, it definitly helps balance not just posture but individual dynamics of each limb.

Looking ahead can be the glue that holds the groove together.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I think that is one of the drummers first obstacles to overcome, getting equal hands. If your left and right were equal, you wouldn't be writing this I bet.
While I 100% agree with Larry on both hands being equal, which I have practiced a lot over the years to achieve that balance, there's a different feel between the right and left hand, I have no problem in terms of balance, power, dynamics and coordinations with my hands accross the kit or while playing rudiments, but when I play a groove or a pattern which involve ghost notes, the left hand has a specific feel compared to the right, it's not just power and dynamics and touch, I think when I play there's definitely a primary role for each hand (and each foot, for that matter), it's kinda chemistery...

I think Abe's micro-timing issues could be improved by having a more relaxed and/or grip of the sticks, I'm saying this because of the wrist stiffening up comment, working on this could resolve/improve the micro-timing issue, a similar approach to what Dave Weckl has done, he changed so slightly the grip and used a "new" fulcrum point on the sticks (not that I felt he had problems, lol).
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Darned if I have the patience, discipline and maturity to do it but that's what all the teachers say is the way to go.
Being of similar vintage, I don’t think very differently than you, but the Buddy Rich left hand triplets remain an elusive dream still…


one thing i've started doing is not looking at my hands when i practise. this might seem kind of obvious to some but it wasn't to me.basically if keep my head up and look straight ahead i find that my posture improves as does my awareness of sound and time as a whole. by "getting my head out of the drums" i find that I play more relaxed and my time seems smoother, as do my dynamics. i find i also play more musically because i'm listening more to whats around me and thinking less about my body.dunno if that helps. maybe you already do it.
Hmmm…really interesting angle, I’d never thought of that. I tend to look down at my footpedal, but not at my hands or the drums ( or sticks for that matter ) when I play. I started watching my left hand only when it started to stiffen up and I noticed that my stick hardly comes off the drum.
Abe, what I'm getting from this is you want to improve your left hand. Which implies that your left hand isn't equal to your right. If so, I would pick something you can do with your right that you can't do with your left, like a fast shuffle, and work it until you can do it with your left. Then pick something else that your left can't play and work it until you can play it.

Even though you aren't specifically working your ghosts, your ghosts will benefit from a stronger hand. I think that is one of the drummers first obstacles to overcome, getting equal hands. If your left and right were equal, you wouldn't be writing this I bet.

I can say this as a guy who works hard on equality and is almost there...Equality is one of the most satisfying goals you can work towards. I'm thrilled at the dexterity of my weak hand. God knows I put in the time.

Now that I'm almost equal, I feel as if I am starting all over, this time without a handicap.

Like being out of debt for the first time in your life. Now I can make some real progress.

When working my left hand to be as strong as my right, I work it so that the muscles feel fatigued, and keep going as long as I can take it for. I believe that if I stopped before muscle fatigue, I would never get stronger hands. I believe that to get stronger hands, the muscles have to be worked until fatigue. It certainly is the case with me. Relaxation is key to playing, but to build strong hands, I believe you have to strengthen muscle. You can't strengthen muscle and relax at the same time. So my practice time (when I am working on equality) is like exercise, and my playing time is relaxed.
You are absolutely right Larry and my hands are unequal but Im not sure if I have what it takes to overcome the difference at this point in my life. Good point about working up to muscle fatigue, but Im hoping that’s what it is and not tendon fatiue.

Ghost notes are all about evenness - consistent stick height and placement. A good technique builder for this is David Garibaldi's Future Sounds. The first chapters are great for ghost notes. You really get the feel for the different stick heights. David also showed me a cool exercise, which is playing a paradiddlediddle between hihat and snare. (If you're right handed) lead with your right and keep that hand on the hihat - just move it over to the snare for backbeats (six notes per beat). Your left hand just stays nice and low on the snare, playing nothing but taps.

The trick is going between ghost notes and accents.The upstroke from a ghosted note to an accent is tricky and takes some technique - but you can get it, if you start slowly.

Like Larry said, strengthening your left will help too. Sometimes it's cool to lead with your left - move your ride next to your hihat, and try playing open handed. When playing with your weaker hand on a ride cymbal, you really need touch to make it sound like it would with your stronger hand. But... avoid fatigue in your hands (or anywhere in your body). I understand that pushing your body can help to develop strength, but it doesn't work while playing a musical instrument. My teacher gave me a hand exercise (without sticks) that definitely brings on major fatigue, and it really strengthens your hands. But that's an exercise away from the kit. If your feeling tension when you play, then that's when bad habits develop.
I have no problems with the exercise you mention or the accents as well. All doable ,with a trace of unevenness… but no sweat. I really need to determine the source of the tension…… Its got to be very low stick height, re adjusting grip, or as Larry says, a weak hand overextending itself.
One thing that's helping me do things more right is ruffs or especially flam drags. Fast and slow, with full value given everywhere.
Hmm that’s sounds worth a try..

You're a brave drummer! most drummers believe the badman will come and steel their pedals if they look away from their feet for a second!

I've been guilty of that before. Yes, it definitely helps balance not just posture but individual dynamics of each limb.

Looking ahead can be the glue that holds the groove together.[/QUOTE]

No balances issues, I think I’ve got good posture and don’t flail about that much. The kit is pretty user-friendly too.

While I 100% agree with Larry on both hands being equal, which I have practiced a lot over the years to achieve that balance….

I think Abe's micro-timing issues could be improved by having a more relaxed and/or grip of the sticks, I'm saying this because of the wrist stiffening up comment, working on this could resolve/improve the micro-timing issue, a similar approach to what Dave Weckl has done, he changed so slightly the grip and used a "new" fulcrum point on the sticks (not that I felt he had problems, lol).
Wrists relaxed too, Henri – maybe too relaxed? Don’t know. Guilty of unequal hands for sure.. grip is the real story.. maybe I could do a video of my hands to demonstrate the problem..
Hey, if I got Weckl’s problem then I gotta high class problem. : )

…
 

cp84

Senior Member
yea maybe try and look away from your hand and feet. focus in on your body and how everything feels. maybe you'll be in touch with yourself on a deeper level once you stop looking at what your doing. focus on the sound as a whole and how things FEEL rather than anything else.

I find i'll sometimes slip into a trance like state where i'm just totally immersed in everthing.
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
As you get really good at many flam rudiments, the ghost note thing becomes really simple and easy. The hand motions are all the same.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
As you get really good at many flam rudiments, the ghost note thing becomes really simple and easy. The hand motions are all the same.
This is my take as well. It's all about rudiments. Accents/taps/grace notes/drags handle the dynamic and coordinative elements you need to master to incorporate ghosting into your grooves.
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
Generally when someone starts a thread like this everyone says to go back to 30-40bpm.

Darned if I have the patience, discipline and maturity to do it but that's what all the teachers say is the way to go.
I don't know if simply slowing down can help. Ghost notes exist largely because of bounces, which are not articulated. When you slow things down a great deal, it is not possible to rely on inertia and gravity to do so much of the work and you must articulate, which just kills the ghost notes.

I wouldn't even worry so much about the microtiming, as very slight irregularites will add interest to your playing, as long as you are hitting the primary notes correctly. Listen to a sample of your playing and if you and others like the sound of it, then why change it?
 

aydee

Platinum Member
I don't know if simply slowing down can help. Ghost notes exist largely because of bounces, which are not articulated. When you slow things down a great deal, it is not possible to rely on inertia and gravity to do so much of the work and you must articulate, which just kills the ghost notes.

I wouldn't even worry so much about the microtiming, as very slight irregularites will add interest to your playing, as long as you are hitting the primary notes correctly. Listen to a sample of your playing and if you and others like the sound of it, then why change it?
Not so much changing, DMC. More like wanting to add a level to my skill. To be able to play stuff that i want to play but cant because I cant maintain things like triplets with my left hand without it falling apart somewhat and my hand freezing up. Goes back to Larry's point about trying to create equal hands. I think I'm a little to old for that unless its a technical fix.


...
 

NerfLad

Silver Member
Not so much changing, DMC. More like wanting to add a level to my skill. To be able to play stuff that i want to play but cant because I cant maintain things like triplets with my left hand without it falling apart somewhat and my hand freezing up. Goes back to Larry's point about trying to create equal hands. I think I'm a little to old for that unless its a technical fix.
Just play. Practice it until it's comfortable for you.

However, I disagree with DMC here. You should have absolute control without having to rely on an outside force. That doesn't mean you shouldn't utilize rebound. You should.

Additionally, I feel that any adjustments made to "microtiming", as you call it, should be intentional. If you play with a bass player, listen to where he 'sits' in relation to your hi hat. You will have to adjust your ghost notes to match the timing of his (he plays them too, right?), or at least find a middle ground, to establish a groove. Everybody's different.
 

Chunky

Silver Member
I agrew with DMC, I think fast ghost notes and slow ghost notes are 2 different techniques. They certainly feel different to me.
If you spend too much time just practising them slow then you may find them too lively and uncontrollable. Likewise if play only fast ghost then when you try to play them slow you might find the sticks being uncooperative and have timing issues.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I don't know if simply slowing down can help. Ghost notes exist largely because of bounces, which are not articulated. When you slow things down a great deal, it is not possible to rely on inertia and gravity to do so much of the work and you must articulate, which just kills the ghost notes.
A few years ago I had a couple of lessons with Wy Yung and I played a beat. He asked me to try it at a much slower bpm. Total fail. I didn't know what my hands were doing - it was just some goofy beat I liked and played enough to capture some of the vibe, but without the ground work my execution wasn't as reliable as it could be.

It was an eye opener. Yes, it's a different technique slower and I imagine there would come a tempo when you'd have to change technique. I think going through the process of gradually increasing bpms over time would improve control.

Sound fair?

I love ghosties, that flow between notes, almost as though the notes are bouncing along like a stretched rubber band - if that makes any sense. All the Steely Dan drummers have this quality in spades.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
A few years ago I had a couple of lessons with Wy Yung and I played a beat. He asked me to try it at a much slower bpm. Total fail. I didn't know what my hands were doing - it was just some goofy beat I liked and played enough to capture some of the vibe, but without the ground work my execution wasn't as reliable as it could be...
I'm Guilty has charged of this too.

I've just posted this in an other thread, but somehow, it's very relevant to Anon's comment.

"You play a groove/pattern that you're familiar with at various tempo alongside a metronome or a click, you play the exact same groove/pattern each time, it's amazing how it's hilighting where you've lost the feel an the groove at certain tempo, we certainely have our "pocket" in relation to groove and tempo within our comfort zone."
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
Just play. Practice it until it's comfortable for you.

However, I disagree with DMC here. You should have absolute control without having to rely on an outside force. That doesn't mean you shouldn't utilize rebound. You should.

Additionally, I feel that any adjustments made to "microtiming", as you call it, should be intentional. If you play with a bass player, listen to where he 'sits' in relation to your hi hat. You will have to adjust your ghost notes to match the timing of his (he plays them too, right?), or at least find a middle ground, to establish a groove. Everybody's different.
Gravity and inertia aren't outside forces. They're just things to be controlled and used in your playing, along with your own muscle movements and finger/limb tension. Some things, like ghost notes, are basically controlling gravity and inertia. If you slow them down, you are fundamentally changing the interaction between gravity, inertia and your muscles.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

What nobody has commented on yet is if very low stick height on the ghost stroke is a no- no?

The taps in flam taps, in a sense are still coming off a bigger stroke.. not sure if I understand how that would help if for instance the left hand is playing ghosted triplets while most of the accents are off the right hand or foot.

PS- I've seen guys do this ( Steve Smith for instance, and he kinda Moellers the stroke to get enough momentum in it to knock out 3 continous ghost notes... Buddy Rich too.. ah well, I wont go there on second thoughts.. )

....
 
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