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Handpan tips - the ghost notes

September 27, 2022 2 min read

In this blog series, we will highlight different playing techniques to help you find ideas and improve your skill. To help you in your quest for mastering the handpan, we have collected some of the most interesting and intuitive videos make your approach and learning as easy as possible.

Now that you can make your handpan sound perfect it is time to take it to the next level. Let's take a look at ghost notes. By ghost notes, we mean notes that are not easy to hear. This may sound surprising but it is the use of techniques like these that will bring nuance to your composition. 

What is a Ghost note ? 

In music, a ghost note is a note with a rhythmic value but without a discernible pitch when played. Often represented by an X in musical notations, the ghost note has more rhythmic than melodic musical value. Yes, not everything that can sound on your handpan needs to be easily perceptible. These notes should be played quietly, hence the name ghost notes. This technique consists in tapping a note very gently without making it sound. This will allow the player to keep or create a rhythm easily.

Ghost notes are very useful to give your music more groove and to keep track of the tempo.  On a handpan, there are different places where you can use ghost notes. You can play ghost notes on the tonefields, the interstitial or on the shoulder of the handpan. So almost everywhere on the handpan.

Ghost notes can be played with either the right or left hand. When playing the handpan, ghost notes will add color and texture to your tempo. In general, drummers use ghost notes to create complex rhythms, contrast and a funkier sound.  

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Here is a very informative video from the channel "NovaPan Handpans" to understand how ghost notes work. This channel is full of very detailed and interesting lessons about handpan so we encourage you to check them out ! 

Example of Performance using ghost notes

To have an idea of ghost notes potential, take a look at this beautiful composition of Kabeçao.Here you will realize the effect of ghost notes on the composition and the depth that these notes bring to the music. So take a few minutes to learn from this video and especially let yourself be carried by this bewitching melody.

alexandre zunino
alexandre zunino

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