Master Your Ghost Notes


It’s time to get into the groove with those “pitch-neutral” notes –says Daniel Borch

I often produce and edit vocals and it’s common to see record companies rely on technology to correct both pitch and timing instead of developing the skill of the singer.

This in an era when few artists can make their living by selling records but have to get out there and earn their living through gigging.

So now, more than ever, artists need to develop great ”live” singing skills.

Mastering rhythm (along with perhaps bending pitch, creating compelling sound qualities) moves you beyond the basics – you just might go from being a good singer to a great one.

Master Your Ghost Notes

Last week we practised timing, with a focus on being laid back/behind the beat. Today we’ll practise “ghost notes”.

A ghost note (also known as a “dead note” or “false note”) is a softer note than the main notes with rhythmic value but little emphasis on pitch.

Think of the way Michael Jackson used his voice percussively or listen to the song “Amampondo” by Miriam Makeba.

There are different ways of producing ghost notes but I usually use an ordinary glottal attack – it’s a way of making onsets and offsets – where you put your vocal folds together before the air stream – the opposite is a breathy onset (where you start the note with an ‘h’).

The important thing when you are producing glottal attacks, as a percussive ingredient, is not to “push”.

You need to do these onsets/offsets lightly – otherwise there is a risk of vocal wear.

Try This

In the exercise-link just below, we are going to practice ghost notes in a triplet groove.

I want you to focus more on rhythm than on pitch.

Of course, the goal is to make it sound “groovy” and “light” – but don’t worry about getting there until you have sang it many times.

Exercise – Ghost Notes – Triplets

First just listen to the voices and then it will be your turn to try it with the piano.

Except for this kind of “spot on” practise like this, you can also incorporate rhythmical challenges into your regular exercises e.g. maybe do your support exercise in a funky way or rhythmically rephrase a register exercise and so on.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vid

Richard Soren – Tasmanian Devil (Cover)

Richard, you have a pretty good voice in your upper range – and I think you have even more up there. The low part lacks melodic distinction, so overall I believe you would benefit from transposing the song up a whole note.

See VoiceCouncil’s Feature Interview with Daniel Borch

Daniel Zangger Borch is one of Sweden’s most recognised vocal coaches. He has been a regular on adjudicating panels for popular TV shows such as ‘Idol’, ‘True Talent’ and ‘X-Factor’. He is also a professional singer, recording artist (with seven albums) and songwriter. Daniel holds a PhD in Music performance and is Head of the Voice Centre, Stockholm. His book “The Ultimate Vocal Voyage” has been released internationally. Hear more about Daniel’s career.
Daniel’s Ultimate Vocal Voyage on Amazon


  • Gaurav

    Great article, thanks! :)