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Ghost Notes - What Are They?

ghost notes

Ghost notes are notes that are muted by a single fretting hand and are displayed by an “X” on guitar tabs. According to our guitar glossary, they “create a percussive effect with a slight underlying hint of a specific note.” But ghost notes may also carry another meaning. Some ghost notes are muted, but other times, a ghost note is a note that can be optionally played, that is, they’re notes that are not required but are there to embellish a piece if the performer chooses.

There are a number of lessons you may find on Guitartricks.com that features tabs with ghost notes and it’s important to know how to play them. Simply play ghost notes by muting them, or don’t play them at all. 


What do they look like in notation?

Ghost notes can look like this an “X” or a note in parenthesis like this: “(3)”

In this lesson in our Acoustic Level 1 course, Anders shows you how to play barre chords using ghost notes. The lesson is all about removing a couple repeating notes from the barre chord so that it’s easier to play them. The notation features a couple of X’s, or ghost notes. Check it out below.

Ghost notes can also be represented on a tab as notes within a parenthesis. These types of ghost notes are usually in tablature that are taken from intricate performances where the musician may play a specific riff or solo with slightly different notes, or add one or two licks into the mix. When this happens the tabs may have extra notes, these ghost notes in parentheses to show that you may also play additional notes for added flair. Sense there’s a number of conflicting definitions for what a ghost note is, a general rule of thumb that I like to use is that if the ghost note is an “X” on the notation, then all you have to do is play the muted string lightly. If the ghost note is in parenthesis, then you may choose to play or not play the note at all. 

I hope that helps you understand how to read tabs a little better and clears up any questions you had. For any questions or concerns feel free to leave a comment below or check out the forums! 

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