Chords, notes and rests can generally be notated to show a duration of 1, 1/2, 1/4 etc. beats but how do I do that for ghost notes - i.e. those with an 'x' as a head. I can find examples of a quarter note and less that use flags on the step but nothing greater than a quarter.

For example, in 4/4 I can fill a measure with two half notes...

 |   |
o|  o|

but this doesn't work

 |   |
x|  x|

It looks like, and is, two quarters. I would have to put a quarter rest between and after the two notes but that's not really what I mean.

  • 1
    A ghost note is generally a percussive effect, so a half-note doesn't really make sense. Could you describe what you're going for musically? There may be another more standard way to express it.
    – Aaron
    Jan 26, 2021 at 6:00
  • I think you won't be able to reply to the comment, but you can edit your post to include the musical context.
    – Aaron
    Jan 26, 2021 at 6:01
  • Take a look at the examples above. In the first I play two half beats which fill the four beat measure. In the 2nd example I want to express the same but as a percussive sound so I would need to place two 1/4 beat rests to complete the measure, something like "x| r x| r" but that would indicate that the sound should be cut off after the first and 3rd quarters Jan 26, 2021 at 6:06
  • 1
    What instrument?
    – Aaron
    Jan 26, 2021 at 6:14
  • I'm writing an application to support learning to sight read so it could apply to any instrument. There's a step by step progression so starting just with rhythm, pitch is not relevant so ghost notes would be appropriate. All sheet music I've seen ghost notes of 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 are used liberally but not 1/2 or whole notes - it's not the end of the world if there is no correct way to notate it - I'll invent my own Jan 26, 2021 at 6:37

4 Answers 4


Some alternative suggestions to what Aaron proposed, which I was able to make in MuseScore – in case you wanted to notate ghost notes for a pitched instrument. In the second measure I selected Note Head: Cross, and Head Type: Half.

enter image description here

  • 1
    If you upvote this, upvote Aaron's as well, the second example is demonstration of what he suggested in the comments. Jan 26, 2021 at 17:19
  • 2
    I did upvote Aarons. Great solution! Take the rest of the day off. Jan 27, 2021 at 9:34
  • @user1079505 - I access Music Stack Exchange almost exclusively on mobile, so Aaron's answer displays nothing to me graphically, and I do not understand enough of its code to verify it. Therefore, I cannot in good honesty upvote it.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 31, 2021 at 14:30
  • @Dekkadeci so ABC on SE doesn't work on mobile? :( What Aaron proposed was to write rhythm on staff with only single line, thus without note pitches, which is an excellent solution if you want to notate rhythm only. Jan 31, 2021 at 19:50
  • @Dekkadeci I was just able to render ABC js on mobile by selecting desktop site view from Chrome menu. Feb 1, 2021 at 1:19

I've seen this symbol used in some cases:

![Half ghost note

(It's just the diamond head that's important.) In percussion music, it often represents a cymbal clash, which lasts longer than most drum sounds. You can also remove the stem for a whole note.


Since you're writing rhythm only, and the pitches are not important, the standard option is to use a single-line percussion staff.

T:Single-line staff example
K: C clef=perc stafflines=1
V:V1 stafflines=1
[V:V1]B B/2B/2 B B/2B/2 | B2 B2 |]
  • 1
    Thx Aaron. I guess that's the way I'll have to proceed. Jan 26, 2021 at 7:04

In percussion it is common to see anti accent marks (i.e. ghost notes) in sheet music: enter image description here

Above the notes surrounded by parenthesis would be the ghost notes. Part of the reason for this, is that cymbals in percussion music all use X's already. The Ghost Note Wikipedia has a good section about this.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.