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I've been playing the drums (acoustic set) for almost a year now and have made good progress. I am learning from online lessons and loving it, but this has got me stuck.

I'm finding it hard getting into playing ghost notes.
How do I get started on playing ghost notes on the drums?

As far as I understand it's a softer hit on the snare, but is it actually a hit? Is it a rebound?

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It is a hit. The force behind this hit depends on style and intended volume, but in general it is a note, it needs to be played in a controlled way, and it needs to be in time. There are plenty of "accent tap" or "bucks" exercises which will be helpful to practice. Of course, a prerequisite is to practice taps (ghost notes) on their own. They're ultimately just notes, except quieter, and this is achieved primarily by not moving the stick as far.

The hard part of playing ghost notes among accents is what is traditionally called the "downstroke"- that is, you stop the stick at a low height, ready to play a tap, immediately after playing a loud accent. Doing this without excessive tension is really is a matter of fine muscle coordination. Then there is the "upstroke" after the tap (ghost note) is played. This isn't really too complex, you just lift the stick right after playing the note. A note played that low doesn't give much rebound.

In my very first drum class, we practiced playing "upstrokes" (low to high), "downstrokes" (high to low), "full strokes" (high to high, though I think we used a different name back then), and "taps" (low to low). These really are the basics of snare drum technique.

Now, of course, when I go to play drums, I don't think about any of this. You focus on fundamentals in deliberate practice, so that they become natural, and then you don't have to think about them anymore, except for the occasional refresher practice.

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A rebound (bounce) can only occur after the drum has already been hit. So sometimes a ghost note will be a rebound. But it can't always be, as there's no hit prior to bounce from.

It's a more gentle hit, and could be achieved by a sideways brushing action unlike a direct downwards hit from above. Or hitting the edge of the skin rather than the more usual middle.

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In my opinion, ghost note feels more like lightly tapping the drum head with stick than full hit. If there is a hit right before it, it should be played as a downstroke (stop the stick right above the head when it rebounds) instead of playing the ghost note as rebound.

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