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This is an excerpt from the sheet music for a song by Eminem. What do the cross notes mean, and what is their purpose? Why not use normal notes? (I see this frequently in hip-hop sheet music.)

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They refer to non-tonal/non-harmonic sounds; be it drum sounds (these sounds don't follow a harmonic structure), or dead notes on a string instrument, or, as is the case in this example, rap (the rapper speaks the words without tuning them to a specific pitch).

This is useful for notating rhythm parts that don't really have a pitch. It's used instead of "normal notes" because it would be misleading to notate the example as, say, a B if the performer isn't supposed to sing a specific pitch.

They are actually called "Ghost Notes". In Wikipedia you can see a few examples of parts notated with these notes.

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  • Ok and this what differs with dead notes? – coerrace Jun 19 '19 at 19:38
  • Do you mean the dead notes you would play on a guitar? They are another example of parts that are notated with these ghost notes (it's equivalent to using the guitar as a percussion instrument, playing non-tonal sounds). I've edited my answer with additional information. – Pablo Fergus Jun 19 '19 at 20:38
  • Excellent with great help was your answer. – coerrace Jun 19 '19 at 21:27
  • Drum sounds do kind of follow a harmonic structure, similar to the notated rap here. They are usually not tuned to specific pitches (although toms sometimes are and timpani certainly are). There is a hierarchy though in that some of the drums are tuned higher than other, which also applies to smaller/larger cymbals. You can hint at inflections using this kind of notation for rap as well, if one cross note is higher than another, it is of a higher relative pitch, although it isn't specified exactly what either of those pitches are. – Johan Feb 14 at 11:48

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