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.)

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Ok and this what differs with dead notes?
    – coerrace
    Jun 19, 2019 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. Jun 19, 2019 at 20:38
  • Excellent with great help was your answer.
    – coerrace
    Jun 19, 2019 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, 2020 at 11:48

Your Answer

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

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