Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy


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Human Beatbox and Guitar….Fun!

Hey friends, well I finally did it…I figured out how to fuse my solo guitar act with the funkiness of my past (grew up and was involved with some hip-hop).

I had been fooling around with Herbie Hancock’s “The Chameleon” on solo guitar – a formidable fingering feat in and of itself.

Throughout most of the tune, there is a very funky bassline, and various melodies come in over that bassline. It is the melding of the two lines that gives this tune such a “baddd groove!”

I initially thought that the gem and interest of this song would be the seemingly impossible nature of playing thee 2 lines simultaneously. But……

1) Music has to tickle more than “the mind”….it had to really sound good!

2) It would be a matter of time before other guys could do it too…

3) Is the music to this song interesting enough with just the 2 lines? I was not sold 100% on it…

An idea is one thing, but music is physicis and physical. It had to be good WITHOUT an explanation.

At just about every soundcheck I do, when there is a live mic I do some human beat box, as a “joke”.

“No”, I say , “that’s not really me. I am a serious guitar player…that’s just the echo of adolescence within me….no, I play on chord changes now…sorry that is just for the soundcheck. But it’s fun, huh?”

But wait!!! What’s this “not me” and “yes it’s me” going on internally? So the first “hump” to get over creatively was to be open to thinking “outside the box”. Can you see how not doing human beatbox, to keep the respectable image is in fact “the ego trip”?

So, I decided to give it a try. What if I could actually play “The Chameleon” and beatbox at the same time? It would be cool!

Adam Rafferty: The Chameleon

Much practice had to ensue…like riding a bike, or juggling. First I had to just figure out where snare and bass drums would hit. Next I had to get physical endurance. And it is easy to sing along with the bass instead of really “hit” the bass drum. I am still working on the independence of the parts.

Perhaps the hardest part was figuring out the “form”. The original is like 15 minutes long, with sax & synth solos and added sections. I finally decided on changing the texture every 4 bars, and maybe even every 2. I can’t do improvised solos like on the record, because too much is going on in the bass and drum parts.

So, to hold people’s attention, I had to think about form for the element of interest.

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Let me start by saying that I am doing this because it’s fun and funky and from my heart! I want to reach people with my music, and intuition led me into this song.

But – from a promo / marketing standpoint it gives me a pretty cool unique selling proposition, too! (USP). I realized this in retrospect.

Instead of “Adam Rafferty is a really great guitar player” as verbiage to interest someone, you get “Adam is the freak who plays The Chameleon bassline and melody at the same time, AND Human Beatboxes while he plays both parts!”

A few years ago I went to go see a band once called “Mini Kiss” – midgets dressed up in all the makeup and garb of KISS. I was excited to see this!

Dissapointingly, all they did was lip sync to KISS cd’s and writhe around with all the outfits and makeup.

As a musician, I was let down – but I gotta give it up to them – they had their USP, and quite a following to boot! They packed NYC”s “Cuutting Room” just to lip sync!

What a great USP they had though.

Another was some lame singer on MTV who tried to do a sentimental guitar & vocal version of Sir Mix A Lot’s “I Love Big Butts”. Good idea, terrible product – the music sucked, but het, at least he went for a “twist” – macho sexist lyrics with a feminine, loving approach. Not really funny though.

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Anyhow as a wise man once said “I might be dumb, but I ain’t stupid”. Straight ahead!

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Adam Rafferty @ 169 Bar 10/19/07 – Concert Review

In the honor of Stewart Copeland reviewing The Police reunion gig which he played on, I figured I’d give you an unbiased review of the recent solo gig (10/19/07).

Unbiased, yeah right.

Thank you so much to all of you who came!!! And special thanks to those who were there in spirit…my friends in California, new friends in Japan (you know who you are)…and everywhere else!

This gig was at 169 Bar on NYC’s lower east side. A typical rock place, one must round up their following and get friends and family to cough up $10 to come in. Performer keeps 40% of what the door takes. Whatever…I was able to take Jeff & my girlfriend Jill out to Korean food and take a cab home. Hey, I’m thankful.

A semi-hard pill to swallow for the old ego, as I have done so many high profile gigs & background music gigs where I just get payed well without having to do leg work. But aaahhh – this is a new “in the trenches scenario”, where I am performing some “main event – in your face” kind of music, so there is a different set of dues to be paid. Seems like that never ends! Thats ok…

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Setup: Taylor 314ce Guitar (2006 es system) into my trusty BOSS ME-50 pedal board. I recently picked up the LR Baggs para acoustic DI, and actually used the effects loop feature. Went out of the DI into the PA, and into my little Roland AC-60 amp for onstage as well. Didn’t know what I’d be getting into with monitors.

This was one of these scenarios where the minute I got signal, I was “on”. No soundcheck! I guess that all the experience I have had on gigs really helped with thiis aspect – being able to adjust and accept what was going on soundwise.

The evening’s bloodshed started with “Machine Gun”, opening fire on an unsuspecting herd of audience members. I had originally intended to start with something more groovy, but a split second descision to hit people over the head and grab their attention prevailed. I love that tune…it’s my “Dukes of Hazzard meets Van Halen” number.

Since I was in a weird tuning (D G D G B E), I figured I’d stay there and follow up with “Simplicity”. My best bud Christian Urich (lead singer & drummer for Tortured Soul) told me that this could have been improved. Not the tune itself but the pacing; it was this high intensity from the first tune, way on down to a folky ballad – maybe a smoother more gradual raising or lowering of intensity would have been better. Food for thought…food…I’m hungry.

Next came the Stevie Wonder medley “Superstition, Sir Duke, I Wish”. These are always good for the recognizability factor, bluesiness and groove. I always wince a little at covers, but the tradeoff is that it gives people something to hook onto so they don’t feel as if they are being left out in the cold. Paul Beaudry, one of my favorite NY bass players who was there noticed that I made a facial expression occasionally on botched notes. He reminded me – don’t make a face, ’cause no one heard it! Good advice!

Time to bring the intensity down a bit I played “Shelter Island”, a finger picked ditty in D, a la “Mother Nature’s Son” by the Beatles. This is a nice filler tune, and it has been my daily “etude” to get my fingers used to picking on steel strings. If I play this about 1000 times, I start to feel in control of my “touch”. These midway tunes are good to break up the high and low intesity tunes.

“Vitamin E Blues” closed the set. It’s a boogie-woogie E blues with a few chorusues of ideas and ends with guitar body percussion and a big loud bang at the end – a good set closer.

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COMMENTS: I got several comments that the high energy of Machine Gun was more needed at other points in the set as well. By severral ladies, actually! It has that “strumming” over the top energy like flamenco, and I will keep in mind that this kind of material is a grabber.

PROS / GOOD POINTS:
The audience was riveted – I had their attention and support. It felt so great to be performing instead of playing background music!! YAY. All in all, this was a success,no question. The energy was good, and people had a good time. It did kick butt (at least for me!)

CONS / CRITIQUES / TO THINK ABOUT:
It was a bit rushed, as it was only a 30 minute set, and I felt under the gun. I would have loved a soundcheck…my Taylor guitar with the ES system is a bit bright, a soundcheck would have been nice.

Most importantly, it will take some time to get my own concept for “the show”. Right now I am feeding off the energy of Tommy Emmmanuel, as a model sort of – as he’s really inspired me. My bud Christian encouraged me to explore more of my jazz & harmonic background, my hip hop, and more – and incorporate that too. That will simply come with time and experience, and will be the unique Rafferty fingerprint.

Tuning, or staying in tune in a live setting is tricky. It can stop the flow of the show, and on YOUTUBE I saw how Leo Kottke could talk and tune simultaneously.
On acoustic, I don’t want to stop a piece if the axe is out of tune, which means constant checking in between tunes.

I’ll surely need a second guitar. What if the Taylor self-destructed, a pickup came loose, string broke, or how about a nice cracke somewhere…or if..? So I get to buy another axe!! Yeah that’ll make 13 guitars in my NY studio apartment!

Once again, thanks all for coming!!!

Next gig – 10/27/07 @ Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 6pm.


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Practicing is Just Watching, That’s All

When I was a kid I loved to draw. I think I was probably into drawing and coloring before I was into music.

I noticed that I could just sit, pay attention and the drawing would draw itself. I know, this probably sounds as if I am telling you that I was a little Zen master – but I am being quite serious. There was not a notion of me doing it….honestly.

Over the last few years with my on and off relationship with web design, it has been the same…pay attention…make jillions of split second decisions and bang…creation has happened.

Lately I have been practicing the tune “Mas Que Nada” and it has also been the same – and so much fun. I will record this one for sure, and probably debut it on my gig in a few days.

I guess I am writing this to tell you what practice is and what it isn’t, at least for me.

It all started with a vision and then followed sort of like this, over the course of a few weeks:

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Wow this tune could be groovy!
I could imagine that people may want to sing along.
I want them to feel that easy Brazillian groove too, so they enjoy themselves.
Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get people dancing with just a guitar?
Hmm, what key might be good? E- will work, lots of open strings.
Let me listen to get the chords right. Ahh, it’s a little different than what I thought.
What’s the melody exactly?
The phrasing is kinda freaky – they are singing in Portugese!
I really want to get this tune so it is comfortable and I don’t have to think.
Wow, I need to separate my right hand fingers musically so the “a/ring” finger brings out the melody.
If I keep the bass rhythm consistent with my thumb, it makes this whole thing groove like a little machine.
That was what I needed to lock the groove in…cool!
I think I’ll play this until it feels really good.
Man, there is so much E-…a modulation would be nice…maybe I’ll do the 2nd verse in A-.
That sounds good, it breaks up the repetition.
After 2 times through I need a break of some sort…rhythmic, maybe use a loop pedal…hmm not sure.
Oh wow, a good ending would just be a really obvious “Ba Ba Ba!”
I’ll just practice this first in my routine every day for a week and make sure it feels good.

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So there it is. It just takes the patience to watch and wait. The world out there changes when we look at it, it’s not just a one way street of the solid world coming into our heads. “Out there” changes when “in here” changes. Pretty amazing. In fact, out there and in here are one thing, we just tend to split it in two!

The feeling of coming up with this arrangement was totally natural, not stiff. And it’s subject to change at anytime.

Now this arrangement can be anything in life, can’t it? A house, car, family, carreer, relationship…that’s what amazes me. Music is but a microcosm.

How much can I create just by envisioning & watching, and allowing things to come together – rather than forcing, being exasperated at results not showing up (which creates more of the feeling of no results) and all that.

Can I remove drama and let things be, and know that they will formulate? That’s the challenge. More to come….


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The Butt Technique

Greetings friends! I am so happy….Fall finally feels like Fall here in NY.

I can’t say what an exciting time this is in my life….we truly do go through cycles. And I am actually very excited about how I am able to reach so any new fans & friends via onlie efforts (blog, youtube, etc).

I had an interesting conversation last night with a new friend “Ian” at my best friends birthday gathering…of course it was interesting to me becasue he is a new fan of my music 🙂 Seriously though, it brought up some interesting points that I’d like to share with you.

But first…..

As you know I am a fan of the Release Technique / Sedona Method and refer to it when I need to. (There are so many great personal developement aproaches out there, I find it hard to stick with one and exclude others).

You may never have heard of it – and I am not here to preach or sell anything. It’s all about letting go of limitations and allowing oneself to be, do or have anything.

I can give you an example. For years I thought it was wrong and unjazzlike to use effects pedals. Me, “Mr. Jazzboy” – with archtop endorsements, using pedals? How could I? Worse off – I imagined the double scoops of dissaproval I’d get from peers, jazz icons of yester-year, my teacher and how I’d be undoing the career I’d spent years paving.

Pretty dramatic, huh?

This may seem trivial – but at the time was my reality. (Take a second to appreciate that many of us do this all the time – maybe even you!) One day, (actually it took a lot of gumption) I got the effects out and started playing. People loved it and saw I was having fun. It just felt real,honest and fun – as if a tightness in my chest was let go.

The long and short of it was this – I dropped the limitation. Get it?

It involved “letting go” or “releasing” on the need for anyone’s approval. And, releasing on the “survival” aspect of my career.

Ironically, organist Dr. Lonnnie Smith loves what I do with the pedals. Who would have thought? Releasing actually led to one of the hippest gigs I’ve done.

I hate to use such a trite example, but can you see that our lives, our worlds are constructed out of these psychological houses of cards? It’s insane!!!!

Lester Levenson, the spiritual genius that taught many about this “letting go” concept, (Sedona & Release Technique) said that the highest level of achieving anything is “releasing” the limitations. I love this – he calls it the butt technique. Sit on your butt, release, and watch it come to you.

Whoa! Sounds good, but it is a little hard to believe!

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Back to the conversation I had at the party.

Ian, my bud, loved the new acoustic tracks and vids on you tube that I had put up and is also a Tommy Emmanuel fan (my new favorite guitarist, and the worlds fave as well).

He kept asking me “so you are here and Tommy is there. What are you going to do to get over there where he is?”

It sounded to me as if he was asking, “what will you do” or “what’s the plan” or “who will you call” to get from where I am to where I want to be.

I started to give an answer like, “well I hope I get there someday maybe people will check out the CD…” but he persisted, which I thank him for.

Finally I said to him “It’s not any one thing I need to do, as much as it is a place I need to be in my psyche and soul. When I am in that place, good things happen – people will like the music, doors will open unexpectedly.”

“And whether the doors open or not, the money and recognition comes or not – the being in that special place where the music lives, where I communicate to others, where I am free of hangups, – that is the place of spiritual success before outer success comes…that’s the place.”

“Oh and by the way – you can’t be in that place becasue you want the success. It is truly the zone of ‘the destination is the journey itself.'”

“So, if I want to be ‘there’ where he is – guess what – there is no ‘there’ where he is and ‘here’ where I am. The place to be is the zone of enjoyment and thanks, and then one is like a magnet puling in all good things.”

“I need do nothing except be in that place.” And then I realized – the butt technique was what I was describing.

And then Ian said “that was the answer I wanted to hear”.


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Gratitude is the Present

Last night as I was meditating before bed I encountered a fierce ego struggle. Here I was, alone with some incense burning – and all I could think of was the lack of what I had. I had everything needed on the outside for serenity, but oh boy – the insides were ready for a good fight!

Why? I had seen someone’s tour schedule online and the feeling of “not having any gigs” overtook me.

“Having enough gigs” or “not having as many gigs as so-and-so” is a terrible trap that I and probably many musicians fall into. It’s the “am I good enough, worthy enough, will people love me – and if I was good enough I would have as many gigs as so and so” and “I need gigs to survive…without them I will vanish”.

I think that many people go through the same feeling, with a different script. Comparing their cars, bodies, homes, belongings, children, achievements, their position at work and more. I mean – the hell we see celebrities go through is the worst ego hell I can imagine.

The ego. The clever little ego. Just when we have peace, it says “don’t forget about me” and conjures up some clever painful little thoughts.

What could I sit and do? In my meditation I had involuntary thoughts of who to contact, who to email, gigs to book – disappointment in myself, what if I am not good enough. It was inner hell!

Do you ever feel like this? Proud? Embarrased? Worried? Cocky? It is the ego.

The pain was so bad – I felt like a 500 pound gorilla was sitting on my chest.

Then I thought – be here. Breathe. Even if all I can do is concentrate on this one breath in, I will. Okay, breathe out. Hey – I felt a little relief….not so bad.

Now, who is this who is feeling so bad? Can I look at this gripping bad feeling like one would look at a tornado from the outside, rather than as one from the inside sees it?

Where did this pain come from?

Is it really so bad being right here?

Gee I have a lot to be thankful for.

Enough chatter…breathe in. Breathe out. That feels good. Breathe in….breathe out.

So and so does have a lot of gigs….don’t forget.

Oh there that goes again…that’s okay, it’s mind chatter. Breathe in…..breathe out.

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This morning I felt better as I meditated and a feeling of gratitude and forgiveness came up naturally in me.

The emotional state of gratitude is a “present tense” emotion. “Wanting more” is a dissatisfaction of the present and a reaching toward the future. It’s one thing to say “be present” but getting there through the mind is the problem.

Going for a feeling is closer to the essence of being present, at least for me. There are many ways in to “the present”, but gratitude for everything around and saying YES to what is brings me here.

We can look at a situation and paint it with many different emotional shadings. We can hold grudges or forgive, swim against the current or with it, say YES or say NO.

I saw that any struggle I am temporarily experiencing is like a purifying fire. Struggle is good. It is teaching me so much about myself and my inner life that whether or not anything manifests on the outside, I learn more here, sitting, than any school or person could teach me. I learn that I create the struggle, the fight – and I can choose not to as well.

When we resist, we get resistance and when we peacefully and lovingly accept we get peace.

The fabric of life is this feeling in us – our peace or our resistance – not the outer manifestations! So, why not choose better feelings and let yourself out of the hell of the ego?

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I am happy being right here right now. My outer world is a reflection of my inner world. I am hopeful, joyously anticipating new experiences, and I know that I can create a happy life. I deliciously enjoy what is around me and I know everything changes constantly, arising and falling.

There is no rush, nothing to achieve, no one to impress. I am at peace.