Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


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Practicing “The Gig” vs. Practicing “Guitar”

In Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles” he describes two olympic athletes who at each training session would do a “mock olympics”. The coach would call out their names exactly in the format that would go down in the real olympic competition, score them perfectly and award them the gold medal.

Of course the reason it appeared in Canfield’s book was that they did win the gold medal in the real competition. When they were in the competition they felt like they were back at their gym with their trainer.

This is a very deep lesson actually. It’s about bringing yourself through sensations – auditory, visual, and kinesthetic – into the feeling of the ACTUAL moment that you’ll be in. It’s a fast forwarding of sorts, and actually you can take yourself from the 4th dimension (time) somewhere else in the 5th dimension (all possibilities starting from now). By living in the end result, you find your way to get there….auto-magically!

I didn’t readily see how I could use this concept with music performance until last week.

Today is Feb 6, 2010. In about 3 weeks I start an 8 week tour through Germany, Austria the UK and I finish off in Belgrade, Serbia. That’s my “olympics”. I gotta kick butt, but practicing at home is so different from being on a concert stage. (Or is it?)

At home, I can just sling the guitar on and walk around in my pajamas and play a tune 100 times until it feels good. I can have a coffee, chat with a friend on a break, and go back to play some more.

The concert stage is totally different. (Or is it?) In concert…

I need to entertain for 90-120 minutes.
There’s no going back to fix mistakes and no playing the same tunes 3,4,5 times.
There are lights shining brightly in my eyes so I sometimes can’t see the frets.
Playing through a PA presents a new sound problem – all of a sudden I need to adjust to a new sound.
Jacket buttons hit the guitar unexpectedly.
I get thirsty, I sweat and I gotta make people happy!
I have to get the vocal mic (for beatbox) and the guitar to behave together sonically.
I have to play a tune or two that may be a bit rusty, and play it like I mean it.
It’s a jungle out there!

Doing the first few concerts is disconcerting if I have been off the road for a month or two, to say the least.

Then I realized the meaning of this story about the athletes. As well, after listening to videos and audio programs of great speakers like Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy, Esther & Jerry Hicks, and others – I realized that a SERIOUS amount of prep work goes into what they do. It’s no accident that they pull off their seminars and workshops with total finesse.

I had my AHA! moment. I decided I’d “do a concert” here at home by myself instead of my usual “practice routine”. Of course I’ve done many concerts before but I saw a new opportunity to improve my show and up my game! I could do exactly what the athletes did. For many this would be a “nice idea” but I decided to follow through and really do it, so that I could report back to you.

I set up my PA system here at home (my neighbors got a concert I think…) and wrote out my concert program. I got dressed up in my suit, and even shone my desk lamp in my eyes to simulate stage lights. I set up my mic, set a glass of water nearby, and everything. I put cologne on, and set up the video camera. I tuned up in the bathroom (my dressing room) and came out, announced myself the way most emcees do, and tore up 2 hours worth of music.

Unfortunately the only groupie in sight was my cat, Brina. 🙂

All I can say is WOW. I actually got so many of the “head trips” of playing a concert I saw that this is truly great performance practice technique. Duh, some people call it a dress rehearsal, but once again – this is something not generally “taught” to solitary musicians.

Solo musicians run their “pieces” but rarely “run their show” I didn’t think that it was possible in this habitat (my studio apartment) to access the difficulties of the concert environment, but it actually was!

My biggest goal now is to forgive myself for mistakes on stage and continue with the music, and to be more and more “in the moment” while playing. Great performers “flow” and it can only get better and better. I’m curious to report back from the road and say if this practice technique was in fact helpful.

It’s also interesting to feel the pacing of songs as they fall between other songs. I’ve done this now 2 days in a row, and the “flow” of the set felt much more natural today. Damn, I wonder where this will get to after a week, 2 weeks, etc.

In watching the video (I only caught the first hour, my flip cam hard drive got filled up) I was surprised, as I suspected I’d be. Songs I thought were “B” level were “A” level, and vice versa. I also caught some serious flaws in my presentation, realized I need a wardrobe and especially need hairdo upgrade. 🙂

I am sure my mind will churn for days on this, but heck I’d rather start this thought process now than after the first few gigs! Seeing one’s performance as an outsider is totally different than the inner experience of doing it.

Yes, it’s important to be a great musician, and a great guitarist or instrumentalist – but performance “chops” are a whole other set of skills. If you are performing anywhere as a public speaker, reader, comedian, magician or musician – set up a performance environment for yourself and try this NOW.

“Great musicians can be sucky performers and great performers can be sucky musicians.” That’s my quotable quote of the day. And, guess who gets the bigger money at gigs? 🙂

If you are a performer of any sort, do try this at home! You’ll be amazed at what you experience.

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