Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

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.

Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

11 thoughts on “Practicing “The Gig” vs. Practicing “Guitar”

  1. Hi Adam! Hope you are enjoying your tour of Europe! I’ve no doubt there is PLENTY of GREAT GUITAR being played on this trip!

    In reading your blog, I wondered if you might have ever heard of Kenny Werner, a jazz pianist, who has coined the concept of, and written a book about, and recorded seminars concerning “Effortless Mastery”?

    Some of this particular blog sounded a bit like you were angling toward some of those concepts!

    If you’ve not heard of him or the book or the concept, you might find it an interesting read.

    He is a pianist, but his concepts toward music, and musicianship are universal. I’m a singer and I found much to embrace in his philosophies. The person who introduced me to Mr. Werner is a guitar player, and he has read the book twice and uses Mr. Werner’s meditation recordings daily.

    I’d enjoy hearing what you think! He has a website — — although I have not explored it much, there might be some things there that you find have a ring of truth in them!

    Have a GREAT time in Europe, and I look forward to seeing you this year, hopefully again, at C.A.A.S.

    Yours truly,

    • Susan

      I had lunch with Kenny on a train in Germany, our trios collided on the road.

      I have not cjeked his book out, but as a young guy (I was 28 ish) he encouraged me by telling me that being right there on the road was the thing to do.

      I’d like to check his book out.

      Thanks for commenting.


  2. Adam,

    I started working my daily practice this way and it has helped me to visualize my upcoming performance of some new pieces, giving me more confidence going into the performance. Like you said, closer to a dress rehearsal. great idea…thanks.

  3. Hi Adam,

    Again that’s a very inspiring note! I couldn’t agree more with you on the importance of simulating the entire experience… whether it is a music performance or facilitating a workshop! Even though I’m not a performer, I still learn a lot from your post!

    Thank you very much! And may new inspirations continue to flow in as you practice the gig!


  4. This is how I prepare for races. I run with the intensity of the race. A few weeks before the race I will get up at the time of the race, usually early AM, and do a run through then. It is great. Cool idea to do it with giging. I love how specific you got, really cool.

  5. Thanks for the inspiring post, Adam! Jack Canfield’s book seems like a good read, I’ll add it to my list of books to read.

    Wow, you really went at lengths to make your concert experience genuine. Looks like something that fits perfectly into the law of attraction mindset! I’m not a musician myself, only play the guitar for fun, so I can’t really comment on this. But still, I’ll say a couple of words.

    Did you imagine an audience when you were performing the show? You’re such an experienced guitarist and performer that I have no idea how it works on your level, but many people get more tense when there’s people watching them play instead of just playing alone (yeah, it might also work the other way around that you can draw energy from the audience and be even more creative). I sometimes imagine that there’s the most critical person watching me play when I’m practicing and I have to put on my best for him.

    Another thing, I used to avoid practicing when I was tired. Then I realized that most times when I pick up the guitar somewhere, I am tired. And if I get used to playing something when I’m exhausted, it’s much easier to do when I’m not! After this realization I’ve tried to make practicing when tired something I do intentionally.

    Well, just a couple of thoughts. Wishing you a great time in Europe and hope to catch another one of your shows some day!


  6. I believe Sun Tzu states train as you fight, fight as you train, I’m still trying to picture a neighbor setting up a random concert in the yard. That is awesome. Sounds like you really got that down. Great information for those just starting out.

    Oh, I’m this guy


    I learned a very special African Drum technique from my mentor Mike Longo – he learned it from Dizzy Gillespie. I can’t teach it online because it’s a promise I made to Mike. However, I’d say get a dumbek and jam on some rhythm to get started. Contact me through email if you’d like, I can get more specific.


    You may not be able to share somethings but my thirst for knowledge is great and I REALLY friggin want to learn what you can teach me. Please share what you can in private! 🙂

  7. Dear Adam,

    I found you on YouTube yesterday and must admit that I’m got really impressed. I realy enjoyed what I heard – your natural flow.

    You have an awesome and very personal technique. Having said that, I guess we share at least one source of inspiration – I hear Tuck Andress spirit in your playing 🙂

    But its your musicality, that really took me with storm!
    I feel lots of gut-bound empathy and heart in your playing.
    Deep RESPECT from here!

    I subscribed on your blog now and wish you deeply grounded life performance on stage 🙂

    Your brother in arms
    Misha Sakharoff

  8. Dear Adam,
    I am so exciting to find you music video from website tonight. and this is the first time I watch your live show and listen your music in my life. It’s so amazing. I can’t help myself to find more information from internet…
    I don’t know how to play the guitar, however I love music very much. You are great!
    I wanna say Thank you!!! to you, to appreciate that you and you music make me so happy now.

    I’d like buy you CDs asap.

    best regards

    Linda ( come from Beijing, PRC)

  9. Oh i just heard your music and i am happy to say that you are just amazing especially for a newbie you can be a great inspiration who look for websites like “Notes helper” for many problems.

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