Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


Roll Over Amadeus!

Every now and then as one goes through life, events happen to which we ascribe meaning. I had such a moment yesterday.

I had the wonderful opportunity to do a solo guitar concert 2 nights ago at the “Mozarthaus” in Vienna, Austria. Mozart lived on the ground floor level of this building. The building sits on “Domgasse” – the Dome being St. Stefan’s Cathedral.

The concert was in the basement where they now have a lovely small hall for chamber music. The building is now a historic landmark museum, and they host concerts, events…it’s just so cool. I’ll need to go back as a tourist and check it out!

It was in this building that Mozart and Haydyn met. It was an honor not only to set foot in this place, but also perform music there. Holy powdered wigs, Batman!

As I walked in, and throughout the concert I couldn’t help but think of the towering genius of Mozart – and here I am doing my little ol’ funky fingerpicking, playing Billie Jean, beatboxing, and so on. The ridiculousness all of it was humbling and totally hilarious at the same time.

During my first guitar and beatbox tune “Chameleon” the melody lines wove in and out of eachother, the beatbox groove hit and I saw smiles in the crowd. I knew then and there, old Wolfgang would approve and it made me feel good. He was a playful groovy son of a gun…I felt him smiling.

Afterwards, as the audience was screaming, and I had to just take it in and enjoy kicking butt musically in the former home of one of our worlds greatest musical geniuses!

But, lets not forget Mr. Fux either. “Who’s that?” you ask.

Last night at the concert as I introduced my tune “America”, I told the folks that the tune was born as I studied “Gradus ad Parnassum”, Johann Fux’s book on counterpoint (which Mozart also studied by the way). You can actually buy this book at Barnes & Noble. It’s a music education classic – just a small pocket sized paperback, but heavyweight in the concepts!

Fux lived during the same time as Bach and was the “Cappelmester” – i.e. choir leader, organist and head teacher in charge of music there at St. Stefans Cathedral in Vienna.

His book was (and still is indispensable) to my musical education and to my fingerstyle guitar approach. The ability to “juggle” more than one “voice” and see where voices in the music hit at the same time – or don’t hit at the same time (called counterpoint) was strengthened by doing all the written exercises in his book over coffee each morning for about 2 years. Once you can visualize the concept on paper, playing it becomes easier.

This work translated into “seeing possibilities” as a composer and arranger rather than just thinking like a “guitar player”. That’s why I always try to teach students “concepts” as opposed to just songs. The mileage you get from a correct concept can be the spark for hundreds of songs and arrangements.

Special thanks to Mozart, Fux, Bach and the all the Masters of music, you are all a never ending source of inspiration to me. My dream is to provide people with music that is not only entertaining, but intelligent too, and I hope you were groovin with me last night, (and I kinda think you were).

Your student, Adam.




Financial Tip for Touring Musicians – The Numbers Don’t Lie!

Years ago when I started touring Europe I was not too financially organized. Primarily because I didn’t and still don’t “do it for the money” – I do it for the love of music and travel. However, deriving “feelings” from looking at your wallet at the end of a tour is a very inaccurate way to do this.

Whether you feel “good” or “bad” you really have no idea what went down financially unless you do the math. You could feel very rich (or extremely poor) looking at the money in your pocket at the end of a tour. What about all the money and credit card bills for the travel, hotels, food? Those expenses may have happened months before – so you cannot tell by looking in your wallet at the end of a tour!

On my first few tours back in the late 1990’s, I’d front the money for the band’s plane tickets, train tickets, food, hotels on nights off for the band, and of course – their pay was guaranteed. It was then up to me to sell CD’s and collect gig income and “pray for the best”.

I can remember feeling as though I was on an emotional roller coaster when I spent money, or when I felt I made some, and in the end – no idea whether I made or lost money because I had no system for tracking the income / expenses.

One year I decided to start keeping track of my income and expenses using a simple excel spreadsheet. If you are touring, and own a laptop this is actually kind of a fun little morning activity – assuming you didn’t party too hard the night before. Any spreadsheet program should be fine – Excel, Apple Works, Open Office – are a few available.

In just about any spreadsheet program, you can set up a whole region of several rows and columns to sum the numbers so your totals of income and expenses. I simply enter expenses as a negative number, and income as a positive number. I even got geeky and have columns for US dollars as well as Euros so that I can translate it all into dollars at the end.

The result? Well you start to see some very interesting things like:

– How much it costs to go on tour
– How much each gig “costs” so you get an idea of what fee you need to ask for
– Where you can cut expenses
– Did you break even and cover costs, and if so, when?
– Most importantly you can come home feeling good when you do earn money, it is inspiration and motivation for the next tour!

Note – even if you don’t earn money a tour can be successful, because the benefit can come from the relationships and fan base you are establishing. Think of that kind of scenario as an investment.

If you are paying band mates as you go rather than in a lump at the end, you can enter that as an expense on a given day – so that the 50 bucks here and there can all be accounted for in case of misunderstandings.

The numbers do not lie. It is totally enlightening to see the numbers added up, and if the spreadsheet does it properly, there is little room for error, as long as it’s set up right.

As musicians we think like artists and not accountants, so this activity may not come naturally. However as we move into the 21st century, we have to be responsible in new ways. By taking care of ourselves financially we end up taking care of ourselves emotionally and that becomes our physical and musical well being too!

These all are in support of the music, even though they may seem like distractions. So – fire up your spreadheet software (excel, apple works, open office – whatever) and start fooling around with this idea. You’ll be glad you did, and this will help your musical life too!


Greets from The Road – Voelklingen, Germany

(this post was written March 8, 2010)

Greets friends. I am writing to you as I sit on the train to Frankfurt for a solo concert this evening.

A few days ago, I was in Linz, Austria and fell into some delightful, deep contemplation while taking a nice stroll on the Hauptplatz (main square). Linz was one of the first places I ever played on a Europe tour with a jazz trio, and I returned to precisely the same venue and stage, 10 years later for two sold out solo concerts.

Returning to a place I rarely come to after all this time put me in a time warp of sorts! Allow me to digress…

I am fascinated by the idea of what’s “out there” in the world we see vs. what’s “in here” in our minds and bodies.

The more that we look at our own minds and bodies, we see that everything we experience is inside and it is in fact impossible to experience anything outside ourselves.

When you see a bird, what’s actually happening? Actually, light waves zap into your eyes and your brain puts a picture of the bird together. Like it or not, your brain sees the bird. You “see” the image in your brain. You never experience the actual bird.

The same for sounds, smells, tastes, colors, emotions, touch and so on. Our sense organs pick up frequencies and it is our brain that registers them, interprets and assembles them. Past that, the brain can choose to add meaning – but that’s a whole other topic! 🙂

There is a famous story about two Zen monks. One monk looks at a flag waving in the wind one sunny day, and the other monk says “is it the flag that is moving, or is it your mind that is moving?”

In looking at the Linz “Hauptplatz”, seeing in my mind’s eye the memories of years past, remembering the feelings, dreams, loves, ups and downs I saw something that the Zen monk saw. Did I experience Linz? No I experienced my own mind and inner workings.

Sure I experienced events there, but they were the simply the out picturing of precisely what I was looking for due to the Law of Attraction. This experience this time was completely different, because I am looking for new things in music and in life.

The feeling was Merlin-esque. My whole sense of past, present and future somehow felt like it was collapsing on itself. Side note: I also saw that without a doubt any picture I hold in mind comes to fruition. Take time out of the equation and it is as if you can snap your fingers and have anything.

Even when I sit on the meditation cushion and the mind starts to wander, I laugh at myself….in a 20 minute session I can feel the feelings, sight sand sounds of Bangkok, my apartment in NYC, people in my life, my cat, life as a school kid…and physically I am in one place. It’s so easy to see in that setting that it is the “mind moving” and not “the flag”.

The holograph in my mind of course is “inside”, but what must be realized is even when you are “there” and “seeing things for real” the holograph is still an inner experience. So, really no difference between being in Bangkok and seeing things vs seeing the memories in my mind. Why? All I ever saw was my mind anyway…

What’s even more interesting is when two or more people experience something allegedly tangible – for example, attending a concert. For each listener, there is a brain assembling music and meaning and an experience. The music is not an outer experience, even at a concert…it’s an inner experience for each person there.

I dance around this topic without a real conclusion for you in mind. To see that it is all inside me, the entire cosmos, everyone I know, everything I have seen or heard is in me, fills me with wonder.

What, if anything is “out there” past my consciousness? This may be something we’re not allowed to know on this plane of existence. However, knowing that everything is inside is a level of taking responsibility for ones thoughts and life.

You may think that even this blog entry is outside you, but guess what? Everything you are reading and seeing is an inner experience, being put together by your brain. It’s in you.

Cool, huh? Until next time, feel good, love those around you, love yourself and keep swingin’!