Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


Whazzup with the blog title “Guitar and Spirit?”

Greetings! I hope you had a wonderful Holiday and stay out of trouble on this upcoming New Years Eve!

As I sit here on a chilly, snowed in December morning I am considering creating a Podcast out of what my blog has been: a mish-mash of musical, philosophical and spiritual thoughts.

When I started my blog, my Dad warned me “stay away from the spiritual stuff, just stick to music”. However, I chose to go with my gut and mash it all together.


Oddly enough it was my Dad who gave me a copy of “Zen in the Art of Archery” when I was 15 and really struggling with classical guitar technique. He tried to show me that while it’s an outer game of guitar, archery or whatever – there is the inner game of the mind. Inner and outer are related in a mysterious non verbal way.

Later on, as I continued my music studies at college I had the wonderfully good fortune of apprenticing for years with pianist and composer Mike Longo who was Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist and musical director from 1964-71.

At a certain point in my studies, I had tackled most of the “quantifiable” work on harmony and theory. However, as I pressed Mike for more information about tone, touch groove his answers became more and more cryptic.

One day we played together and following our duet he said “You hear that ‘ring’ in your sound? That has a deep spiritual significance.”

My lessons really took on the vibe and feeling of studying with a magician more than a musician.

It didn’t take long before people started asking me questions as though I “knew” something. Teachers at college would ask me what I was practicing. From nowhere people started speaking to me as though ‘I knew’.

Mike Longo kept reminding me “what you are learning here is not common knowledge.”

Heavy! Even musicians whom I looked up simply talked to me like a peer. I’m more used to it now, but was very weird at the time.

I love teaching and explaining things. I vowed as a young person never to teach or preach hot air or bull, and I really felt sick when I had teachers who did “not know” but pretended that they “knew”.

If I can do it – that shows that I know it. If you can’t see me ‘do it’ then don’t believe me. Allow me to be transparent to your ears and eyes – and you decide what’s true for you. Take what you can use, leave the rest.

So to write a blog about learning guitar or music, I can’t leave out the personal development, the spiritual journey, the discipline, the trials, tribulation and the joys and ecstatic moments. It’s all part of the soup mix of music and life. I spend as much time on myself as a person as I do on myself as a guitarist. In actuality, there is no separation!

Sometimes you’ll get a post here about my choice of guitar strings or recording techniques; at other times you’ll get a post about the power of visualization or meditation. To play guitar well, or music well – for that matter, you need to develop yourself inside and out, from the head to the heart to the body and to the soul.

I wish I could have gotten the inner thoughts of my guitar heroes as I grew up. With the internet today, it’s possible to deliver my intimate thoughts to you – quickly and easily.

If your music is to ring of truth and touch people’s hearts, your whole being is involved. If you are to be successful, your whole being is involved. No outer “techniques” and cover or hide what’s inside. Another way to say this is “You can’t fool the Universe”.

Happy New Year, and be on the lookout for the “Guitar and Spirit” Podcast in early 2011.

– Adam



How You Do One Thing is How You Do Everything

Jack Canfield has a chapter in his book “The Success Principles” with the same title as this blog post.

Another great expression of this principle (sort of) is in an axiom by jazz pianist Hal Galper – “Patience is it’s own reward.”

This thought is reiterated by Brian Tracy in numerous forms (paraphrase) “Losers do what is fun and easy, while winners do what is difficult and necessary” or “losers do what is stress relieving while winners do what is goal achieving.”

Lastly, my personal mentor Mike Longo said years ago “the warrior runs into the battle, the coward runs away from it.”

I guess studying these guys writings and teaching for a few years has gotten under my skin. While they differ slightly in tone and feel – they say essentially the same thing.

I have noticed this “do it now, do it right no matter how difficult it is” principle manifest in my life recently, not just with recording but with other aspects, trials and hurdles simply presented by life.

As I wrote in my last post I have had studio troubles in recording. Guess what? I’m sucking it up, re-recording on my own dime and doing it right.

I had to buy a vacuum yesterday and as usual there’s a decent cheaper one made of plastic with a 1 yr guarantee , or a German made Miele with metal housing and a 7 year guarantee and they can fix it in the store where I bought it – but for over twice the price. Suck it up again, Adam!!! I bought the good one.

Whether it’s a recording, a purchase or anything…how you do one thing is how you do everything.

So, in doing things right

– it may take more time
– you (and I) have to delay immediate gratification
– it may cost more

We must be on the lookout for our own:

– impatience
– trying to do things cheaply
– trying to do things quickly
– get immediate gratification

I suppose this comes with after the experience of the following: when one does things quick & cheap one has to do (or buy) a second time at the right price anyway. So “quick” costs more time, and “cheap” is often more expensive, in the long run.

Most importantly is the feeling of satisfaction when one does things properly and leaves no stone unturned. I am feeling this lately.

You see – you can’t be the same person on the inside and do an A+ job on a recording and buy a crappy vacuum. The same person would likely either do a great job at both or a crappy job at both. Scientific, huh? 🙂

How you do one thing, is how you do everything. Get it?

The boost in self esteem, and feeling like a winner just gets you (me) addicted to doing it right even more.

Happy Holidays!!!



The Michael Jackson Fingerstyle Guitar Sessions – Coated Strings and Guitar Intonation


It’s been a crash course in recording solo guitar to be in the studio working on the new Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar album. The studio has officially kicked my butt, but I am a fighter. Next week are rounds 4 & 5.

Recording solo guitar (or solo anything) is an entirely different challenge from recording a multi instrument track. There’s just nowhere to hide.

Imagine a dish like a stew with 30 ingredients vs a gourmet dish with 3 ingredients. The dish with 3 demands much more care and precision. Any aspect of it being off can throw the whole thing off.

I have practiced and performed this music for a while now – played it on tour, etc. The biggest issue I have dealt with in the studio so far is tuning and intonation.

Coated Strings…Fool Me Once…um…never get Fooled Again!

My bad. I had the information and tools needed to do it right, yet I didn’t. Randy Hughes – master guitar repair, setup and fret guy warned me – coated strings do not intonate well.

Even if your open strings are spot on pitch, notes get weird as you creep up the neck. Ouch. Boy did that G string go flat as I went up the neck. I didn’t realize the cause until after the session.

I like Elixir Nanoweb coated strings, basically. They never sound as good as Martin SP phosphor bronze strings, but they last longer. If I am not on the road, I’ll use Elixirs.

I also have noticed slightly less “left hand squeak” from Elixirs so I figured, what the heck – how bad can it be. So I recorded.

Additionally…I had with me a Peterson Strobostomp tuner…but used my little Korg tuner instead.

My bad…on 2 counts on string & tuner choice…

Long story short…the lessons we learn are often ones that are expensive and exasperating. I need to re-record a bunch of tunes – and I had the information and tools to avoid this, but just got a little lazy.

I repeat, fool me once…um…never get fooled again…

Other Aspects of Guitar Tuning – Your Fingerings

Tuning a guitar really well is not so simple. Some tuning problems can be avoided by changing the arrangement! That’s right – even on a totally in-tune guitar, one fingering can sound more in tune than another. This requires an insanely high degree of listening.

On my version of “Rock With You” I do melodies across the top 3 strings. Now when I play D on the 3rd string 7th fret and open B together and really listen – OUCH!!! It just sounds terrible. Yes, it’s the right notes, but listening deeper, there’s a problem. New fingerings will come to the rescue.

The same applies for squeaks. Listen for them as you practice, and you may find that there are other fingerings which don’t squeak.

So often we’re just happy to get through a piece and we don’t listen to ourselves on this level until we are in the studio and it’s too late!

In Conclusion

When you record, try using fresh uncoated strings. Stretch them well.

Before you record – listen for tuning and squeaks at home. Adjust the arrangements to minimize tuning issues and squeaks, and then go record.

Before recording a take, play different spots in the song and listen. Each song may require a different adjustment in tuning. Oh – and remember to have the patience to tune with a tuner before every take. Check out the Peterson Strobostomp!

JUST ADDED: Peterson has their strobe tuner technology in clip on tuners and even has a strobe tuner iPhone app:

Gang, my first 2 solo efforts were “commando” style – at home, with mics, background noise; music with warts and all. This time I want to give you and all my listeners the most excellent, sublime recording I can.

Ok, coffee cup is empty and post is written…time to practice.