Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


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Surviving the “Ouch!” of Criticism

I remember as a kid getting “conduct” grades at my little private school run by nuns. We actually got grades in:

  • Works well with others
  • Homework – Complete, Prompt, Neat Independent
  • Accepts Criticism Well
  • General Conduct

Good grief. Item # 3 on that list…I wonder how many of my teachers accepted criticism well! I still don’t always, but I try.

Jack Canfield in one of his talks describes the mistake in ignoring criticism.

He does a mock performance with his attendees explaining that his goal is over “there” (he points somewhere in the room) and then asks for their “constructive criticism” in getting there – to his goal.

Comically, he puts his fingers in his ears and walks away from the goal. Everyone in the audience shouts, but he keeps going further and further away because he refuses to listen to them.

Everyone gets a good laugh, and he illustrates the importance of listening to criticism very well.

Criticism is a “pinprick” type of pain. It hurts, but the sooner we are honest with ourselves (and if we trust our critique) we can take what we do to the next level. Part of this is getting over the ego identification with what we do. What we do is not who we are.

Know that it should and will hurt, and know that it is probably your ego. It’s not that you’re bad, or a failure – it’s just that nobody knows it all, not you , I or anyone – and outside guidance is good.

If we can get over the ego bruise and get on with the message contained in the critique and take action, that’s called growth, and I repeat, it is good.

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Listening Deeply Can Transform Your World

Mike Longo, my teacher and mentor once told me something very important and perplexing after a big band rehearsal many years ago.

I played guitar in his 17 piece band for a while, and finding the “crack” in which to put a guitar “comp” chord or fill was challenging. The “chug chug” Freddie Green style comping on every beat totally was not what he wanted – and I already knew that.

So at this rehearsal, I played what seemed right and was very self satisfied at the time.

He says to me afterward “You weren’t listening”.

HUH? Did he just say that? I was with them the whole time! This had me scratching my head.

He then assured me that what he meant was extremely subtle, and that Dizzy Gillespie once told him the same thing after a gig.

Last night I did a duo gig here in New York with a friend – and it was really a relief to play a gig and let loose in the midst of all my uber focused recording activity on my Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar project.

Same guitar, same amp…but I heard new detail and nuances in the sound that I had never heard on that gig, and naturally exercised ‘restraint’ in ways I had never done before. It was more musical, focused and relaxed. Even whispery quiet songs had people grooving in their seats.

Imagine a camera lens coming into focus – but on a sonic level.

It’s so common to think that to “improve” one needs to simply “practice” guitar with the hands and get bigger, faster, louder and stronger. Macho Man!!!

Once you (and I) listen deeply – very deeply – the guitar playing changes.

I need to carry thins listening over into all areas of my life. If there is as much joy and delicacy available to me in all of life as there was last night on the guitar, it’s me that needs to quiet down and listen. The world can stay as it is.

Something nice to think about on a ‘quiet’ January Sunday morning.


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Settle for Nothing But Excellence

It’s up to you if you, your life and music are excellent. Are you settling for mediocrity? Mediocrity is easy, but painful in the long term.

Allow me to share with you, dear reader – a current story in my quest for excellence.

As you may know – I am working hard on a Michael Jackson tribute fingerstyle guitar CD. At this phase I have 15 good tunes recorded, many of them are ones I have posted to Youtube.

As I sat and listened with my good buddy Paul Beaudry to my almost finished CD, he was just gushing for about 5 tunes, and then the feeling changed.

His face became more serious. My stomach sank. Most of us musicians feel that the music is an extension of us…if the music sucks, I suck. If it’s good – I’m good.

He and I started noticing a “sameness” to the grooves. Honestly I personally started feeling worn out by the lack of variation too. Surely I don’t want this to happen to my listeners!

The album needs to be a joy, a delight and a delicious experience for anyone who puts it on.

Here is the crucial point – it would be so easy to let things slide, to rush, to want it done, want it now. It takes serious self honesty to just say “it ain’t soup yet!”.

It takes patience too.

Essentially a bunch of great “guitar video singles” were not making a varied enough program to hang next to eachother on a “CD”. Back in the vinyl LP days a good album took you on a varied, interesting journey from one musical landscape to another. Led Zeppelin really was a leader in this.

Today most musicians don’t think albums…they think singles and mp3 downloads. Sorry – I want this CD to be in people’s players, playing all the way through.

Paul assured me that what was there was EXCELLENT – and he pulls no punches. He also advised me to go back and look at Michael’s Albums to see where pretty ballads are placed in between dance tracks.

The Moral of the Story:

This is a record that I want to be finished. However, accepting mediocrity is unnaceptable.

Standing firm only for excellence is permissable.

My gut says when it’s ready – not my head.

The price must be paid – in advance.

Out of tune guitar? Record it again.

Not enough groove on a tune? Record it again.

Listen closely.

Not enough “pretty ballads” and too much “hit you over the head 2 & 4 groove? Record more and re-asses.

Make a plan and get to work.

Make things right.

Allow artistic instinct to prevail.

Late last night I discovered this video from Seth Godin, and I love his message. It resonated with me completely. Enjoy:


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Alert – You may Have Been Unsubscribed from Adam Rafferty’s Email List by Accident!

Important Information for Adam Rafferty Subscribers – this means you!!!:

If you are a subscriber to my “Guitar Mastery Newsletter”, you may have been accidentally removed from my list. To re-subscribe, please go here. This means you:

http://www.adamrafferty.com/freetabs

Huh? What Happened?

My mailing list provider Mailchimp, required me to “prune my list”. Read about it here.

When they get more than .10 % abuse complaints – that’s POINT 10 percent, they require this.

So, out of 13K subscribers, 17 ding bats called my Holiday Newsletter “email abuse”. Thanks guys! That’s enough to be more than point 10 percent.

In order to continue using use my mailing list, I had to unsubscribe 4900 people. I scanned the list and saw many of my friends and Facebook fans names.

I even had to unsubscribe one of my best friends. This was really idiotioc!

All names I unsubscribed – while they may be people I know personally, they had not ever opened or read an email – so they are what my provider calls “dead weight”.

But – you may like being on my list, and may not have read the past few mails, so this could mean you got axed.

If you’d like to stay on board with the “Guitar Mastery Newsletter” to get tabs and updates and goodies – just go and sign up again.

And, you’ll get Vitamin E Blues and other tabs for free. Vitamin E comes as soon as you sign up.

Don’t assume you didn’t get axed! And no worries – if you sign up twice, you will not get double emails.

Thanks, and I am very very sorry for any hassle!

Adam