Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

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Inspiring Others Makes it All Worth It

Yesterday I had a “day off” out here on the road…no concert. A buddy of mine who teaches music at a high school (here they call it “Gymnasium”) asked if I’d stop by to play for the kids. “Sure!” I said.

I was transported back to my own high school days just seeing them. I remember in my high school, we’d occasionally have musicians come in and play – great musicians – and they probably had no idea just how much they were inspiring some of us.

Adam Rafferty plays for students in Aachen Germany March 28, 2011

Adam Rafferty plays for students in Aachen, Germany March 28, 2011

The kids here in Germany were wowed by the fact that I am from New York…they can psychologically project their dreams and hopes about traveling there and touring the world onto me. Err, well I do live there and do tour the world….but they probably paint a rosier picture in their minds than what I experience sometimes, and that’s a good thing!!! 🙂

I played guitar for them, threw in a little “Billie Jean” and “Thriller”, and then afterwards talked to them and connected to learn about them.

In return for inspiring them and bringing them some musical sunshine, I got an even greater gift in return. I felt happiness, joy and dare I say…love. They inspired me immensely.

Passing inspiration to others in a classroom is something I miss since I have been touring…I gotta figure out how to work that back into the mix!

Last night at the end of the day, as I reflected I thought to myself “this makes it all worth it.”


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Long Term vs Short Term – Craft vs Overnight Success

Yesterday I had a terrific chat on Facebook back and forth with 2 of my favorite guitarists – Andy McKee and Bryan Rason and a few other good guitar friends as well.

I posed a hypothetical question – “with the possibility of easy youtube success, why even bother developing a craft?”

I had seen one too many overnight sensations of meaningless musical fribble and inside – wondered whether the world, or I had gone mad 🙂

Of course the question was a conversation starter, and my circle of friends all agreed hands down that there will always be flashes of attention and front page news, but offering a deeper satisfaction, honing of one’s craft and meaningful communication will stand the test of time. It is what we all yearn for, be in musically, professionally, or personally.

This warmed my heart to know that I was not alone. And, as I woke up this morning (sounds like a blues tune) I reflected on what success guru Brian Tracy has to say, which was along parallel lines.

Of course Brian is not a musician, but here goes. (paraphrased)

“The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people plan in the long term…5, 10, 20 years ahead.”

“Successful people’s actions are necessary and disciplined fro what they want in the future rather than immediate gratification.”

“Unsuccessful people do what feels good, and is fun right now with little or no thought for future consequences.”

I think this is a really good summing up of what a musicians evolution ought to be like as well – in terms of development.

When you do the work…the scales, the technique, the practice, the creativity – and let’s not forget – the listening – you are adding to the “long term” picture of what you will offer. You are getting the skills that no one can take away from you.

Look at the towering greats of music – whomever your favorite may be. In order to be like them and not just “imitate them” – you’d have to put in the hours and do the work they did, make the mistakes they made, and listen as long as they have listened.

I raise my coffee mug on a chilly German morning and salute YOU for thinking long term, developing your craft – whatever it may be – and offering all that is YOU, through your hard work.

Time to practice.


With Easy Fame Available on Youtube, Why Bother Developing A Craft?

Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

Red pill – you will know the truth, you will work hard, practice for years and slowly, in time become a master.

Blue pill – you will be an overnight sensation with barely passable skills.

(Is there a purple pill?)

I just read an insightful rant from guitar luthier William Cumpiano. This brings up many thoughts in me about the future of developing excellence for musicians and other artists, and how the immediacy of today’s 2011 internet “sidesteps” the old version of “paying dues.”

It’s a knife that cuts both ways. That which I find hurtful, when used by others – is also the secret success weapon I carry and use myself.

He talks about how after a course of guitar building, students of his are eager to open a shop, take orders and build away.

“A master is someone who has made more mistakes than you, has made mistakes you haven’t made yet, and has learned how to embrace them–thus learning to see them coming before they happen. So you go towards mastery one mistake at a time. How many mistakes can you stand? As many as it takes to be a master. The master has persevered past the errors until he’s made all of them.”

This brings me to an interesting point. Sure, it’s easy for me to bemoan the fact that many apparently “undeserving” people skyrocket to the top – due to Youtube and Twitter’s viral possibilities.

Extreme examples are Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black – but even in my field of fingerstyle guitar, very so-so players because of their look, age, cosutme or tricks, simply “speed ahead” of the pack with their gimmick, rack up youtube hits and build a cyber following.

But – did I mention my secret weapon is that same tool that they use? I have blood on my hands too.

I’ve gotten a worldwide following, sold CDs, Books, DVDs, and gotten bookings on worldwide festivals much faster and more easily than I would have “the old way”. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like easy.

I find too, now that with these tools – I suffer the same impatience. I love the thrill of “learn it, and get it out there quick!” just like they do.

“What? Practice a piece for a year? There’s no time for that!”

I am thankful for having had some teachers who made me go slow, put the hours in and sharpen my tools – before the web even existed. I remember the days of buying a telephone answering machine which used tape! Talk about slow….

If I was a kid today, I’d have no patience for becoming a craftsman – knowing I could be a star if I had a “gimmick”. Thank God I put the hours in, and got a habit to do so.

Sooner or later, all of us – artists and listeners WILL want excellence, melody, groove and art. What a pity it would be to spend a lifetime chasing something that Rebecca Black could do in a few months.

It’s perplexing because “excellence” may no longer be the measuring stick that young artists use for themselves. For them, excellence would slow down their career too much.


Adam Rafferty – “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers – Solo Fingerstyle Guitar

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Hey Gang! Here’s the latest funky fingerstyle guitar tune – “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers….enjoy!

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The Message in the Music – Part One

Good Morning Gang!

I very much enjoy listening to interviews of quantum physicists, thinkers and just about anything that bridges science and spirituality.

Last night I listened to a very cool podcast episode of Kelly Howell’s “Theater of the Mind” podcast. Her guest was Rob Bryanton, creator of “Imagining the 10th Dimension” blog and video podcast.

I am subscribed to Rob’s channel on Youtube ( and love listening to him. Sometimes it’s a little over my head, but when I get it, I like it. He has a real smile and sense of humor throughout his work.

In the interview last night I learned something new about Rob. He told a story how for years he simply had these creative thoughts about how our universe is built sitting quietly as his inner thinking. After he had a near death experience (he almost bled to death on an operating table) he knew, upon coming back to consciousness a day later – that he had to “get his message out” and started his book, blog and more.

I found this to be fascinating, and it resonated with me. I have never had an NDE, but I did realize that at some point I had the feeling that no matter what, I had to get my “message out there.”

Many of us have this, and it’s the gusto of life – to live with an ideal, and get our message out there, even if it makes life a little less comfortable sometimes.

“What the heck is my message?” I thought. Then I reflected on my past as a kid, on up to the recent Michael Jackson project.

It then occurred to me. As a little kid, my mom encouraged me to use tracing paper and trace comics like Spiderman, Batman. It was great hand-eye coordination, and f you’re little (3,4,5 years old) it gives an enormous sense of accomplishment to finish a tracing.

As I did it I’d always have the feeling that there’s no “me”. It’s the pencil, the paper and the comic. Yet, when I’d look at the finished product I’d see that there was another “force” or “personality” in the tracing that I did not try to put there, yet it slipped in. This seemed beautifully odd.

Music and drawing (when I did draw) has always been that to me, honestly. I don’t try to put “myself” into it. I simply try to deliver the elements as best I can with the highest degree of accuracy – and that includes the feeling I get from listening or observing.

When I step back and listen to myself recorded, I am amazed at exactly the same thing…that somehow, magically a soul (mine? you decide…) imprints it’s essence onto what was an effort much like using tracing paper.

When others then say “it’s soulful” or “you played with feeling” I secretly know that all I’m doing is trying to do it “right”. The soul-personality-infusion aspect of playing music is a weird, unintentional, magical by product of just trying to be a good cratfsman (or woman).

So, for example with all the Michael Jackson fingerstyle recordings my job efforts were simply to “trace”…to convey the lines of the music, to convey the rhythmic concept, and to watch in amazement as “a personality” or “emotion” makes itself known.

That’s one of the messages in my music…to line up physical reality as perfectly as I can…and behold the unintentional expression of the Unknowable, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient.


Technical Perfection Invites Spirit

There is an age old argument about music. What do we prefer, someone who is technically brilliant, or someone who “plays with feeling”?

Most all of us will say “the player with feeling”. I remember as a teenager we’d have our back-and-forth about Eddie Van Halen vs Jimmy Page, saying Jimmy had feel but Eddie had “technique”.

There’s more under the hood than meets the eye and ear though. Back when I was learning about African Rhythm from my music mentor Mike Longo, he taught me how to play a single drum rhythm to which I could perfectly count 12/8, a 3/4 a 6/8 a latin 4/4 (and 5/4 and a 7/4 too.)

The hands would stay the same, but one could perfectly sing these rhythms over the top…like gears meshing. Like a rhythmic Escher sketch, if you will.

The real magic is a focus brought about by the 3/4, 6/8 and 12/8, called a “hemiola”. When the 3 and 4’s lock up, I would experience (and still do) a profound, indescribable inner joy and a shift in perception. Words can’t describe it.

Mike would tell me the 3 and 4 are like male and female, and when they “lock” it gives birth to life. It’s called a “hemiola”.

Was I trying to put “feeling in?” No. However, a technical perfection acted as a catalyst to invite spirit into the music and bring “life” to the music.

This is not unlike a baby’s conception. Hey gang, that too is very technical…the sperm hits the egg, and a myriad of biological events need to happen…yet, soul, spirit and life (YOU) are invited to rush in, if the technical aspects line up properly.

At least that’s one way of seeing it.

So, practicing something technical, is in fact preparing and inviting something soulful and delicious to dwell within.

“The blues”, the perfect tone on an instrument, the groove that makes you dance, the melody that makes you cry, Bach’s perfect counterpoint….all do in fact have a Divinely perfect technical basis, but when they “lock” they invite spirit to rush in. When spirit comes, the music gets wings and can soar in the heavens.

So, sharpen your tools, practice – and be mindful of when Spirit rushes in.

Then, give thanks. You have just experienced a miracle.


Feeling the Warm Fuzzies

I recently dealt with 2 companies regarding customer service issues. One company totally and completely gave me the “warm fuzzies” while the other made me so sickened that I have vowed to never do business with them again.

Marketing & customer service always fascinate me as a musician. I think that all of us could stand to take cues from companies that provide fabulous products and services to customers. After all we’re providing a product or service for other people, aren’t we? 🙂

Let’s get the crappy company out of the way first.

Case Study: United Airlines

I recently flew home from Denver International Airprot with a guitar in one of my road cases. It’s big, but very light…the entire guitar comes to 23 lb or so.

It’s bad enough to pay extra to get it on the flight, but I’m used to that. However, the lady at the gate insisted that it was oversized. Mind you, skis in cases which are way longer are not considered oversize. When I interrupted her and said I’d never paid for oversize for this item, I was threatened that they’d call security. Gimme a break.

She got her tape measure out and proceeded with fuzzy math. It’s triangular but she measured as if it was a rectangle…length and width.

With her plastered on smile and customer service phrases out of a book, it was clear that I was dealing with a very scared little sheep who was afraid to think.

The point is..I fly all year. No one ever ever has charged me oversize for this. She was worried about keeping her job, not a customer.

Fun Facts

Their fee: $100 on top of the baggage fee.

What did they get?: $100, and lost a customer

What did I get?: To take a plane ride that I thought I already paid for.

Their consistency: All airlines pretty much decide at the gate what your fate is and don’t have a standard. Sucks.

The “Warm Fuzzy” Factor? I now despise them and never want to fly on their airline again, I feel cheated.

If I didn’t use the big case, this would be the alternative, more than likely:

Case Study: Apple

A few years ago I paid $300 for Apple Care – Apple’s service contract for repair.

Last week, my laptop screen went black AND the keyboard and trackpad died. I went to the NYC Apple store and dropped it off.

First off, when you go there, all the workers have uniforms so that you can pick ’em out of the crowd. Every one of them has a personality and loves computers. Every one has intelligence twinkling in their eyes. And it’s a diverse bunch. Tattoos, piercings, black skin, white skin, short, fat, old, young…Apple’s diversity speaks volumes.

They took my MAC and diagnosed it. Wrote me an itemized list, and then the bill had a big, fat , delicious $0.00 at the bottom.

7 days later I picked it up. (I am typing on it now). When I picked it up, I tried it out, and dealt with another smart dude at the Apple Genius bar.

Fun Facts

Their fee: $300 on top of the price of the computer

What did they get?: $300 but with their service I will buy again

What did I get?: A no-questions asked repair policy, and I have a brand new screen, keypad and mouse on my laptop. They did the mental ju-jitsu with me…even though I spent $300, it feels “free” and friendly.

Their consistency: 100% no questions asked. If you are their customer, YOU and your product is taken care of.

The “Warm Fuzzy” Factor? I now love then even more. Will buy again.

In Conclusion…

Apple got me for $200 more, but it’s not about the money. It’s not what they did, it’s how they did it.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is….what are we giving, what are we taking, how are we making our customers feel, what is our “warm fuzzy” factor.

Musicians – this means you (and me). No matter what the gig, be it teaching, small gig, big gig, CD, book….how warm and fuzzy do we make people feel?

I wish I could do even better than I do. Let me know how.

Long live the fuzz.