Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

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.


Author: Adam Rafferty

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

3 thoughts on “Technical Perfection Invites Spirit

  1. Wow man. Great thoughts. On a related note: Last week jazz trumpet player Sean Jones came to Ohio University to play and speak. Sean is the former lead trumpet for Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis, and has also played for Harry Connick, Jr., Marcus Miller, and will be touring with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock later this year.

    During his Q&A with the students he spoke about many of the same ideas, and emphasized the importance on mastering the instrument and the vocabulary of jazz so you can stop playing from the head and start playing from the HEART. He was a powerful speaker and an even more amazing musician. I expected virtuosity from his performance but he delivered something additional and MUCH deeper. After his performance I spoke to several audience members and student musicians who performed with him. Most everyone spoke of being moved to tears during at least one of his pieces and one person even told me that they felt that he was “channeling a divine presence” in the hall. He was in control of every musical detail and he definitely invited the spirit to dwell among us for a while.

    Wishing you safe travels in Europe!

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