Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


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The Bandstand is Sacred

Last night I played one of my venues in Austria that I first played 14 years ago…it’s a modest place….just a schnitzel, beer and good time music spot for touring acts.

It’s insane to think I stepped in that same room 14 years ago on my first European tour!

In preparation for last night’s gig, I made a list in the hotel of a bunch of tunes I either have not played recently, have not played yet, or new ones I wanted to try out.

My attitude for a moment, was that since this wasn’t a “serious” concert hall gig I could try things out and experiment.

But wait – there’s a flaw in that kind of thought…because that’s like saying “these people” in the audience don’t matter as much as “other people” in a concert hall.

Basically that’s like saying “you don’t matter”. What if you were one of the people at last night’s show, and what if I took that attitude?

As the place filled up, I saw longtime fans and friends in the room and knew they came for a great show. My adrenaline started pumping. I often think of the Billy Joel lyric to Piano Man – “he (the bartender) knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”

Like a bull that sees a red cape waving, when I see an audience, I know there is no holding back, there are no more excuses, there is nothing short of giving 10,000%! Life is not a rehearsal. Bullshit walks. Excuse my French.

The stage is the final destination for which all the sacrifices, hard work and practice hours have been put in. To squander it on “trying something” instead of really “doing something” is a waste IMHO. This is where the world class performance goes down. Not sometime in the future – but RIGHT NOW.

By the 3rd tune in to my first set, the sweat was dripping, I was soaked. I saw people out there grooving. I pulled out all the stops…humor, beatbox, chops, beauty of sound and a blues feel from hell. Of course I played the heaviest and sweatiest groove I could muster up.

I take no prisoners…I play as if it’s my last gig on planet earth, and I give thanks each and every time for the opportunity to have this blessed life of playing music. When I finish the gig and take bows, I give thanks to God, The Universe, my musical fathers and the audience again and again.

Slam dunks baby – in your face! 🙂 That’s the attitude.

What a night it was…it felt so good, so right to give give give to the audience, to bring these people joy, and it was a magical night.

And then I thought back to my mentor, Mike Longo and all the other jazz mentors…and they always said that “The Bandstand is Sacred”. Now I understand even more what he meant.

Being on the bandstand means it is time to “hit” – not to try things, not to experiment, not to give anything short of 100%, ever.

Every gig counts.
Every time you play music it counts.
Every one who listens to you counts – the most!

Music is as “serious as a heart attack”. If you are not serious about it, move over – because I am, and I’ll run you over.

The Bandstand is Sacred

I’m glad it was taught to me, over and over – and I am glad I remembered that last night.

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How To Achieve Originality in Your Music

Originality in your musical expression comes unexpectedly as a by-product and is not pre-thought or pre-meditated.

Originality, or an individual sound is the result of “assembling” your music based on “un-original” but correct principles, and then focusing “flow” through the lens of your personal experience.

Throughout your life you make thousands of decisions, collect preferences in terms of what you like and don’t like…and no one has these experiences, in this combination – except you. You have a totally unique viewpoint! Celebrate that! You can’t not be you, and that is beautiful.

To “try” to be original, is just the EGO at work. There is no trying to be original involved in true originality, IMHO. In fact – you may not ever perceive your own originality the way others do. To strive to be a pure channel for music – and serve it properly is the true way of someone whom others may perceive as “original.”

In spiritual traditions, many strive to “be like a hollow reed” for spirit to flow through. That’s the idea! Be a hollow reed.

To imitate another – you deny YOUR beliefs in “sound musical principles” and barely skim the surface…it’s an okay starting point for a child, but your story, your preferences, and your rich experience carry an authenticity and tell a story in a far more satisfying, deeper and authentic way than your imitation of another could ever possibly tell. Believe in your experience and your story….don’t give it up and think someone else’s is better!

How can one avoid imitation? Just learn correct musical principles and apply them. Applying principles is a better way to go than imitating another players idiosyncrasies.

When I study rhythm, I just try to do it right. When I play a scale I try to do it right. When a melody speaks to me, it’s the melody – not me, I am just the listener…when I beatbox – it’s my love for James Brown, Run DMC and groove, and I just try to do it right, put it as deep in the pocket as I can. When I fingerpick, I try to use good technique like my teachers showed me and get a nice tone. When I practice, I go slow and play things over and over…just trying to do it right. Get it? Others say I sound original – but I am just trying to do it right, as best as I can.

Keep doing your musical homework and don’t think about originality. Just play music as well as you can – strive for beauty, tone, time, touch and technique….study harmony, rhythm and repertoire – and let listeners perceive your “originality”, after the fact. Your original voice is something which you may not perceive yourself just yet. It is the ghost between the sounds, the relation of how you get from one idea to the next. The essence carried by your music reveals itself when you simply play properly and honestly.