Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


Music: There’s More Than One Way to Do It

Greets friends.  I am riding the train across Germany on a gorgeous August morning.  Now I’m just passing Bonn – Beethoven’s hometown.

This past week I taught a small workshop with 6 attendees.  A few of the students were semi-pro players.  Over dinner one night, a very interesting discussion arose with the students.

They were very passionate and thoughtful listeners and lovers of guitar music. Not to mention they were all very smart guys; some were doctors and scientists as their full time jobs.

“Don’t forget about being a true artist” one of them told me.  “Some musicians compose completely their own material.”  Issued as a soft warning after attending  my concert which had many many cover songs.  Another told me “Maybe, don’t start your concert so strong, but start quietly and build up.”

This post is neither to defend or attack anyone’s position or ideas…I found the discussions very thought provoking. It’s always good to revisit past approaches and see if they still apply.

This churned up a lot of thoughts for me, as a composer, performer, entertainer and as a musician who wants to entertain and therefore get booked, play concerts and live off my guitar work.

All professional musicians to some degree need to do something to survive, whether it’s music related work or not.  Also, most of us musicians are envisioning an ideal audience whom we want to please with our music – whether they are our families, teachers, fans , critics or whomever.  The want of survival and approval…here are the 2 big human issues, intertwined with music, once again.

I am not saying that just “working” is the most important thing….however once my tummy growls and my rent needs to be paid, the “idealism”  of art starts looking a little pale!  Mozart, Bach and Michelangelo all worked as artfully as they could, within the confines of doing a good job for their bosses.

Chances are that if you do something that a lot of people don’t like, your art could become a “hobby” and your tummy will get filled from income form other work that serves people.

I am not making a judgement call….just stating the fact.  Our tummies growl, every day.  Whether we provide music or not, we must still provide value in some way to someone.

My “art” is to play with the best groove, touch and sound that I can, and to do it with confidence and give pleasure to a listener.  It also gives me pleasure to find “counterpoint” (more than one part) on the guitar in ways that help bring across tunes one would not normally think are possible on a single guitar.

The “what” of my music leans toward cover songs, and it has helped bridge a gap between me and an audience that may not have heard of me before.  The “how” leans towards doing it as best as I can.

And…if I can play guitar for an hour and delight an audience, that’s my art – the crafting of that entire one hour experience.  This includes what I say, what I wear and how I make people feel.  It ain’t just pickin’! (at least for me…)

  • If a cover tune makes it easier to communicate, is it still art?
  • Is entertaining with showmanship art?
  • Should we require that an audience have the patience to listen to hushed, whispery introspective tones?
  • Should we do music that is easy for them to tap their toes?
  • Who should work harder – the performer or the audience?
  • Will they listen intently to something they’ve never heard?  Should they?
  • Or will they want to sing along to a familiar tune?
  • If an artist discovers a solution that works to entertain and repeats it for other audiences is it less valid?
  • Who are you playing music for?

My answer is – there is no answer, there is more than one way to do it.  

What do you think?  Comment below, please.



Everyone Needs a Coach

A few days ago I walked out of my apartment, on the way for a Starbucks coffee and  lo!  I saw 2 young fellows and one of them was stringing an acoustic guitar.

He was winding the pegs slowly by hand, so I had to pre-empt the Starbucks trip.

“Hold on, let me help you.”  I went back upstairs, snagged a pegwinder (with clippers) and an extra set of strings, and a CD as a gift.

“Gimme that”  I said.  I showed him how to wind strings on quickly using this tool.  I offered him the strings as a backup, and the CD was simply to inspire him.

I asked the guys their plan.

“We’re gonna play in the subway and see if we can make some money.”

“Cool, kick ass!” I told ’em.

On the way back from Starbucks, they were still in front of my building, rehearsing.

“Hey do you guys have a postcard or something to give out to people?”  I asked.

“Um, no.”

“What if you draw a crowd and people dig it?  You gotta hand them something otherwise they’ll have no idea who you were.  They’ll forget about you in 10 minutes.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

We went on with a few other topics, but my point is that these guys needed a coach.

My years of experience allowed me to call up “bullet points” in seconds, and quickly identify the “holes” in their strategy.

That made me think “Heck, I am no different.  I need a coach, since there are probably things slipping past me too!” (In fact, I’d love to still be taking guitar lessons…)

I went home immediately and called Rick Goetz – ( a well respected music coach – to set up a session for myself.  I meet him at 4:30 today.

With a the new “I Remember Michael” CD out – I bet there’s something that Rick can teach me strategically.

I’ll let you know how the meeting goes, I am excited.

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Michael Jackson Guitar

Hi Gang!

I just wanted to share this little interview with you – it’s the EPK for the new Michael Jackson Guitar Tribute CD “I REMEMBER MICHAEL”.

I speak a little here about my inspiration from MJ & hearing his music as a kid growing up in New York City in the 80’s.


– Adam


Nerves and Gigs: Particles or Waves?

Greets Gang! I’ve just returned from an uplifting week teaching at the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina.

It was exhausting, but it feels great to inspire students and be around a large group of people all fired up and excited about music.

The topic of how to deal with nerves in performance up in a few conversations, and somehow I found corollary to quantum physics.

People asked me if I got nervous. Sometimes I do – but these days it’s less and less. I myself wondered, “why am I less nervous than I used to be?”

In quantum physics, there’s a nifty experiment called “the double slit” experiment.

Physicists became awestruck at the fact that when light was shot at photograhic paper one photon particle at a time, it still printed on the paper as if it were a wave, not individual light particles.

What this raised in my mind was the idea that any singular event in our life may look like a “particle” but is really part of a larger “wave.”

If you don’t perform on stage very often, it may feel like a very important singular event (a particle) of your life.

You want everything to be perfect – the sound, your performance, and so on. There’s a lot of pressure there for that one particle of time to be perfect!

When you perform on stage 100 times, you naturally encounter things such as:

  • the sound wasn’t perfect
  • the monitors were not loud enough
  • the guitar was out of tune, the lights blinded me
  • I botched a few notes

But on the positive side you will experience things like:

  • wow that was a great performance
  • they loved it
  • the soundman did a great job
  • everything fell into place just right
  • man it felt really good, etc.
  • I got offered another gig at this one

I am illustrating the following – that over the course of 100 gigs (or any semi large number) you will experience a host of scenarios, ups, downs, good, bad – and by gig number 101 you feel all the gigs to be a “wave” of events.

Each gig is still important, but now each gig is part of of a whole, and you can actually enjoy yourself more because there is less pressure on any single gig “particle” for everything to be perfect.

The same holds true for anything you do regularly whether it’s practicing your instrument, exercising, meditating, eating right, and so on.

The more you do it, the easier it gets because the behavior becomes a “wave” of activity in your life rather than a singular “particle.”