Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

Longo’s List – 10 Study Areas of Music


Music is a tricky thing to criticize.    Criticism can be good – in terms of listening “critically”.  We all like different things in music, and hear things according to our tastes.

Of course, I need music to ultimately make me “feel good” when i hear it, but here’s a very objective list to help you “picture” the elements of music.

When I started “apprenticing” with my most important teacher, Mike Longo – former pianist and musical director for Dizzy Gillespie, he told me to take out a piece of paper and make the following list.  We did this at lesson #1.

I’d like you to do this with me.  get a piece of paper out yourself and make this list.  If you only read it, it will be a “nice idea”.  I want you to have the list in front of you on your music stand!

Make a heading at the top of the page that says “Guitar“.

This can actually be any instrument, or any style.  If you play “Fingerstyle Guitar” put that at the top of the list.  This list, when finished will be your  main areas of study.

Next, write a line down the middle of the page and make 2 subheadings under the top heading.

How To Play”  and “What To Play“.

Next, under “How To Play”  write:

  1. Touch
  2. Time
  3. Tone
  4. Technique
  5. Taste

Under “What to Play” write

  1. Harmony
  2. Melody
  3. Rhythm
  4. Counterpoint
  5. Form

What to Play” can generally be written on paper in a book form – it’s “information”  much like a cookbook.

How To Play” is a bit more elusive….some chalk it up to “feeling” but it’s much more than emotion.  It’s intuition and experience.  More on that in another post.

These 10 areas of study pretty much cover all of it!  So, if you are working on one area, be content with that and just work on the one area.

As you listen to yourself and others, or any music at all, try to think critically – have all of these 10 areas been covered?

I often hear fingerstyle guitar music lacking in the “melody” area.  Or if there’s a full evening of rubato improvisation, maybe “form and rhythm” are weak or missing.

Personally I had to deal with “touch” and “taste” when doing the I REMEMBER MICHAEL cd…those were the weak spots during my creation process.

Or, when I practice the Bach E Major Prelude, it’s still in need of better “technique” and fingerings.

I’m telling you this so that you can see I try to stand back from what I do, listen, think, and improve my own music.

So there’s always room to improve and grow for all of us!

Remember – when you listen critically you are not attacking a “person” , whether it’s yourself or another guitarist.

You are just simply verbalizing which area of the “music” (not the person) could stand improvement.

Now….git to work!


Author: Adam Rafferty

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

3 thoughts on “Longo’s List – 10 Study Areas of Music

  1. Thanks Adam — valuable stuff. For me, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of assuming I’ve done all the work needed when really I’ve only covered two or maybe three of the “how to play” items. Can’t thank you enough for the musical inspiration and for sharing your process. Best, TD

  2. Listening to you always inspires me to play. Watching this video says to me “Quit blogging Al and get your guitar out”. Nice work.

  3. Adam, It’s Brother James and my wife, Bobbie, formerly from Nashville. Yes, formerly. We moved to Shelby, NC for a new job. Hated missing CAAS this year. Just thought we would say hello. Bobbie bought it me a Bourgeois Orchstra Model guitar for our Fortieth Wedding Anniversity. Next time we meet I would like to hear you play it. Your arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” sounds great on it! Hope the music is fresh, life is all smiles, and love anchors each moment. Live long, play often, strum loud, and God bless, Brother James and Bobbie

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