Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


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This is How I Practice Guitar

Over the past several weeks I have read some great “social media” and “internet marketing” strategies from the leaders in the field.  While it’s been exhilarating, it’s left me with a hyped up “too much to do” feeling like I’ve had too much Starbucks Coffee.

The “gurus” teach how to sell and market, and try to sell me their stuff on how to sell. Huh?   Their circular logic works with me for a few rounds, but then I ask “has this person every actually done anything of value other than sell and market?”  I like the enthusiasm and techniques, but the over emphasis on hype and results, and under emphasis on “soul” conflicts with my values.

To my delight I just started book called “Mastery – The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment” by George Leonard.  Mr. Leonard points out the American “war on mastery” – an epidemic of wanting things “quickly and easily”.  He then accurately describes the delicious, sweet, long term path to mastery through his story of Aikido.

The path to mastery is not a steady incline; there are growth spurts, and then long plateaus where on the surface “nothing” seems to be happening.  At first, the student feels that these plateaus are disheartening and frustrating and wants only the peaks.

It’s only when the student puts his (or her) head back in the work and “slugs it out” or “plods along” and forgets results, that they get back on track.  Along comes another “growth spurt”  and a plateau and that’s the rhythm of the path.  Sooner or later one learns to love the plateaus because one knows the growth is happening whether it’s apparent or not.

On TV and in movies, particularly in America, we are fed images of only the peak experiences, not the work surrounding them.  Imagine the ads you see – runners crossing the finish line in victory, a family sitting down at a cozy Holiday dinner, a couple on the beach sipping Pina Coladas, and let’s not forget the lottery and every lure of “making money – fast!”

These are all peaks, no “process”.  There is  no indication of riding through plateaus, slugging it out and allowing oneself to learn. Why is this?  Because it just “doesn’t sell”.

For someone aiming for quick and easy peaks, there will be a depressing “drop off” sooner or later, like a child who has opened the final Christmas present.  I can tell you first hand that the truly solid satisfaction comes not from these “peaks”,  but from plodding steadily along the path and developing something “real” and “solid” that can’t be taken away from you.

“Peaks” of mine (releasing CDs or DVDs, performing on a huge festival, doing a TV performance, getting a nice magazine spread, or racking up “Youtube Hits”)  simply pale in comparison to the joy of the real work.

When I practice, I do it for the love of doing it.  I play my scales every day with attention to “form”, relaxation, groove and tone.  I run my repertoire for the delicacy and delight of playing with a deep satisfying rhythmic pocket and fingers that perfectly “touch” the strings.

I plod along, day by day – and will do so for my whole life.  Day in, day out.  That’s what I do.  I practice for the love of practicing itself – with no result in mind.  This is how I practice guitar.


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“I Remember Michael” Voted by Jazziz Magazine as a Top 10 CD of 2011 (Critics Choice Award)

Great news!

JAZZIZ magazine has voted “I REMEMBER MICHAEL – A Michael Jackson Solo Guitar Tribute”  as a Critic’s Choice Top 10 CD of 2011.  Wow!!!

I am truly honored.  I worked very hard on this project by practicing guitar for hours and hours, funneling 15 MJ songs onto a little wooden box with strings, and using 10 just fingers and lots of imagination.

Thank you to JAZZIZ magazine – and extra special thank you to all of YOU who have watched my videos & commented (and egged me on for more).

Without your “audience participation” –  this CD project would never have happened.

JAZZIZ Magazine Top 10 CD's of 2011 Critics Choice  - "I REMEMBER MICHAEL - A Michael Jackson Solo Guitar Tribute" by Adam Rafferty

Here you go…take a listen to “Human Nature”  from the CD….enjoy!


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You Can’t Learn This From YouTube

I just got back to NYC a few days ago from a short trip to Germany.  I was a guest artist at the Remschied Guitar Festival in Germany – and it was a lovely scene and experience.  The students were mainly classical and rock guitar players – and they were excellent.

With each student I see and teach, I see a little part of my past and history, and to be honest – I almost get “tear jerked” as I remember how much my beloved teachers helped, taught and mentored me.

During one masterclass, I got to pass on a lesson I learned from mentor – Mike Longo.

There was a young student there who was playing Andy McKee’s “Drifting”.  In case you are unfamiliar with this tune, it’s a guitar / percussion tour de force in which the left hand frets notes upside down, and the right hand frets notes as well.  This is one of Andy’s YouTube Hits – with over 30 million views.  It is an awesome piece of music.

My 15 year old student learned this neat piece of music from watching on YouTube.  Yes he did a great job technically, but as the teacher I needed to help him take this piece to “world class level” rather than just “very good for a student”.

I remembered all the musical  “ass whoopings”  I got and realized this was the medicine required.  🙂

First off, I told him to play “Drifting” with me as I played the djembe drum. I had to take him to “my” zone, have him hear and feel the relentless smack of the drum, and deal with me grunting and egging him on.  No escaping the Raf Groove.

Then, I had the entire class  clap quarter notes, stomp feet and get in on it – to push him even harder as he played.

Do you see the shift?  He went from a student “I’m gonna perform for you, and I hope you approve”  attitude  to US all being a tribe, thumping and ALL being in on it together.  Just think of the different energy and non verbal communication that was set into motion for all of us there!

The “roar”  that came out of his guitar by the end of this process was strong, confident and authoritative.  It was a total “vibe change”  and everyone’s energy was raised – but most importantly, his.

YouTube makes imitation easy – but as far as a world class VIBE goes,  “apprenticeship” with a mentor who has gone the mile is a musical requirement.


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Perception – Ain’t it a Bitch?

When a bell is struck, it vibrates and then in turn vibrates the air molecules around it.  Waves of air molecules eventually hit one’s eardrum and vibrate the eardrum.

When we hear the sounding bell, we think and perceive the bell as “out there” but the sound is really “in here”.  It’s the eardrums reaction to being hit by the vibrating air molecules.

Isn’t it interesting how we perceive not just sounds – but people, events, smells, sights and all sensations as originating “out there”  when in fact they are inner experiences?

When the line of what’s “out there” and “in here” starts to blur for me it’s actually quite fascinating.  We can change my perception of what’s out there if we want.

Here’s a fun example of how we all have different perceptions of the same “thing” out there.  You may see from this that perception could just be an inner experience.

Today in the Aachen, Germany train station I could not help but notice a very attractive woman…long black hair, (looked freshly blown and straightened from the hair salon), silver hoop earrings,  tight jeans, black boots and a coat with a big furry collar and to boot she had a gorgeous face.  I even got a smile from her.  Hey, what’s not to like?

On board the train, I was asked by a female conductor for my ticket.  I looked up and – oh gosh, it was her!  Huh?

She was an undercover cop, busting riders who thought they’d get away with a free ride on a regional train!

Aha!  If they see an official conductor, that could alert freeloaders to run to the bathroom hideout.  Luckily, I paid for a ticket and got a second chance to flirt.

Off in the distance I heard desperate arguments from riders (one teenage girl rider was almost in tears) followed by my favorite lady cop’s unwavering demands for 50 euro as a penalty.

Talk about a tough cookie!  She was not taking no for an answer.  Her job was to shake people down for money, and she was on the warpath!

In review – someone who boosted my ego and made me feel good today pretty much destroyed a few peoples days and caused them to be upset.

She was the same person all day, but depending on one’s perception, you either liked her or hated her.

Perception – ain’t it a bitch?