Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


My Formula for Musical Audience Connection “C + Y = R”

I know I am making a very bold statement here about “musical success”  but I am speaking to you 100% earnestly and from life experience.

If you are in search of a wider audience, greater appreciation with your current audience, and maybe even a better “way”  to make a living as a musician, this will interest you.

I am about to help you remove a HUGE block and change your life….yes that’s right.

As they say, “if the show fits, wear it.”

I am going to teach you about my formula…

“C + Y = R”

But first…the proof.

In the last 6 years I’ve increased my joy, my feeling of aliveness, number and quality gigs and overall lifestyle due to this formula.

I’ll present you with the info, and then you decide.

I hope that by the end of this post, you’ll have a new understanding about connecting emotionally with your audience.

When you “connect”  emotionally to people with your music this is the start of all good things for them and for you.

Gig bookings, more students, more connection to your loved ones and yes (gulp)  more money, can come to you from doing what you love – playing music.

Maybe you are student and money doesn’t matter, but the RELATIONSHIP to your listeners still does.  This post is all about emotion and connection….money is just a potentially nice side effect.

Your audience can be your husband, wife, kids, friends, neighbors church group or even a club or concert audience.  This applies to you whether you are a hobby player or pro player!

This “C + Y = R” formula was (and still is) used by artists and bands like:

  • The Beatles
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Michael Jackson
  • Prince
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Chet Atkins
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Adele
  • and more…

Let me paint you a picture of how life was before “C + Y = R”

Years ago I played every little  gig I could.  I taught relentlessly, and it was as if my dreams of being a concert and festival performer just refused to become a reality.

I could hardly pay my rent!  What was I doing wrong?

Then, I learned solo pop arrangement (my first Youtube Video was “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder) and a “flood” of activity started.

Later, I’d find that even on a small gig I could get the room’s attention and sell a ton of CD’s by playing “I’ll Be There”  by the Jackson 5.

As if by magic, a whole audience of talkers would fall into silence and then applaud wildly after the song , as if it were some sacred ceremony sprinkled with gold fairy dust.

Why on earth did these little “ditties”  turn heads, get people to shut up…when I could spin out endless jazz standards that only served to be “background music?”

I’m not dissing jazz.  I am calling out musicians who overlook the all-important connection to the audience.  Jazz can and should have that, and in it’s heyday – it did.

Back to the Stevie & Jackson 5 tunes….

I knew I stumbled on something deep after years of toiling away.  Why did these tunes make life better?

Here’s my formula.

C + Y = R

Cover Song + You = Relationship

By playing a well known song, you access something ALREADY existing in your listeners mind, rather than teach them something new.

It’s like telling a little kid a bedtime story they already know…it provides a degree of security & comfort.

Rather than  “confront” with new information – you give them the “warm fuzzies” by accessing a “corresponding”  reality that they already know.  As a result…

THEY FEEL GOOD and become open to YOU!

Very Important – and the Catch 22

In order to do this properly, you must be VERY honest with yourself because your “cover”  songs must be infused with true love and dedication.

You have to let these ideas “sneak up”  on you – otherwise they will feel “hollow”  and “loveless”  to you & your audience.

I know this because I have learned tunes that did not “vibe”  with me.  As a result, I basically never want to play them.

Use your head and your heart together when learning cover songs.

If you infuse the song with your love, your dedication, your touch, and your sound – it becomes an easy vehicle for you to connect with your audience.

They get to feel the love, warmth and passion that you have put in over hours, weeks maybe years.

They react to the “human-ness” you give them….

By doing this you build “R” – relationship.

By making it easy for them, you are communicating to them that YOU want a RELATIONSHIP and are taking the first warm friendly step towards them.

What About Original Songs?

Of course you should play your own music too.

Once your RELATIONSHIP is “activated” with C + Y = R  your audiences will be open to your original music or more obscure tunes.  Once you have bridged the gap, almost anything can go!

On the surface level it sounds like I am saying “play cover tunes”,  and yes every wedding band does that.

I’m saying something deeper because it’s based on giving and not taking.

Make the RELATIONSHIP the priority in your performances.

For example – if I play for school kids, I’ll play a popular tune like “Billie Jean”  so they feel “hey this guitar player guy is cool”  and they’ll then feel open to my offerings.

Were I to barge into a school and play all originals – how long could I keep the attention of high schoolers?

The point is this…3 or 4 songs deep – everyone feels groovy and THEN I can say “Hey gang, here’s one of my tunes.”

Imagine for instance you have never heard my tune “Ciao Bella”.

If I come out and play
1. Billie Jean
2. Superstition
3. I’ll Be There
4. Ciao Bella

You’d likely be MUCH more receptive than if I played 3 originals, and then a 4th. (I speak of the general public.)

For some this would seem “un artistic”, but for me this allows greater possibilities to have a hungry audience for my own music and compose more music.

But Rock Stars Don’t Play Covers…Why Should I?

Actually they do if you think about it.

And – The Beatles and Stones started as blues bands covering Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry tunes…and slowly brought their tunes in…

Big rock groups are expected to play their “hits”  in concert before they launch into the new album material.

Could You Imagine:

  • a Bon Jovi concert without “Livin on a Prayer?”
  • a Led Zeppelin Concert without “Stairway to Heaven?”
  • a Stevie Wonder concert without “Superstition” and “Isn’t She Lovely?”

Of course not.

Pull your audience in with well loved songs FIRST, and then anything can happen.

You are still free to play what you want…only you are in a better position to do so.

I bet you’ll be closer to being a flourishing and successful musician if you use  C + Y = R.

“Try it, you’ll like it!”


P.S. The All-New Volume II “How To Play Stevie Wonder for Fingerstyle Guitar DVD”  launches tomorrow June 27, 2012.

If you want to try out your C + Y = R  with 4 great new Stevie tunes (Isn’t She Lovely, Higher Ground, Cherie Amour, You Are the Sunshine of my Life), I’ve laid them all out or you in video lessons and written guitar tabs!

Coming June 27, 2012…

For More Info Visit



Stevie Wonder Gives the Thumbs Up on the Guitar Arrangements!


Gang, I just got some amazing news….just in time for the launch of the Volume II “How to Play Stevie Wonder Fingerstyle Guitar DVD”…

What I am about to tell you is making me grin ear to ear right now!  I can’t believe it.

A friend and DVD student of mine – guitarist Shaun Hopper was at the L.A. NAMM show and performed solo guitar on the “All Star Guitar Night”.

He had purchased the Vol I of my “Stevie Wonder” DVD series and plays all the material from the DVD. (Shaun is a killer player by the way!)

He performed some of the Stevie Wonder guitar arrangements at NAMM and guess what?

Stevie Wonder himself was there at NAMM, and got word of the solo guitar arrangements!

Stevie and Shaun met – and Stevie loved the arrangements of his music for fingerstyle guitar.  Shaun kindly told Stevie about me & the DVD instruction.

It just don’t get any cooler than that!  Here’s the email & pic….

Hey buddy! Wanted you to know I played the All Star Guitar night in LA. at the NAMM show and stole the show with a standing O!! Thanks to you!!!
I gave you complete credit on the mic in front of 1300 people for teaching the style of Stevie Wonder on the guitar and because of that Stevie had his people come find me today and he wanted to hear more.
I got to play for him and  HE LOVED IT!! I told him I learned from you! Channeling your style made me a one of a kind player at NAMM!! You’re amazing, Adam.

Shaun Hopper and Stevie Wonder

Shaun Hopper and Stevie Wonder at NAMM 2012

Check out Shaun’s Site –

Vol II of “How To Play Stevie Wonder for Fingerstyle Guitar” is coming on June 27…it will have full video instruction & tab booklet for “Isn’t She Lovely”, “Higher Ground”, “My Cherie Amour” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”…

Oh yeah – almost forgot!  It will be available at

There will be an introductory offer and limited time package deal (Vol I & II together) on the day of the launch.

Stay tuned – and I’ll see you on June 27, 2012 when the new DVD launches…


What You Can Learn from the Joshua Bell Story

There’s an urban legend about a world class violinist named Joshua Bell who played his solo violin concert program of J.S. Bach on a 3.5 million dollar instrument  in the Washington Metro at rush hour.

Riders walked past, no one “listened”  except for snippets – and he earned about 32 bucks.

The writer’s slant on the story is this:

“If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

I disagree COMPLETELY with is idea.

Joshua Bell demonstrated an “unsuccessful gig”  in the midst of his “successful gigs”  and showed all musicians that presentation counts – since the music was a “constant” in the equation.  Do’h!!!

  • It’s NOT on the audience to learn how to be appreciative.
  • It’s UP to US musicians to learn how to present ourselves properly.  (Joshua of course knows how – and was doing an experiment.)

Holding the public accountable for “not noticing us” is a victim mentality, and is very disempowering for musicians.

Whether we see ourselves  as concert hall worthy, restaurant gig worthy or street worthy –   we will end up playing places that are in accordance with our beliefs.

We are 100% responsible for our vision of where we want to be  – even if it is not yet manifest.   That starts inside, not outside.

How can I say this utterly blunt stuff?

For years I saw myself as the restaurant guitar guy – which is fine, and not a criticism of anyone playing gigs like that.  My self image kept me there, but I realized I wanted more.

Only when I changed  the self image (not easy)  to being a concert and festival player….life changed around me – as if by magic.

If I did it, you can do it too.

Let me ask you….

  • Have you ever noticed GREAT musicians who seem to be unappreciated?
  • Have you ever seen “bla” musicians who have GREAT performance opportunities?

To the victim this seems really unfair, as if evil is winning over good.

To the empowered musician, it makes 100% perfect sense and  is totally fair.

It’s all obeying the Law of Attraction.

We all create our worlds in accordance with our beliefs.

The Empowered Take Away Idea:

Even if your music is absolutely world class…you now know, from the subway story, that the “public” needs more than your  music alone.

If you want to reach your audience, then this matters too:

  • How You Dress
  • How Your Materials Look
  • Your Punctuality
  • Where You Choose To Play
  • Under What Conditions You Choose To Play

I’m making a new moral of the story:

“If we do not have a moment to think about how we present ourselves and our best musical efforts, how many gig opportunities are we missing?”

I’m not posting this to add to the lump of online “how to get gigs”  articles.

I am posting this because the victim mentality is poisionous to musicians, and the “take 100% responsibility”  mentality is healthy, empowering and leads to greater  happiness.


What’s in it For Them?

You’re a stone cold musician. You love playing your instrument, (or singing) practicing, writing, doing gigs…it fills your soul and it’s your life’s purpose.

(That’s kind of how I have felt since I was a kid…)

Maybe you even go to music school and get a degree. You work hard and make a CD and now you are ready to tackle the world.

After that, the “great scroll of your life’s plan”  does NOT come down from the heavens to present you with a step by step fairty tale of a music career.  Now what?

The work starts…the “hustle” – finding gigs, making contacts, paying the rent, maybe teaching a little, playing gigs here and there – restaurants, maybe a wedding…who knows…

I’ve been there.

As musicians, we all need to ask ourselves “what’s in it for them?”  Answering this simple question changes everything.

We all want to do “our thing” but to get paid and have a happy, joyous musical existence – we must provide value.  Someone must benefit from what we do.

If you are trying to “make it”  (I love putting that in quotes)  you can’t just indulge in “your thing” and hope that things will magically work out….you have to:

  • Give your listeners a great experience (musically, visually, socially)
  • Give the venue / club / promoter a reason to hire you – i.e. they need to sell something like tickets, drinks, food, merchandise – in order to justify paying you.

I always find it funny how musicians balk at the idea of playing weddings, parties, and also giving music lessons.

In both of those cases – it’s so clear! You are providing value and getting paid for it.  It is worth noting that when you provide value, you get paid!  That’s worthy of a celebration in my book.

Remember – even much of Bach’s music served a purpose  (church gigs, weddings and teaching.)

I see so many musicians out there struggling because they completely overlook how they can “give value” to their customers.

For example:

Joe Music Man spends 99% of his time down the rabbit hole of musical study and expression, writing, recording & cd pressing (which is great).  It costs money and time…

Then when the rent is due, Joe Music Man spends  1% of the time dealing with his business model – and says “it’s hard, unfair and criminal that I have no gigs – and furthermore that musical retard Ms. So-and-So does…”

Chances are that if Ms. So-and-So is “making it”  – she is providing value with their music to the person paying them, moreso that Joe Music Man.  Like it or not, it’s probably true.

This is not to say she’s more talented.  She’s providing more value (probably by getting more people down to her gigs.)

Czech it out!  It’s GOT to be an exchange – you give value and get something in return.

Always ask yourself “what’s in it for them?”