Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

What’s More Important – Musical Essence or Technical Perfection?


Here’s a peek into my mind as to how I craft something musically for solo guitar.

I recently arranged the Beatles “Michelle” for solo fingerstyle guitar  and while I feel it could be way better ‘technically’….it looks like people are digging it, from the comments.  (thanks Youtubers!)

It is very far from perfect – but it feels good!  There’s a different “perfection” in the good feeling I am talking about.

I am not tooting my own horn, please understand!  I  am talking about the overall sound and feeling of the piece, and I wouldn’t have posted online  it unless it had that “little piece of magic.”

Of course, guitarists will ask me for sheet music, because they want to learn the arrangement, and that’s all fine and good….it’s very good!!!

But there’s a secret as to where the answer lies.  To get the sound of the song….well, it ain’t on paper!

It’s not in the chords, or where I put my fingers.

First, I listened closely to the original Beatles version for the songs “essence”…the life, the personality and gut feeling for this musical “entity”  called “Michelle.”

Inside, I am singing the song…and every note, bump scrape, slap and mistake I make – has to aligned with the “Michelle” essence.  I had to “become” the song…and wait patiently until the fingers tell the story.

(Further proof that life is an “projecting”  outwards of our inner vision! )

Actually I don’t even see what I am doing as an “arrangement” …I’m just trying to sing you the song – with my fingers.

It’s the same thing as when a painter steps back from the canvas and takes the whole thing in.  It’s almost like you have to look with fuzzy blurry vision, rather than obsess on the “perfect shadow cast by the cherubs little finger.”

Get it?

In regards to “essence vs technique”….

  • Essence wins – with the “people” –  They can hear the SONG!
  • Technique wins in school.  You get a good grade, and then reality strikes!

Gut, intuition and exploration are the tools needed!

Wow…it only took me 37 years to figure this out – that something  imperfect can have a deeper perfection ….when we see (or hear) it in terms of the big picture.

Rock on!


Author: Adam Rafferty

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

4 thoughts on “What’s More Important – Musical Essence or Technical Perfection?

  1. Yeah, you’re so damn right! That’s it!

  2. Technique without essence, as you call it, is sterile. Essence, however, without technique becomes a different kind of masturbation. Gordon Willis, the cinematographer for The Godfather, said “…the art comes out of the craft. For example, you might have a great idea for a painting, but can you paint? If you say no, then your idea is worthless, because there’s no way for you to project that idea. It’s being able to execute the idea that sets you free.”

    Your arrangement of Michelle is lovely. When I first heard it, I thought it had more of a groove/bounce than I remembered from the song. And here’s one of the cool things about arranging. In my memory, what dominated the groove is Ringo’s steady and heavy, almost relentless, backbeat on the song. It’s pretty much the antithesis of the groove feeling you have. But sure enough, Paul puts your bounce solidly in the bass, and its not something I’d ever paid much attention to in the song before. So thanks for a great song, and also for opening my ears to another level of subtlety in a Beatles song. (I hadn’t actually listened to the track in probably 15 years or more, and its interesting the things that you remember hearing and not hearing in a song that you knew well, but long ago.)

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